For my friend Susan, who went home to God far too early in life.
When I showed up in nunland, you became my first friend. You stayed close during my challenging novitiate, even though you were 3,000 miles away. Your promise that you’d read my emails and not tell anyone what I wrote (and perhaps most importantly, not try to fix anything) may have saved me.
I returned to Seattle when you left for El Salvador, so our friendship continued by email and yummy Thai or Indian or Japanese or Chinese food when you were home. Then you came home and I went to Chicago first, then New Jersey. The tradition transferred, and it was when I was home that we had our dinner dates.
When I think back to our friendship, it’s those meals that stand out. Not the food, but our delicious conversations. Your listening ear. Your laugh. The fact that you always called me on my bullshit. That time when you listened to me vent, ad nauseum, about whatever it was. And then, when we had paid the check, politely reminded me that friendships were mutual, and when was I going to ask about you.
Lesson learned. An important one, that I am grateful for.
So much to be grateful for really.
Tonight at your vigil service, my memories were mirrored in what others shared. Your friend from high school. Another stranger who became a friend. Coworkers. Your friend’s teenage daughter. (I was waiting for the dog catcher or waste management professional to go to the mic.) We all felt loved and known by you.
You were a light for others. One that shone brightly if but only for a time in my own life. An important time.
I am remembering my dear friend Sister Kieran this morning who went home to God over the weekend.
Kieran was herself fond of the early morning hours. She lived for many years at St. Mary-on-the-Lake, our main west coast community on the shores of Lake Washington. When she was more able, she’d be the one to fetch the morning papers from up the hill, to make the proper Irish oatmeal, and keep you company in the dining room. I remember when she was in the hospital a few years ago, there was a long list of all the tasks she normally took care of that needed to be done by a whole host of others while she recovered.
Sister Kieran brought life just by her presence. She was one of the first sisters to welcome me to community. I mean that in more than one way. She was a constant presence at St. Mary’s whenever I visited. She had a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. She also made you feel accepted just as you were. She made me feel at home and wanted and part of the CSJP family from the very beginning.
Sister Kieran was also, as the title says, a fiesty and faithful friend. She’d be the first to tell you if your homily reflection was a bit on the long side. She loved to tell stories, and my favorite was when she’d preference a story about me by saying, “Remember when you were a young sister and you …”. As I was remembering Kieran this morning, I thought of this picture, which was taken at a recent assembly. This is Kieran, alive and engaged and in action. No doubt she is alive and engaged and in action in heaven, catching up with loved ones and keeping a keen eye on all the goings on in this world as we prepare to celebrate her life.
Thank you Kieran for being my friend, for your faithful witness and your fiesty spirit. I will miss you but am better for having known and loved you, even if just for a time.
November is a time for remembering. In our Christian tradition we remember all saints and all souls. We also remember our veteran’s on November 11th, which is known as remembrance day in the UK to remember the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the first world war ended. November 11th is also the day I professed final vows five years ago.
I now have another reason to remember on November 11th, because this Friday my dear friend, leadership teammate and local community member Sister Kristin Funari passed away after a rapid yet valiant struggle with cancer. It was an honor and a privilege to accompany her on this journey. We spent many precious moments together these past few months. She has taught me so much about living and leading and loving. My heart aches that she has left us, but she is now free and one with her loving God. As for me, I am a better person for having shared life with her these past two years.
In her last days, she planned her funeral with an old friend who shared the notes with me when the time came to plan the service for real after her death. It was a surprise and a great honor that Kristin wanted me to give the welcome at her funeral liturgy. These are the words I shared at the funeral yesterday:
We gather this morning to celebrate the life of a shining light in our lives, Sister Kristin Funari, who burned with a passion for everything that is good.
Many of us are used to Kristin herself giving the welcome at an occasion such as this. I know I am, yet it is also a deep honor and a privilege to be the one to welcome you today on behalf of Kristin, her family, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.
We gather in this beautiful sanctuary, yet we pine to be at home in our own Chapel. As you know, those of us who live at St. Michael’s experienced a major fire last month, and we are still adjusting to our new reality. We are grateful to be able to find shelter here at St. Anastaia’s. As it happens, I discovered this weekend that Kristin took Anastasia as her confirmation name when she was a young woman, so perhaps this was meant to be.
