Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Until we meet again--UPDATED (again)

One of my favorite lines in the new translation of the Creed is in that last paragraph where a number of seemingly random doctrines are affirmed: the Church (one, holy, catholic and apostolic), Baptism (one and one only, for the forgiveness of sins), and the "eschatological" part about the fulfillment of it all in eternity. How marvelous it is to say, "I look forward to the resurrection of the dead..."

A Christmas visit in the rehab center right down the street.
Here in the Pauline community, we are affirming that article of the Creed in a newly personal way as we prepare to lay our Sister Mary Veronica to rest. Sister Mary Veronica was the first Daughter of St Paul from Boston, a fact she took no little pride in. She was here, discerning her own call the day the Cardinal Cushing dedicated the cornerstone for our motherhouse, and once told me that St Paul's Avenue (then called "Mount Wally Road") was so overgrown with bushes and hanging branches that she was worried about the finish on her new car as she made her way up the hill that day!

I first made Sister Veronica's acquaintance the afternoon I entered the convent. She was the seamstress, and had already basted together my postulant's habit, going by the size indicated by Mother Paula's memory of me. (That fact alone made an impression. Mother Paula remembered me?) I stood in her tiny sewing room, obeying her "Turn, turn, turn" as she marked the hemline. The postulants' retreat started that night, and I left for the retreat house with my "Sunday" habit ready for the Feast of the Assumption. The habit had a ten-inch hem that would be let down when I made vestition. Those habits were made to last!

Sister Mary Veronica was an artist with a needle and thread. She didn't just make our practical habits, veils and aprons: she embroidered stoles for priests, and did phenomenal beadwork. Her Infant of Prague capes were in high demand with the intricate beading on the white satin under-tunic and the gold beaded highlights on the brocade exterior cape. The capes kept her busy, because many families would request a cape in each of the liturgical colors! I am hoping that someone will bring one of her capes here; Sister's eyesight forced her to put down her sewing needle about ten years ago. (I know she doesn't look it in the photo taken just last month, but she was in her late eighties!)

I know you will pray for the repose of Sister Mary Veronica's soul. Please also pray for the remaining members of our senior sisters' community, especially for those with dementia who are finding it difficult to process what is happening around them--and for Sr Mary Augusta, age 100, who seems to feel that someone cut ahead of her in line!

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Just to add a few tidbits... We had a lovely prayer service last night with many members of Sr M Veronica's family (for whom she was "Aunt Rosie"). At the almost-end of the service, there was a video of Sister telling her vocation story. On her first visit to the convent, what struck her the most was the happy noise coming from the kitchen where the sisters were washing the dishes; amid the clattering of pots and pans and silverware there was the cheerful banter of the sisters. Summing things up, she said, "It wasn't the habit. It wasn't the mission. I fell in love with the noise." She also filled in more details about that car--it was a blue, four-door Ford, and she loved it!

Last but not least, in a little display of photos and memorabilia set up in the reception hall there was Sister's craft box, and several Infant of Prague vestments with her signature beadwork.

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Just a little more, I promise (maybe).

We just laid Sr Veronica to rest in our tiny burial chapel. There are only three spaces left (and the competition is, well, maybe not fierce...). Sister's relatives are lingering over cake and coffee in the dining room and we are telling stories. I was reminded about how every Sunday for 20 years she and a companion (sometimes a team of novices or postulants) headed downtown to the TV station for the 7 a.m. TV Mass, bringing a white box of vestments and altar linens, setting up the books and vessels and then carefully packing it all up again. The TV Mass was the beginning of CatholicTV, so it was a good fit for the media nuns circa 1970.

Because Sister was a native Bostonian, we all got to know her family, especially her mother, Mary who came here often as a volunteer. Mom Rizzitano died not too many long years ago, and Sr Mary Veronica faithfully visited her mother's grave, bringing fresh flowers as often as she could. When she was no longer able to drive, Sister would ask Sr Maria Ruth (the voice of Radio Paulinas) to bring her--and then she would user her allowance treat Sr Maria Ruth to Dunkin' Donuts (this is Boston, after all). One time, Sr Ruth mentioned at breakfast today, after they had their coffee and donut, Sister Mary Veronica went back to the counter and bought a dozen more donuts. Then they drove back to the cemetery to give the box to the cemetery workers. That box of donuts represented over 25% of Sister's monthly allowance: a sign of how grateful she was for the often forgotten people who make things happen for us.

The takeaway for me in all this is that Jesus meant what he said in Matthew 25; what John of the Cross said summing it up: "In the evening of life, we will be judged on love."

5 comments:

Patrick Denny said...

May God swiftly receive her. A brief but beautiful post. Prayers tonight for the entire community, especially those a bit "closer to God" than the rest of us.

Grace said...

I was a postulant in 1975. Sr. Mary Veronica I believe also sewed my postulant habit. I remember the turn turn turn. I have so many deep memories of the community the life we lived. I will keep Sr. Mary Veronica's soul and for the rest of the Sisters'.

Much love and prayers,
Grace (Mulvaney) Sullivan

Anonymous said...

Keeping her on my beads, as well as your community. Sorry for your loss - Jean

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Grace, I remember you!!! We were in the same group! I am so happy to hear from you after all these years!

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

I just updated the post with pictures of Sister's beadwork and a new story. Now I must go to chapel for the funeral.