Heroes of the Hamptons: Sister Margaret

This week, our Heroes of the Hamptons series continues on the North Fork, profiling Sister Margaret.

Sister Margaret Smyth, aka the Apostle of the East End, was 17 years old and living in Queens when she decided to join a convent and become a nun. Over 60 years later, she’s still going strong and is well known for helping people on Long Island.

Particularly, she works closely with immigrant families; translating, assisting with court dates, and now, helping families locate deported loved ones.

Today, Sister Margaret runs the North Fork Spanish Apostolate in Riverhead. She established the organization in 1996, and it serves as a catalyst for social change on the East End. The apostolate collaborates with government agencies, not-for-profits, and community members to help those in need find lasting solutions to various issues including language barriers, citizenship, cultural education, healthcare, and children’s education.

At a June 30 “Families Belong Together” rally in Greenport hosted by the apostolate, she said she wants people to know that family separation happens to parents and children on the North Fork.

“People are coming to our office saying that their child is in a detention center. They’re asking how to find out where they are. We’re here to say this shouldn’t be happening in the first place,” she said.

For Sister Margaret, the daughter of Irish immigrants, the desire to help others combined with inspiration from family members who were nuns made the decision to join the convent a natural. Over the years, Sister Margaret taught in various Long Island schools, worked in Guatemala and El Salvador, and eventually settled on the North Fork. In 2013, she received a Lifetime Achievement award from the Suffolk County Commission of Human Rights.

“We help anyone that walks through our doors,” Sister Margaret said.

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