We welcome Kristin’s brother Ralph and his wife Chickie, along with their children Felicia and her husband Stephen, Renata and her husband Craig, Anthony and his girlfriend Kim, and three of Kristin’s grand nephews Ashton, Nicholas and Sebastian. We also welcome Kristin’s cousin Sandra, het husband Joe and their daughter Kristin.
We remember too Kristin’s parents Ivo and Helen, her Auntie Viola, Uncle Joe, and her sister Ricky. I have no doubt that they are enjoying great Italian meals and catching up on all the news of the Funari family among the stars.
When 20 year old Elaine applied to enter the Congregation in 1965 as a postulant, she wrote in her application that she wished “to bring myself and others to God.” Decades later, in an interview with Jan Linley, Kristin reflected that “seeking God and seeking truth is part of why I stay and why I entered. You know, really wanting to know God.” Kristin has finally lived into the deep desire she expressed in her final vows, “to live in the joy of a celibate love that does not lie in a separation from but a deeper penetration into the universe.” She is now at one with God, with the angels, and the stars.
But we all know that Kristin’s life shined bright like the stars when she was with us. She was passionate about community, her family, and poor and marginalized people. She was passionate about good food and a nice drink at the end of the day. She was passionate about life … and of that, any of us who were ever on the losing side of an argument with Kristin, have no doubt.
When Kristin was featured in an article in the National Catholic Reporter in 1996, she outlined her passions.
“I’m passionate about the gospels,” she said. “Passionate about the economy. I want to get more passionate about the poor. Get more passionate about the violence in our cities in the United States and say what can we do to change that. … I get passionate about the suffering that’s caused by all that and then the wrong people who are blamed. Passionate about the beatitudes. Passionate about the truth being the way. None of us have the total truth. Passionate about us being able to peel that apart together and break it open together and single-mindedly staying in community, pursuing those gospel truths. That’s what makes my passion. I get passionate when I see real struggle around who we say we are or want to be.”
Community was a constant in Kristin’s life. She built community wherever she was. As a social worker in Rockleigh and in Jersey City, at St. Boniface and of course, the York Street Project, Kristin loved and learned from those she served and accompanied them as they made positive change in their own community. In Congregation leadership, Kristin challenged us to face the future with gratitude and hope, while staying true to our roots as what she called meat and potato women. Before her death last year, Sister Jeanne Keaveny, who taught Kristin in Penns Grove, described Kristin to me as someone who had one foot firmly in the past, and one foot firmly in the future.
Kristin was unforgettable. We heard many stories to that effect last night at the wake. She left a lasting impression on everyone she met. I would often joke that Kristin would even make the local dog catcher feel like he was her dear friend. You felt like a valued whole person in her presence. Relationships and community, presence and hospitality were part of Kirstin’s core. Who among us did not enjoy her delicious cooking, her infectious laughter, her open heart, her willingness to always make room at the table for one more?
And so today, we gather at this table, to celebrate this shining light in our lives. We know that she is now one with her loving God, penetrated by love. Let us now give thanks for her transformation from death into life through the celebration of this liturgy.
Susan Francois, CSJP
Our CSJP community is saying goodbye to one of our shining lights this week. Jeanne Celeste Keaveny, CSJP passed away last Thursday at the age of 95. She entered the Congregation from Ireland in 1936 and ministered as an educator in New Jersey and California before being asked to step into the ministry of leadership in 1964. She served as provincial of our eastern province until 1968.
Those were of course tumultuous years, but also years of great hope and energy. When I met Jeanne in 2006 during my novitiate, her eyes still shone brightly when she talked of the hope and promise of the Second Vatican Council, and the work that was still to be done. She was interested and engaged in social justice issues, geo-politics, and the future of religious life. Her bookshelf always flabbergasted me, filled to the brim a it was with Ilia Delio and Teillhard de Chardin and Diarmud O’Murchu, to name a few.
