Drawn to the church from a young age, Sister Marguerite Bartz served her first mission in Boston, where the Texas native ministered to a largely Spanish-speaking parish in Dorchester. Her four years here decades ago, far from her home and family, confirmed her calling, and began a lifetime dedicated to others.
That life was cut tragically short last weekend, when the Roman Catholic nun was found murdered in her convent in a small New Mexico town on the Navajo Indian reservation. FBI investigators have not said how she died, but believe she was killed either Halloween night or Sunday morning, when a colleague checking on her after she didn't show up at Mass discovered her body in her residence.
Authorities had been searching for her car, a beige Honda with New Jersey license plates, and yesterday afternoon recovered it in Arizona. They have urged anyone who spoke with Bartz on Saturday or may have information related to the investigation to contact them. They have not identified any suspects or made any arrests.
Bartz, 64, entered the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1966, and ministered in Boston from 1969-1973 at St. Paul's Church, which has since closed. She spent most of her career in New Mexico, stirred by a deep commitment to social justice and message of the gospels.
"Her whole life was devoted to helping people obtain a better place in our society," said Sister Patricia Suchalski, who joined the religious order with Bartz and is now its president. "Whatever needed to be done, she would do."
Bartz had worked for the past decade in the Diocese of Gallup, which serves more than 50 parishes in Arizona and New Mexico. The order is dedicated to helping African-American and native American communities across the country.
There are currently 16 sisters in the religious order ministering in the Gallup diocese. Suchalski and a diocese spokesman said Bartz was a beloved figure at the mission church in Navajo, and that parishioners are distraught over her death.
"They are devastated," she said. "She had a profound impact on everyone there, from the young to teenagers to the elderly."
One other nun lived with Bartz at St. Berard Convent, in Navajo, N.M., a town of 2,000 on the Arizona border. She was away at a meeting at the time of the murder.
In a statement, the Diocese described Bartz as a woman who was "always passionate for justice and peace" and would likely have shown mercy toward her assailant.
"The life she lived would tell us that she would respond to this incident with a spirit of forgiveness towards whoever is responsible," the statement read.
Bartz was born in Plymouth, Wis., in 1945, and entered the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament from Beaumont, Texas. She professed final vows in 1974.
She earned her undergraduate degree from Xavier University and a master's in religious education from Loyola University.
After her time in Dorchester, she served in Lawtell, La.; Guadalupe Indian Mission in Peņa Blanca, N.M.; St. Joseph in Laguna, N.M.; and St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, N.M.
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