International, transnational, multinational, global, multicultural, inter/intra cultural, cross-cultural – from business to education, great minds are grappling to articulate the relationships in our world. Our ability to quickly cross geographic boundaries necessitates we become as adept at bridging other boundaries as well. An unnamed theologian recently quoted in the National Catholic Reporter quipped, “God delights in diversity. Why do we humans have such a hard time with it?” As we move toward celebrating 200 years of partnering with God in human history, what does the wisdom of our predecessors contribute to this ongoing discussion?
Last month’s reflection reminded us we write the Fifth Gospel with our lives and shared some lesser known stories from the Fifth Gospels bequeathed to us by those who have journeyed on. I don’t know how many visa stamps, if any, the following women collected during their lifetimes, but the gospel of their lives can teach us a great deal about finding a home and meaningful work wherever we happen to land, and seeing only friends in the faces we encounter.
Sister Joseph Loretto Smith 1910-1994
Sister Joseph Loretto was just such a person. In various missions on the Nazareth campus she welcomed all those she met and provided assistance wherever she was needed. She and her friend and co-worker, Sister Joseph Lillian, spent many years serving priests in the Rectory at Nazareth and looking after fathers and brothers of SCNs who visited from a distance when their daughters or sisters received the habit or made vows. Later in her life, Joseph Loretto was missioned at SCN Center to help with the food service for the community leaders who lived there. When fewer sisters lived at the Center and there was little need for help with the food, Sister Joseph Loretto was invited to help with community mailings and perform other supportive tasks. More than one sister heard her say, “I love this clerical work!” Everyone who worked with her grew to love her peaceful, caring and supportive presence.
One Friday, after her work at the Center was finished, Sister Joseph Loretto went to the Guest House to clean the snack room. Some seminarians had just left from a program at Catherine Spalding Center, and some associates were coming in for a program that evening. It was “all hands on deck” to accomplish the transition. A sister who was part of the work crew offered to take over Sister Joseph Loretto’s job, asking, “Isn’t that too much for you?” Sister Joseph Loretto, in her wise (and determined) way said, “I’ll know when to stop.”
The next morning, June 25, 1994, at 6:20a.m., Sister Joseph Loretto quickly and unexpectedly went home to God. Upon reflection, those around her said, “Yes, she knew when to stop sharing herself. She stopped when her journey of faith and loving service came to an end.” Her spirit lives on in all those who were companions on that blessed journey.
Sister Teresita Theruvankunnel 1939-1992
In 1986-87, Sister Teresita spent a year serving in the Mission Office at the Nazareth Campus Motherhouse. During her time in the U.S., she truly became a “bridge-builder” between East and West. She endeared herself to the sisters at the Motherhouse and other sisters who met her because she truly reached out to each one. Teresita was easy to be with; it was obvious that she was comfortable with herself and with her indwelling God. Many U.S. sisters learned about the culture of India and the quality of its spirituality from Terry. She indeed helped the SCN community realize that it had become “an international Congregation.”
Teresita was a true woman of mission. She responded to community needs wholeheartedly and loved intensely the people she served. She was chosen to work in initial formation in India for eight years and as a teacher in various schools for thirteen years. She had passion for village ministry and truly desired to know the people. When her health began to deteriorate, she was offered a transfer to an easier mission, but she chose to remain at Lupungutu in Chaibasa where she was tutoring a number of students who had grown up in dire poverty. She wanted to see them achieve their dream of graduating from high school.
Teresita died of cerebral malaria on Palm Sunday in 1992. The Provincial at that time recalled Jesus’ words and applied them to Terry: “Here is a person in whom there is no guile.” To Teresita’s many friends in both the East and the West that statement continues to ring true!
Amanda Carter 1944-2007
Amanda Carter, an associate, was a teacher at St. Ann School in Morganfield, Kentucky and at Holy Name School in Henderson, Kentucky. Upon her husband’s work transfer to Florida, she taught at St Patrick’s School in Tampa and at Knight’s Elementary where she was named “Teacher of the Year.” In her professional life, Amanda created a learning environment that connected her students to the material they were learning, to one another, to the larger school community and by extension to the world outside the classroom. Part of her expansive approach to learning included interaction between the families of her students. Amanda was a connector of both ideas and people.
As well as a loving wife to her husband and wonderful mother to her son and daughter, Amanda also played surrogate “Mom” to an exchange student from Italy and counted many friends as extended family members. Sister Molly Thompson described her as “a trusted friend and a woman of integrity” whose students were blessed by her “gift of reaching out to each one with a word or gesture of encouragement at just the right time.”
Sister Tharsilla Kopinsky 1907-2003
Sister Tharsilla was a simple woman who recognized the humor inherent in daily living. She chose to stay on mission long after most, and provided a wise, gentle presence in the house that cut through the nonsense that often accompanies local community living. She was very devoted to her prayer life and contributed to the mission every day to the best of her ability as she was aging.
She often told stories on herself from early days. The day she got her name, she recalled that everyone was coming up to her asking, “What name did you get?” She responded honestly as was her usual way by saying, “I don’t know Parsilla, Darsilla, or something like that.” In her teaching days, she was younger than some students she taught and had to find ingenious ways to stretch the truth in order to convince students of her age. Another of her favorite stories happened on Good Friday when she and the others with whom she lived were coming back from church talking about how good a bacon sandwich would taste. They proceeded to prepare their sandwiches, sat down and started eating and suddenly, as if in chorus, all started screaming having realized they were eating meat on Good Friday.
Every time someone made a comment about any story she was telling she would always respond, “That’s just it! That’s what I mean,” a little phrase that acknowledged that the listener was right on target and that the listener’s experience was one with hers. She always found a story from her experience that would comfort her listener, from the most basic to the deeply profound. She had an incredibly strong faith in the power of prayer and God’s faithfulness to us.
Sister Tharsilla was born Catherine (Katy) Kopinsky on November 25, 1907 and died July 12, 2003. She aged gracefully and was a great mentor, one to emulate, big shoulders to stand upon, a great support in all things, a woman of the heart.
Whether they crossed the globe or simply the street, these women spoke the language of inclusion, persistence, humor and hospitality, and that is indeed Good News for our world. By radiating welcome to those fortunate enough to cross their paths, and by finding themselves at home in a variety of living and working situations, they epitomized the sayings “She never met a stranger” and “Wherever I hang my hat, is my home.” We look to their wisdom in our relations with neighbors next door and around the world.
Questions for Reflection & Sharing:
1. How might we as members of the SCN family answer the theologian’s query: “God delights in diversity. Why do we humans have such a hard time with it?”
2. Who in the SCN family taught me to be a bridge builder? How?
3. What struggles are unavoidable as we seek to bridge cultural boundaries?
4. What virtues and attitudes of the Fifth Gospels might we cultivate to become more adept at cultural bridge building?
Upcoming Reflection Themes:
Theme 3: Impelled by the love of Christ, we offer humble, simple, loving service.
Theme 4:We strive to live in the tradition of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marrillac.
We are grateful to the many others besides subcommittee members who contributed to the reflections.
From the Bicentennial Monthly Reflection Committee:
|Bridgid Clifford, SCN||Joetta Davis, SCNA|
|Charlene Jacobs, SCN||Maureen Daugherty, SCN|
|Dorothy MacDougall, SCN||Rita Gesue, SCN|
|Jane Karakunnel, SCN||Shirley Kocinsky, SCN|