February 8, 1919 – April 15, 2017
“Enthusiastic people make everybody around them feel alive! ... that in itself Is a gift . Joan Chittister
Each day I try to reflect on a word or phrase that will keep me focused throughout the day. It could be a word or a line from Scripture or a statement on a calendar or something I’ve read in a book. Beside my computer I have Joan Chittister’s book The Living Well. For each day of the year it has a quote that I often find insightful.
Recently I asked a some people to share with me a few words that they would use to describe Sister Eileen Dever , Sister Faber. Here are just a few descriptions – warm, friendly, quiet, generous, gracious manner, dedicated, good sense of humor, grateful, joyful, pleasant disposition and happy. Upon receiving the phone call on Holy Saturday morning that Sister Eileen had died I looked in the book The Living Well to see what
wisdom of Joan Chittister would focus me that day. The line written for April 15th was “Enthusiastic people make everybody around them feel alive and that in itself is a gift! The words “enthusiastic people” confirmed for me that they summed up in two words a description of Sister Eileen Dever.
Lent is essentially a season of patient waiting for new life, it is believing that God can accomplish in us something greater than our imaginings, This year the season of Lent took on a whole new meaning for Eileen. This Lent Eileen’s patient waiting was for God to call her home, to be with family members and all the Sisters of St. Joseph who have gone before her.
Over the last few weeks when I would ask Eileen if there was anything I could do for her, her answer was always: Pray that God would give her the patience, the strength and the openness to wait in trust and hope for the gift of eternal life, and that God would take her home while she slept. God answered her prayer.
Emily Dickinson wrote “we turn not old with years, but newer every day”. Even at 98 years of age, Eileen approached each new day with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude. This is because life began new each day for her. Perhaps, Emily Dickinson was familiar with the Prophet Jeremiah who reminds us in today’s first reading that the “favors of the Lord are renewed each day”.
Our second reading from Philippians is full of words describing gratitude and joy. Eileen loved being a Sister of St. Joseph. She was grateful to God for her vocation to be of service to the “dear neighbor”. She loved her family and their love revolved right back to her.
In some translations of our Gospel reading the Beatitudes, the word “Blessed” is translated “Happy”. As we listen to the Gospel this morning, consider substituting the word blessed with “happy”. In the Beatitudes, Jesus calls each of us to live our lives in humble generosity to others, in forgiveness given joyfully. In holiness strived for and in belief lived.
Sister Eileen lived the Beatitudes in so many ways as a Sister of St. Joseph. Eileen’s trust in God provided her with the grace she needed to respond to a variety of ministries over 80 years of religious life. She was a gentle, humble woman, a merciful loving woman, she was a happy woman. As her days were coming to an end and she was resting more and more you could see a peace-filled smile across her face. She knew that her new life in God was approaching.
Sister Eileen’s life here on earth is completed. Her days of personifying the beatitudes and of being a visible sign of God’s presence and inclusive love are finished.
Our sadness at Eileen death is understandable and our expressions of love are an acknowledgement of the emptiness her death leaves. Our faith enables us to give thanks for Sister Eileen’s life among us, for what we have learned and received from her, and for the many ways God has gifted us through her.
Let us rejoice and give thanks for the life of Sister Eileen Dever .The love she gave to her wonderful family, and to us the Congregation of the “great love of God” is in itself her gift.
May you rest in peace, Sister Eileen.
We celebrate your life and give thanks to our loving God for your presence in our life.
Patricia McCarthy, SJ