She Dares to Dream
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” goes the chorus of John Lennon’s solo hit, “Imagine.” Margaret “Marge” Webb hums the tune reflecting on the folk masses her late cousin, Fr. Francis Markey, helped organize in Santa Cruz in the 1960s and ’70s to appeal to the free spirits flocking to the Bay Area.
A bit of a subversive choice for liturgical music, but Webb, a retired nun, says it made sense for Fr. Markey, who was energized by Vatican II and believed deeply in moving the Catholic Church into modernity.
“He was so exciting. God had gifted him not only with a great mind but also the gift of vision. He could take a dream and put it into action,” she says. In addition to presiding as pastor of several churches in and around Santa Cruz and writing for the Central California Register newspaper, Fr. Markey also strongly advocated for the inclusion of women in Church hierarchy in his writings and by involving them in leadership roles in his various parishes. “He always thought that a woman’s voice has a right to be part of the governance of the Church,” Webb recalls.
It’s a torch Webb has picked up since her cousin passed away in 1999 and she was designated the executor of his trusts. Among her many different gifts, Marge chose a Donor Designated Fund to establish the Rev. Francis L. Markey Women in Ministry Fellowship that provides financial assistance to women enrolled in Santa Clara University’s Graduate Program in Pastoral Ministries.
Having a diversity of voices—young, female, of color—in the Church, she says, would be a “powerful revival” of parish life at a time when fewer people are attending Mass and nurturing their spirituality. “It’s not just Santa Clara students who will be helped. It’s all the people they help, too.”
Though neither attended Santa Clara University, Webb says she and Fr. Markey had long admired the Jesuits for their commitment to education and involvement in their local communities. Like her cousin, the Jesuits are dreamers who make a real difference in the world, she says. “They’re not afraid to express their vision.”