Sister Marie Paula went home to her loving God yesterday, just a little more than a month shy of reaching 98 years of age. She was one of the first CSJP Sisters I met in the east on a visit I made to check out the lay of the land before I entered the novitiate.
I will never forget her delight at meeting one of the “postulants from the west.” I can still picture that first encounter in my mind’s eye. It was in the chapel of Villa Marie Claire, where she was living and which is now used as a hospice. She told me that she had been praying for me. This is not an unusual statement, given the context, but then she pulled a picture out of her pocket. It was a picture of me with the other candidates who were set to enter the novitiate. She was carrying us in her pocket as she prayed for us, literally holding us in prayer.
A few weeks ago I had a good visit with her in her room in the infirmary. She was now on hospice herself at the end of a life of prayer and loving service. I told her this story, and that I felt like she had literally prayed me into the congregation. I then told her that when she got to the other side, she had a lot of work to do praying for the new sisters who have not yet come. They needed her prayers too. She got very animated and talked about the joy of a life lived in community serving the Lord. She was alive right up until the end with the love of God and love for our CSJP community.
I love this picture of Sister Marie Paula. It was taken in March at our community assembly which was focused on future oriented conversations about mission. There she is, leaning in, actively listening. For me it is a perfect portrait of an amazing, authentic, and animated woman of peace.
We will say goodbye to Sister Marie Paula this week. We will celebrate her life and remember the gift she was to our community, church, and world. I have no doubt that she will be leaning in from her new home, listening to all that is going on, and praying fervently for our community, our mission of peace, and the sisters yet to to come.