“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” — James 1:2-3
There was something about Sr. Ann. She could get you to do a job for her but somehow you would end up feeling like she was doing you a favor. It was one of her many amazing gifts — gifts which drew people in droves to her, to the Trinita Family Life Center and all the places she oversaw, and again last week to her funeral.
The huge chapel at The Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity in Philadelphia was filled beyond capacity. Like me, they came to face the difficult truth that Sr. Ann is really gone from this life. I sat in that chapel listening to all the sharing of Sr. Ann’s life, the many prayers for those left behind, and the assurances she is in a better, pain-free place. I tried to wrap my mind around acceptance as I realized her immense impact on my own life.
One spring, Sr. Ann had put out a call for help with cleaning up the Trinita grounds. As I reap the many blessing of Trinita, I wanted to do my part, but I loathe outdoor work. I said to Sr. Ann, “I’ll help, but is there an inside job I could do?” In my head I’m saying, “Because, you know, I want to be a good Christian, but I draw the line at raking!” In her loving and understanding way, Sr. Ann assured me there were indoor tasks to be done, too.
So I set aside an afternoon and showed up expecting to iron some curtains or to make up some beds in the cabins. One word that kept coming up during all the sharing of Sr. Ann at her wake and funeral was “joy.” Joy permeated all through her and she exuded it with everything she said and did. It was no different that particular afternoon. She greeted me with all the enthusiasm of just opening the door to the queen of England.
“Oh Dottie! Good news!” she exclaimed. “We are going to clean the mens’ bathroom!”
I think I said, “Can’t we just rake?”
I remember heading out to the lodge with rubber gloves, scrub brushes and buckets, but I do not remember any of the dirty work. All I recall was the absolute joy of being with Sr. Ann for an entire afternoon. We laughed, sang and shared. I was sorry when we were done, and I was so very grateful for the ‘favor’ she did for me.
Another time I really tried to be prepared for Sr. Ann’s ‘spell.’ I knew I could not refuse her. My husband came to notice when I was having some free time, it meant Sr. Ann must be out of town! She had invited me to lunch to discuss a quilt she wanted me to create. I gave myself a two-hour lecture before hand — “OK. I’ll make the quilt, but it can’t be anything big because I am too busy right now. Therefore, I’ll just tell Sr. Ann that I’ll do something small, but . . .”
We sat down at the table in a little local cafe and then Sr. Ann proceeded to say grace, a blessing that seemed to go on for an eternity.
“Oh Lord . . . thank you for your many blessings . . . and thank you so very much for giving Dottie the gift of quilting . . . and Dear Lord, how wonderful she is to share her gifts with Trinita . . . and Oh Lord bless her as she works . . . and please, Lord, send the Holy Spirit to give her strength . . .”
Every few seconds I would open one eye to see if the dozen or so business men seated at the long table next to us were still staring at us . . . and they were.
As a result, one of the most artistically challenging quilts I have ever made was born — the memorial quilt for Fr. Vincent, five feet wide and seven feet long!
I sat in the chapel recalling these two experiences and many others as I sobbed. Just when I thought there could not possibly be another tear drop left in my body, I shed a thousand more. Mostly I thought about how it is said, “the best relationships are not based on how you feel about another person, but rather, how the other person makes you feel about yourself.”
I loved Sr. Ann with all my heart because of how great she was, and I hope I told her that enough times. In addition, Sr. Ann made me feel like I was the most important person God had ever placed on this Earth. I would always leave her presence just beaming from ear-to-ear while believing I could accomplish anything. As I was someone who struggled for many years with low self-esteem, she gave me a priceless gift. In fact, everything I have done in recent years with quilting and writing have been wrapped in Sr. Ann’s joy. The message I am trying to convey with my work, “sharing the gifts God gave you” came from her inspiration. For thirteen years, I witnessed not only her generous sharing, but the sharing of the many volunteers who happily gave of their gifts because of Sr. Ann’s influence.
Fr. Sittinger, who gave the eulogy, had come to know Sr. Ann during the last couple of years while she was ill. He said he was constantly amazed how her spirit stayed positive and how she expended what little energy she had to see that others were happy.
Sr. Ann once said to him, “Father, the Lord gave me the gift of joy and I believe I am meant to share it!”
Sr. Ann, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing.