Margaret Neylon

“I feel chosen.” (28 October 1919 – 12 June 2011)

“You suffered because of your only son, and now you know how much I suffer for mine. I beg you to help me!

When Margaret Neylon uttered this fervent prayer to Our Lady, she had already lost her husband in a car accident, she had just got married to John, and left her home in Liverpool in order to be with him in Ireland. Then she discovered that her only son, seven year-old Eddie was suffering from a progressively disabling illness.

Her encounter with the Focolare a few years later was, for her, the answer to that prayer, making her discover and exprience God’s love in a way that was completely new. Her own life and that of her son were changed completely.

The words of St. John’s letter seemed true of her: “And we have believed in love. “I didn’t know anything about the Movement,” she recalls, “but I realized that loving is all that is needed.”

Another fundamental moment: a meeting in Rome where Margaret and Eddie came to know the spirituality of the Focolare. During their return to Ireland, they prayed that they might be instruments of God’s love in bringing this Gospel ideal to Ireland. Eddie was ten years old and was beginning to feel the burden of the illness.

Margaret recounts: “As soon as we returned, we began to share our discovery with many, soon realizing that more than a lot of talk, what mattered was concrete love, the love among us”. From then on she began to love everyone and something very special happened: she became the mother of a new family, the family of the Focolare in Ireland. 

Remembering her prayer to Our Lady many years before, Margaret decided to live by following the example of Our Lady, trying to bring Jesus, love to everyone through her life. And so it happened that many people, drawn by her new way of living, began to visit her home. There were more and more young people among her visitors who first went to befriend Eddie, but then would stay on to be with her, discovering how beautiful it is to love as Jesus teaches us. Margaret continually could be found in the kitchen preparing food for everyone who felt that she was a mother to them. And just as mothers need to be strong with their children at times, many can give witness to her bluntness when it came to speaking the truth. So it was that she who was no longer able to have children, had found herself with many more.

With the support of focolarine and focolarini coming from Rome and England – including one of Chiara Lubich’s first companions, Dori Zamboni who helped to begin the Movement – a small community began to rise up around her “focolare house”.

Margaret’s life was continually characterized by a continuous “losing” in order to then discover what God desired for her. She often found herself asking “Why?” in the midst of all the trials of life (Eddie’s death in 1979 and John’s in 1990). But knowing that this was Jesus’ cry from the Cross, always gave her courage. Feeling loved by him in the moments of greatest distress, she was always able to renew her conviction and to love whoever was around her.

With the advancing of years, God was gradually asking her everything: her health, the ability to walk and be independent, even her mental health. But all those who were close to her remember that the more her physical conditioned worsened, the more God was present and working in her: “What do I have to complain about? There are many who are far worse off than me,” she would say.

Years earlier, in a letter, Chiara reflected with her on the meaning of her name (Margaret = pearl). With her endless trust in God, she was truly that most precious pearl that is today being treasured by so many hearts in Ireland.