It is next to impossible to describe Jeanne, let alone what she meant to me personally. She and her dear friend Sister Dorothy Vidulich were a dynamic duo who played an important role during my early years of formation. When I moved to New Jersey in 2006 to start my novitiate, they had recently moved into the retirement community next door after many years in Washington, D.C. Jeanne’s room was an oasis of lively and engaging conversation on many an occasion. When it was hard to see beyond the little things of the novitiate experience that seemed so big, I knew that I could head next door to visit Jeanne and Dorothy for a dash of perspective and inspiration. They were always so gracious, not to mention intellectually stimulating. We would talk about the state of the world, the church, the cosmos, the community … you name it! As I wrote on my old blog after Dorothy’s passing in 2012, they “were incredible mentors to me and my novitiate classmates in our early months of formation, true kindred spirits and role models who journeyed with us through challenges that in retrospect seem small but at the time almost insurmountable.”
Jeanne continued to be a friend and mentor to me. When I was in New Jersey last summer to attend the discernment retreat for sisters invited to leave their name in for leadership, I had some key conversations with her that helped me see that maybe my gifts were needed at this time. In the past ten months since I began to serve in the ministry of leadership, I have had the pleasure of many conversations with Jeanne. She continued to be a shining light for me, helping me to gain some necessary perspective while also holding fast to the vision, promise, and call of our charism of peace. For example, I found this little exchange documented in my journal from this past March:
Me: I have no idea what I am doing Jeanne.
Jeanne: Good. You never really will. That means you’re where you should be, in the chaos.
On that particular day, that was exactly what I needed to hear!
In the end, Jeanne was ready to go, and I am so happy for her that she has passed over to the other side, where she is in the company of her loving God, family, community, and friends who have gone before. She went quickly in the end, but I was lucky enough to spend some good quality time with her during her last days. In a way, being able to sit with her during her final journey was yet another gift of mentorship that she gave to me, teaching me how to simply be present when that is what the moment calls for.
As I was sitting with her the day she died, I found myself thinking of all the reading she had done and the conversations we’d had about the universe and the cosmos and God. I found myself thinking, “Don’t be afraid Jeanne … just go be light.” And so that’s what I told her, and that’s what she is, and that’s what she will always be to me, a shining light in love and memory.
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.
I just received word that Sister Teresa Catherine Carberry passed away over the weekend in New Jersey. I am afraid I will miss the wake service tomorrow night and funeral on Wednesday, as I am on my way to visit with our Sisters in the United Kingdom for a couple of weeks. I know that the celebration of Sister Teresa Catherine’s life will be grand, with many stories told, laughter shared, and more than a few tears shed. There is nothing quite like the way that we say goodbye to our beloved Sisters.
Sister Teresa Catherine entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace 71 years ago. She was a teacher, principal, and administrator of St. Joseph’s Home for the Blind (now Cusack Care Center) in Jersey City. It is amazing to think of the countless number of lives she touched through her faithful and dedicated ministry to God’s people.
I was lucky enough to get to know Sister Teresa Catherine when she was my neighbor during my novitiate ministry experience in Jersey City. I lived with two Sisters in a house next door to Cusack Care Center, where Sister Teresa Catherine lived in the convent on the top floor with two other Sisters. Our two communities frequently got together to share meals and fellowship.
After a few weeks of being neighbors, I got to know Sister Teresa Catherine better when she asked me if I could give her some computer lessons. She was an eager student and wanted to get to know how to use the new technology. I discovered that she liked to play cards, and so I showed her how to play solitaire on the computer, which was also a way to get her comfortable with the mouse. Before long, she had an email account and was getting in touch with people electronically far and wide.
It wasn’t too long before our lessons turned into opportunities for our own far reaching conversations, which often lasted long past our computer lesson time. We talked about the history of our community, her experiences, the present state of the world, what it was like to enter religious life today as well as the future of religious life. While in the beginning I had a feeling that we did not have much in common, by the end of my three months as her neighbor I knew that deep down she was a kindred spirit, one I was proud to be able to call Sister.
Thank you Sister Teresa Catherine for your friendship and all you have given to our community and God’s people. I know that you will be praying for us and doing all you can for our little community from your new digs in heaven.
I read this morning that Marcus Borg has passed away. Theologian, Author, Historical Jesus Scholar, Biblical Scholar, Lutheran turned Episcopalian, Oregonian, Professor, Husband, Friend … surely he was many things to many people and will be deeply missed.
When I heard the news of his death, I immediately said a prayer of thanks for him, and especially for the role his book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, played in my own faith journey.
