Family’s example of faith, love and hard work have inspired Bishop Fisher’s life
July 10, 2018
When then-Father Michael Fisher was ordained as a priest of the Archdiocese of Washington in 1990, it was literally the answer to his Grandmother Buckley’s prayers.
“She was always praying I would become a priest,” he later said.
And after Bishop Michael Fisher was ordained as an auxiliary bishop of Washington on June 29, he offered special thanks to his grandparents and parents, whose enduring example of faith, love, hard work and sacrifice have shaped his life and his priesthood.
When Michael Fisher left his home in Baltimore to attend the University of Maryland in College Park and study business administration and accounting, he moved into his Grandmother Buckley’s house in Riverdale, which he noted was “down the street from the university. It was a natural fit to live with her.”
He lived with her for 11 years, while he worked his way through college, earned a degree and was employed as an accountant. Margarette Juanita Buckley was then a widow. Her husband, the late James Buckley, was a lawyer who served as director of personnel in the Department of Agriculture, and they had three children, including Margo Fisher, the future bishop’s mother.
Margarette Buckley was a convert to the faith, inspired by the teaching of the famous TV evangelist, Bishop Fulton Sheen. She and her husband were founding members of St. Bernard Parish in Riverdale. A talented seamstress, she sewed vestments and linens for the church and liked to repair antique dolls in her free time.
Speaking of his Grandmother Buckley, Bishop Fisher said, “She was a woman of great faith.” He once noted, “Her example of faith really inspired me. There wasn’t a day I didn’t get up in the morning and see her saying her morning prayers and rosary.”
When he entered the seminary, she told him, “I knew that was going to happen. I prayed for that.” She later told him that on the day of his Baptism, she took her baby grandson in her arms, stood before a statue of Mary and prayed that he would be a priest one day.
When his Grandmother Buckley died in 2006, then-Msgr. Fisher celebrated her Funeral Mass.
“I know she didn’t waste a second of her life,” the future bishop said. Bishop Fisher – who enjoys hiking and has trekked much of the Appalachian Trail – said he was also inspired by how his grandmother appreciated seeing God’s majesty in the beauty of nature and loved taking walks in the park.
As the pastor of Holy Family Parish in Hillcrest Heights and St. John Neumann Parish in Gaithersburg, and then for the past 12 years as the Archdiocese of Washington’s Episcopal Vicar for Clergy and Secretary for Ministerial Leadership, Bishop Fisher has been known for his hard work and dedicated service, lessons that he learned from the example of his parents and grandparents.
His father William Fisher worked as an engineering technician on the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs. His firm, Martin Marietta, built booster rockets.
One of Bishop Fisher’s earliest memories, he said, was “they had family days, and we’d meet astronauts,” which probably nearly sent the excited kids into orbit.
Remembering his father, he added, “My dad was one of the most hard working, loving family men you’d ever want to meet. He was a very shy and quiet man,” who got up at 4 a.m. to get ready for work, and returned home to the family’s Baltimore row house at 6 in the evening.
“My dad, he was my hero,” said Bishop Fisher.
He likewise revered his mother, Margo Fisher, who was named after the female protagonist in the long-running radio serial “The Shadow.” A Washington native, Margo Buckley was the oldest of three children in her family and was baptized at St. Matthew’s Cathedral.
William and Margo Fisher raised five children – Bishop Fisher was the oldest, and he has two sisters and two brothers. His mom, he said, “was just a loving mother. We always knew she was there for us.”
In addition to her devout Catholic faith and devotion to her family, Margo Fisher also demonstrated another trait that marked their family.
“She was also hard working,” Bishop Fisher said, noting that she worked as a secretary in the personnel office for the Social Security Administration. “It seems personnel work runs in the blood,” added the bishop, whose administrative work for the past dozen years has included helping to manage parish appointments for priests, deacons and seminarians. The careers of his mother and his Grandfather Buckley, like his, gravitated toward personnel work.
And he noted that, “My mother always supported us, whatever we did.”
Bishop Fisher’s father died in 2015, and less than a year later, his mother died.
The bishop’s paternal grandfather, Marcellus Fisher, worked as a streetcar operator and later drove a bus in Baltimore. He met his future wife Georgianna, who was from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, when she rode on his streetcar.
Bishop Fisher remembers how his grandfather took his grandchildren on rides on his streetcar.
“He was very hardworking. He was always proud that he always had a job, even during the Depression,” he said of his Grandfather Fisher, noting that he had a fifth grade education and took special pride when his grandson Michael – the family’s oldest grandchild – went to college.
The family work ethic took root in Michael Fisher at a young age. When he was eight years old, he took on his first job, as a paperboy delivering the Baltimore Sun.
“I would be in my bicycle and hold a wagon (filled with papers),” he said. “It was quite an operation.”
He continued that work until he was about 14, delivering afternoon papers Mondays through Saturdays and then the Sunday papers. On Sunday mornings, he would be up at 3 a.m., stuffing advertisements in the papers. He began the route with about 70 customers, and it ultimately expanded to almost 300 deliveries.
“I felt in those days I was helping my parents… I wanted to be able to contribute to my part of the family,” Bishop Fisher said, remembering that his grandfather used to say, “Be proud of whatever you do. Work hard and be honest.”
Later during summers as a teen-ager, he worked for a construction company, helping to pour foundations and build walls, and when he finished that work, he went home, cleaned up and then worked shifts as a stock boy at the Cloverland Dairy Store, transitioning from toiling in the summer sun to stocking merchandise in that store’s refrigerators or freezers.
For two years while he studied at the University of Maryland, he worked at McDonald’s. “I did everything,” he said. “I was a cashier, cooked on the grill, made milkshakes and was a shift manager.”
Then during his college years, he got a job at the Woolco Department Store in New Carrollton. “I started out in the toy department at Christmas. The big thing was Star Wars action figures,” he said. Later, he worked in that store’s garden, pet and furniture departments.
While he was still in college, he began working as an accountant at a psychiatric partnership in Bethesda, work that he continued after earning his degree.
“I got out of college without any debt,” he said.
After entering the seminary in 1986 and being ordained to the priesthood four years later, he served for the next 28 years as a parish priest and then as an administrator for the Archdiocese of Washington.
After being ordained as a new auxiliary bishop for Washington, Bishop Fisher acknowledged how the example of his parents and grandparents had shaped his life. His parents, he said, “gave me life, love and sacrificed all for their children’s well-being. Both instilled their love for God in their children…”
He thanked his grandparents, especially his Grandmother Buckley, who he said had prayed every day that he would become a priest.
And as he prepared to take on new work in the Church, Bishop Fisher prayed that his family’s witness of faith would continue to inspire him.
“May I learn from their example of holiness and faithfulness to Christ’s church,” he said at the end of his episcopal ordination Mass.
Future-bishop Michael Fisher (at left) visits Santa with his sister Kathy and brother Patrick.
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