|Tuesday breakfast with Sister Flo
Sister Flo turned 94 early this month. Her gentleness of spirit and calm demeanor disguise the religious life adventures she has lived. She was a school teacher, like many other sisters, during her earlier years of mission. Several weekends ago, I invited her to come to a dinner at Holy Family Church to welcome members of their sister parish, Good Shepherd. While helping bridge the gap between the Spanish and non-Spanish speakers at the table, she very humbly told them that 70 years ago, she was a young, 2nd grade teacher at this same parish school, her first ever mission as a Sister of Charity. In addition, Flo has also been a parish worker in Savannah, Georgia, a missionary out in the mountains of Peru, and lived in community with sisters ministering on the US-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas. Whenever I am with Flo, a sense of gratitude is always present. She was and continues to be very grateful for the ministries she was a part of. Flo has a firm sense of the goodness of God in blessing her with a life far beyond what she could have imagined or planned for herself.
Almost a year and a half into my novitiate, I look back at what my breakfasts with Flo have brought me. There were challenging times in novitiate when I know I walked into that dining room to meet her and appeared more like a dark cloud than a ray of sunshine. Flo was always there to share those Tuesday mornings even when my outlook in life was as bleak as the dreary winter weather outside. Thankfully, I wasn’t always like that (I hope!). I look back with gratitude and blessing at her faithful presence and her continued ministry to me personally, even as she embraces her own slowing down and not being able to “do much.” Her willingness to be an instrument of God in every age and stage of her life is an important lesson in my own formation.
|Celebrating Sister Flo's 94th birthday
During one of our usual Tuesday breakfasts, I recounted to Flo a weekend I participated in at Villa Maria in Pennsylvania for a formation workshop. She fondly recalled a couple of pictures she used to have of the sunflower fields at Villa where she herself did a couple of retreats. “I treasured those pictures,” she said. An image of this gentle woman looking fondly at a picture of a sunflower field gave me a sense of longing for what she has-- a deep connectedness with God and contentment for a life well-lived. Hearing Flo’s simple appreciation, a treasuring of the little and big things in her life, deepened my own appreciation of her and our time together. Treasured. That’s what she is in God’s eyes. That how she has always made me feel even though my attitude on some days could not be farther from what somebody would want to treasure. Treasured is how God sees me and every single one of us. More and more, I come to understand being “treasured” as not just a knowledge or a feeling. It is the wisdom that is gained over years of trust and openness in the embrace of a God who will always love us through the ups and downs of our lives, just like Flo has done for me in novitiate. Flo may never know the true extent of her contribution to my formation but my Tuesdays with her have strengthened my faith in a God that holds us so preciously and loves us deeply through all our continued growing and discovering of our gifts and challenges. Her ministry continues in her example and presence as she shares with me this vital lesson of treasuring and being treasured on the spiritual journey.