Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Time to Say Goodbye(s)

We are about to enter the Paschal Triduum, revisiting the final hours of Our Lord's earthly life and the beginning of that mysterious new risen life that was announced at the empty tomb. John's Gospel uses this as the stage for Jesus' "Farewell Discourse," a three-chapter long summation of the Gospel, rich with promises (promises that are mysterious as the empty tomb,  until the Spirit comes). And just as in these days, Jesus is saying "Farewell," so is our community.

Last year, we experienced two deaths within two months, one anticipated and prepared for with vigils kept in turn, and one that, while not entirely unexpected, came rapidly, in a decline that lasted only a matter of hours. And likewise this year, within about the same time frame, we kept watch with Sr Charitas for weeks until the Master came, while on the Feast of St Joseph, he came at night for Sr Mary Philomena shortly after the initial signs of any distress. The especially beautiful thing about the "order" of these departures is that Sr Charitas and Sr M Philomena had been roommates on the
infirmary floor and sat next to each other in the dining room. When Sr Charitas seemed unresponsive to invitations to eat, it was Sr M Philomena who, perceiving her distress through the deep fog of dementia that had marked her final years, would pat Sr Charitas' hand and encourage her. Sometimes she would just stroke Sr Charitas' hand and say to her, "You are my friend." How lovely that Sr Charitas would precede Sr M Philomena in death, but that her friend would be the next sister called to eternal life!

Sr Mary Philomena was another of our intrepid missionary sisters, from a family in northern Italy that had already produced a Franciscan missionary priest. Another sibling also became a Daughter of St Paul, assigned for many years to our hospital community outside of Rome. (You can imagine how close the two sisters were!) Both of these siblings predeceased Sr M Philomena (and in recent years, it was heartbreaking when she again realized that her sister had died); she still has many relatives in the Verona area. She was a simple, straightforward person. "Without guile," Jesus would say. Like Sr Charitas, Sr M Philomena loved life and she loved people. She also loved flowers, and as long as she was able she tended the garden plots (or plants) where she was stationed.

We said our final goodbyes this morning at her funeral Mass. And just after the provincial superior had offered her own words of remembrance, as we were preparing to sing the last invocations, word came from the infirmary: at 102, Sr Mary Augusta (the oldest Daughter of St Paul in the world) had taken her last breath.

You might remember that we did a small fundraiser before Sr M Augusta's 100th birthday to help equip the infirmary floor with a TV room. In these last months (but really, only since turning 101), Sr M Augusta had been slowing down; it was the flu that hurried her to the gates of Heaven. A beautiful soul with a winning smile and a willingness to cooperate in any way she could: we are going to put her to work full time, especially for her dearest intention of vocations!

So here at the motherhouse we are quite immersed in the Paschal mystery of death and resurrection (as am I as my recovery with Ramsey-Hunt Syndrome continues one nanometer at a time). May that grace truly fill our minds and transform us inside and out, mind, will and heart!

1 comment:

Stormy Lntz said...

May God bless and keep dear Sr. Charitas, Sr. Philomena and Sr. Augusta. And May Jesus bless and protect his Daughters of St.Paul. AND Godspeed to health for my favourite Sister @nunblogger, Sr. Anne FlannaganšŸ¤—❤.