While I was raised Catholic and went to 12 years of Catholic School, from my late teens to my late 20s I essentially rejected it all as entirely irrelevant–organized religion, spirituality, God, Jesus, you name it. But then something happened and somehow God broke through. It’s a long story, but the 2 second version is that a friend invited me to her Catholic church and I weirdly and unexpectedly felt at home. The next Sunday and each week after I woke up with a deep desire to return. So I kept going, but all of my doubts and questions and blanket rejection remained and led to a whole lot of confusion.
One day, a few weeks after I inexplicably became a doubting weekly church goer, I remember riding in my friend Kim’s pick up truck down 39th Avenue in Southeast Portland as she gave me a ride home after mass. I was trying to articulate to her my mixed up feelings around the pull to return to my Catholic roots. I remember saying that I didn’t know if I could do it because I was not quite sure what I thought about “that Jesus guy.” I’m pretty sure those were my exact words. Kim suggested I read Borg’s book.
I was intrigued by the title. I read the book. And something shifted within me even as I read the opening words of Chapter One of Meeting Jesus Again:
We have all met Jesus before. Most of us first met him when we were children. This is most obviously true for those of us raised in the church, but also for anybody who grew up in Western culture. We all received some impression of Jesus, some image of him, however vague or specific.
For many, the childhood image of Jesus remains intact into adulthood. For some, that image is held with deep conviction, sometimes linked with warm personal devotion and sometimes tied to rigid doctrinal positions. For others, both within and outside of the church, the childhood image of Jesus can become a problem, producing perplexity and doubt, often leading to indifference toward or rejection of the religion of their childhood.
Indeed, for many Christians, especially in mainline churches, there came a time when their childhood image of Jesus no longer made a great deal of sense. And for many of them, no persuasive alternative has replaced it. It is for these people especially that this book is written. For them, meeting Jesus again will be–as it has been for me–like meeting him for the first time. It will involve a new image of Jesus.
His book did not take away all of my questions or doubts or lead to instant conversion. Instead, I think what it did for me was give me freedom to not know what I thought or felt. It gave me a way to reconsider Jesus, to meet him again as if for the first time, to start afresh in building a relationship that continues to grow and deepen with twists and turns and meaning and surprise, comfort and challenge.
It was from that fresh reset of my feelings about Jesus that I started on the path that led me to the corner of Susan and St. Joseph. Having met Jesus again, I was ready and able to then meet him through our CSJP Charism of peace through justice. As our CSJP Constitutions so beautifully put it:
“Christ is our peace, the source of our power. United with him we engage in the struggle against the reality of evil and continue the work of establishing God’s reign of justice and peace.”
Thank you Marcus for sharing your gifts with the Church and the people of God. If my own story is any indication, I suspect you have had a profound influence in many people’s lives.
Today would have been my mom’s 80th birthday. The title of this post comes from a song that’s been stuck in my head today as I’m remembering the gift my mom was in my life and to the world–“You Get What You Give” by the New Radicals.
You’ve got the music in you
Don’t let go
You’ve got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don’t give up
You’ve got a reason to live
Can’t forget you only get what you give
It’s a wee bit ironic, because my Mom was basically tone deaf in the musical sense. But she was very in tune with the needs of the world around her, from her own family, to her local community, to our wounded world. She was in tune with the gifts that God had given her and she shared them with a big heart and a belief that things could be better.
My mom raised five children and made it very clear to us that we are supposed to work to make the world a better place, in whatever ways we can. She loved being a grandmother and how her own kids passed on the dream of a better world.
My mom cared for her own parents through great sacrifice. She modeled the power of presence.
My mom was an equal partner with my Dad, both at home and in the wider world where they were community builders and active participants on behalf of the common good.
My mom campaigned for justice, advocated for the needs of people who were poor, worked on Capitol Hill to help constituents access government resources, and accompanied men and women in prison so that they could rebuild their lives after their release.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been over eleven years since she died. A lot has happened in my own life since then, including the decision to become a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace. Yet I feel her presence and know that she is smiling about the many and varied ways her kids have grown, changed, and done their best to make the world a better place.
In the words of the song that’s stuck in my head as I remember her (not that she would have liked the song, especially not the few “bad” words):
“You’ll be ok follow your heart.”
A wonderful lesson that I learned from my mom’s life, witness, and love.