When a Catholic Sister dies

Blog Published: February 6, 2009
By Sister Julie

It’s not easy writing a blog post when your heart is heavy. This morning I woke to find out that two of my dear IHM Sisters died. One sister I’ve known since I entered the community. She lived at the Motherhouse in Monroe and always made sure to keep an eye out for new members to make sure they were doing okay. She used to play cards with me and other nuns, and took great pride in letting others know that she was teaching the young sisters Spite and Malice! The other sister was the sibling of a nun that I lived with while I was in formation. I rarely saw her without her smiling or laughing or having a twinkle of mischief in her eye!

As I think about and pray for my sisters, I am reminded of my first experience ever of dealing with the death of a Catholic sister. When I lived in Toronto with the Loretto Sisters (IBVM), a sister from the house I lived at died. Sister Emma was a fireball, a woman in love with life and with God. She was a singer, and tried to get my friend Michelle and I to sing but there was little hope for either of us! Her death was a shock to all of us, and it broke all of our hearts. I learned so much from the sisters of that house of how to care for one another, how to celebrate and to mourn Emma’s death, and how to place one’s sorrow and one’s trust in God.

Sister Emma’s wake was held in our house — it was a big convent, but still felt a little weird to me because I’d never lived in a house where a wake was held. When the funeral home brought the body to the house, the sisters welcomed the body at the door and prayed as the casket was brought in. The sisters sat vigil with the body, sometimes praying and crying quietly, other times chatting about wonderful Emma stories! The lay women of the house (we were mostly grad students boarding with the sisters while we worked on our degrees) were welcomed into this holy mourning and celebrating. We too sat vigil, we served at the funeral Mass, we buried our sister, and we celebrated as Emma would have wanted us to.

The experience of knowing Sister Emma and of journeying with the Loretto Sisters through her death touched me deeply. It was probably one of the most formative experiences of my life. It taught me the meaning of sisterhood, and it illustrated for me — in full color — what it means to give one’s life, and one’s death, totally to God.

Please pray for my IHM Sisters Alice and Bea who are “dwelling now in light yet ever near”… and  for my Sister Marie, Alice’s sibling, and all of those who loved these women and were touched by them.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Archived Comments

Denise February 6, 2009 at 8:14 am

My prayers and sympathies to you and your nuns.

Teri February 6, 2009 at 8:23 am

I understand your loss and I send my prayers to you.

Mother Anne, Sisters of Visitation, Federal Way, WA always took me under her wing. She had the warmest hands – they literally radiated love. Now when I meet anyone who has the physical warmth she possessed, I think of her, and know her spirit still travels among us.

The special memories you shared with us will be honored in your heart for eternity. Peace to all of you who have given your life to inspire the rest of us.

Sister Pat Farrell, OP February 6, 2009 at 8:31 am

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Julie. It must be hard, too, to not to have been there. We all have these special sisters in our lives. I take great comfort in knowing that they are closer to me now than when they lived 20 miles away.

Sister Gayle OSF February 6, 2009 at 8:31 am

My sincere prayers and sympathy. Two at the same time. The longer I am in community, the harder the deaths are, but as you mentioned, they are home.

Kelly February 6, 2009 at 8:43 am


discerninglife25 February 6, 2009 at 8:52 am

My prayers and symathies are with you at this difficult time.

Death is never an easy topic. You often find yourself on a rift in which you are experiencing sorrow and joy. Sorrow for the loss of that wonderful person, but also joy because that person is in God’s hands. And you know what’s interesting? Death usually brings people closer together. It cuts down boundaries between people and find the similarities in their hearts. I like to think that is that person’s last gift to you. In fact, St. Francis called death fondly “Sister Death.” Grieving is still very difficult indeed, and I will continue to prayer for you and the others that knew these two wonderful sisters.

Another Sister Julie, CSSF February 6, 2009 at 10:33 am

The first time I ever sat with a sister until the end was a real eye opener. Our tradition is to call the whole community together in the room and into the hallways praying and waiting. It was like we were all midwives, birthing out sister into hands of her Beloved. It certainly gives me a different outlook on death.

I hope you can sense the loving presence of your sisters now celebrating with Jesus in eternity and allow that to lift your heavy heart. Peace be with you!

deerose February 6, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Another Sr. Julie: “like we were midwives birthing our sister into the hands of her Beloved.” Wow! That is a beautiful and powerful perspective. I never thought of it that way. But with what you say, it makes total sense. Thanks.

Bek February 6, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Sincere sympathy and prayers as you experience the loss of your sisters. Thank you for setting down your experience, feelings and thoughts during such a difficult time – it has given me much upon which to reflect and pray. I guess none of us here on earth really know how to put the reality of passing into its proper perspective, but experiences such as yours can teach those of us in the lay community a great deal. Thank you.

Sister Julie February 6, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Thank you for all of your prayers and tender words.

Miss Dina February 6, 2009 at 5:44 pm

All my prayers and deepest condolences to you and your sisters during this diffcult time.

Phillip February 6, 2009 at 5:49 pm

I may have not known Sister Alice well, but in the time that I did get to know her, I knew that she was a very nice person, one that loved God. One thing that I really admired about Sister Alice is her determination. She never was sad or angry because of her sickness. She still pressed forward, just like every Christian should do. I will miss her. God bless her, and may she be singing with the angels and arcangels in heaven. God bless you, Sister Alice.
Student at St. Anne- Phillip

Ryan February 6, 2009 at 5:57 pm

I’m from St. Anne’s School and today we found out that Sr. Alice died. I feel really bad because she was a nice person and was a true example of what God wants us to be like. But at least we know she’s in heaven with her family and friends. All of the kids missed her and some even cried when we found out. I wish I knew her better than just helping her out every once in a while when she asked the kids to do something for her. She’ll be missed.

Sister Julie February 7, 2009 at 7:00 am

Dear Ryan and Phillip, Please know that the prayers of all the IHM Sisters are with you and St. Anne’s School and Parish. Thank you for writing and letting us know how much she means to you.

mjpss February 8, 2009 at 3:49 pm

my condolences and prayers to you and your community, sister.

Mama B March 12, 2009 at 8:27 am

Our parish has lost one of our local nuns, Sr. Mary Lillian from the Mantellate Sisters, Servants of Mary. I didn’t know her very well, but we chatted when I saw her at the parish for an event. She was very sweet.

Today is her funeral and it is a most interesting event. It is an interesting sight to see several priests from the diocese and different orders on the altar concelebrating, as well as deacons. There are representatives of other orders of nuns and a couple of religious brothers here. I, personally, have never seen this. (Well, I saw it on tv with the funeral of Pope John Paul II, but that I expected since he was the leader of all the world’s Catholics and ultimate head of every religious order.)

It has been quite the wonderful experience. Again, as Discerninglife25 said, “Sorrow for the loss of that wonderful person, but also joy because that person is in God’s hands”, I don’t want to take away from the community’s sorrow, but Sr. Lillian is whole, well, and happy with her Lord and Saviour.

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