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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

One Last Good Bye from the Sisters

Several sisters met me at the loading dock where I rolled the last of my worldly goods in a cart down the walkway and to the car. I was leaving Nazareth after spending one month with the sisters and going to go to Detroit to spend a few days with my family. The sisters sang a Nazareth song and we said good-bye. It was a bittersweet moment for they were happy about my new mission in France and the fact that I was representing them, but they were genuinely sad to see me go. Meanwhile, I knew I would miss them for they have always treated me with a warm and welcoming spirit of joy whether I was with them as a member, as a friend, as an employee in the History Room or as an associate member of the Congregation. Such a relationship is rare but it is a wonderful gift to have from such great women as the Sisters of St. Joseph of Nazareth.

Betty, former SSJ president, went to the loading dock to see me off at 10 a.m. (my original departure time) but found no one there. She then went to the train station (where I had told her I was leaving Kalamazoo), but I wasn't there either. I had changed my departure time to 1 p.m. and was going in one of the sisters' cars. As it happened, Betty drove by the dock at that time on an errand and found the send-off party. What luck!

A few days earlier Betty had invited me to brunch, which meant a lot to me. She had been in leadership when I entered and when I left. She had always encouraged and supported me over the years and consistently gave me good, practical advice about many different things.

On this last day at Nazareth I also happened to see Sister Irene one more time. (She was president when I entered and the official witness when I left.) A couple months before when I told Irene I had an opportunity to live and work in Le Puy, she instantly said that I was well-suited for that work. Her response really bucked up my confidence and confirmed that what I was attempting was the right. That's the way the Spirit works--through other people.

Both Betty and Irene are my models of good leadership, bar none. And even though they are not in leadership now, they still exude those qualities. The two of them gave me a framed picture (by Sister M. Madeleva Williams, CSJ of Orange) that bore the following observation:
Joseph of his plans--
all that was left was broken.
Yet he learned what was left was enough.

I keep this gift on my desk in Le Puy to remember Betty and Irene, the sisters, and the charism of our patron. May it guide me in my new ministry to the sisters I will live with, to the local people in Le Puy and all of our guests at the International Centre.

Sr. Lois, my mentor, friend, teacher and confidant was there, too, to see me off. Earlier on that day, she had given me her spot for an hour-long massage, which was very relaxing. She usually knows what I need before I do, and I really appreciated her recognition that maybe I was a little tense with all the preparations of the past 2 months. We have known each other since 1973 when she gave me instructions into the Catholic faith. She was also my inspiration for entering the Sisters of St. Joseph at Nazareth.

For most of her ministry Lois has been in Detroit while I lived in Kalamazoo, so we saw each other only rarely. About 4 years ago she went to Nazareth to live, so we had the opportunity to visit more often. We would share a meal together at Nazareth and sometimes go off-campus to South Haven, Saugatuck, Paw Paw, Fenville and in town. 

When I got a job at Nazareth's History Room, we shared many a lunch together--along with several other sisters whom I had known for a long time, like Sr. Pat Mullen, who was instrumental in helping me find a couple jobs, and Sr. Kathlene, who I had lived with several times including my first mission at Lake Orion.

Sisters Peg, Mary Louise, Mary Joan, Marty and Lois

Pat, Lois and I had ice cream floats at the Root Beer Stand on the last night before I sold my car. They are both always game for some fun and I'll not forget this fun night.

I also had a chance to say good-bye to Sr. Kathlene, too, who was also a part of the table before she went to Borgess Gardens (assisted living). We had a chance to talk over old times and laugh again about them. Kathlene has both the gift of gab and that great sense of Irish humor to keep things in a small community light and fun. I will never forget her for her kindness and patience with me during my "rookie" years in the community. I learned much from her about compassion. We parted our visit with an emotional hug. 

I had planned to take the train to Detroit, but alas I still had too much stuff. Fortunately, I consulted Sr. Mary Claver at breakfast on the day I was to go, and she suggested that I talk to Georgiana.
Fortunately, Georgiana had planned to go to the Detroit area for a funeral, and she was kind enough to drop me off at my sister's house nearby. Her offer was like so many things that came to me as I prepared for this trip: a seemingly insurmountable problem would be solved after a little time passed. (It was one of the most important lessons I learned during this time of transition. I carry it with me to France.)

So as Georgiana and I climbed into a packed car, I got one last wave good-bye from the sisters as well as the profound realization that I have been truly loved.


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