A member of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament with ties to Wisconsin was found murdered Nov. 1 at her residence at St. Berard, a small community church in Navajo, N.M.
According to federal authorities, Sr. Marguerite Bartz, 64, was killed sometime between Halloween night and Sunday morning. Her body was discovered when a concerned colleague noticed her absence at Sunday Mass and went to check on her. According to authorities, another sister not of the same order was living with her, but was out of town at the time of the murder.
Sr. Marguerite was born in Plymouth and was the oldest of nine children. Her family belonged to St. George, St. George, and during her elementary years, she attended St. Claudia School, St. Cloud and Hulls Crossing School, Glenbeulah.
She entered the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1966 in Beaumont, Texas, where she professed final vows in 1974. She held a bachelor’s degree from Xavier University, New Orleans and a master’s degree in religious education from Loyola University, also in New Orleans.
Sr. Marguerite was one of 16 Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament ministering in the Diocese of Gallup, which encompasses the entire Navajo Nation and spans more than 55,000 square miles in New Mexico and Arizona. Her duties included preparing people for the Eucharist, preparing the liturgy, helping with the music ministry and conducting various religion classes within the diocese.
The FBI is assisting the New Mexico State Police in the search for her killer. Authorities were awaiting results of an autopsy Nov. 3 to determine the cause of death and an FBI spokesman declined to say how Sr. Marguerite died.
Darrin Jones, the agent, told Catholic News Service that an automobile Sr. Marguerite had been using was discovered Nov. 3.
According to Lee Lamb, communications director of the Diocese of Gallup, the automobile was discovered in a rural area in Arizona. Navajo is located near Arizona, about 40 miles northwest of Gallup.
Sr. Patricia Suchalski, president of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, entered the order the same time as Sr. Marguerite.
“Our mission as the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament is that we work for unity and community,” Sr. Patricia explained. “Speaking for myself and for many Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, we share the same heart … that passion for the Gospel, that passion for the poor, and for justice.”
That would describe how Sr. Marguerite lived her life, she added.
“She was a person with a big smile on her face, she was extremely efficient and well organized, and kind of an Energizer bunny,” she laughed. “Always on the go, whether it be Communion calls, or teaching, or just visiting ‘so and so.’”
For more than 40 years Sr. Marguerite served in Dorchester, Mass.; Lawtell, La.; Guadalupe Indian Mission in Peña Blanca, N.M.; St. Joseph in Laguna, N.M.; St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, N.M.; and since 1999 St. Berard in Navajo, N.M.
(Catholic News Service contributed to this story.)