January 13, 1938 – June 13, 2015
“I have called you by name, you are mine.”
We come together this morning to celebrate the life of a devoted sister, a loving aunt, a doting grand and great grand aunt, and a faithful Sister of St. Joseph, Elaine F. Collins. Our celebration of Sister Elaine’s life was actually planned for her golden jubilee in 2006. The Scripture readings are those Elaine chose for her Jubilee Liturgy. I think we can presume that she prayed with these Scripture readings often and that they were meaningful to her throughout her life.
Our readings from the Prophet Isaiah, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and John’s Gospel will remind us that Elaine was called by name into God’s family in Baptism “before all time”, she was precious in God’s sight and called to religious life “according to the purpose of God’s will” and she was loved by God and called into eternal life “to the praise of God’s glorious Grace”.
Over the last nine or ten years Elaine has had to adjust to some physical limitations but these limitations did not diminish her spirit. She was the unofficial social director of the sixth floor. She knew that she was precious in God’s sight and God loved her and she in turn manifested God’s love to all.
There are three things that Elaine loved and always spoke of with a grateful heart. Her family and friends, her vocation and her love of children.
The blessing of a large family was gift to Elaine. She was fun loving and always ready to plan a party. There was no such thing as a small celebration in the Collins household. Being one of eight children, there was always a wedding, a Baptism, a First Communion, a Confirmation and then the next generation was ready for their celebrations. Elaine loved sports! Perhaps it was because she had five brothers as playmates. When I lived with Elaine, I was always in awe that she knew how to follow every sport and appeared to know the rules better than the umpires and refs. There is a poem by Anne Danielson that begins by saying “Family begins with a common start called home.. and the poem ends with the words “Family, where what began as a common start, becomes the gift of sharing a Common Heart.” The Collins family heart is a common heart that loves God and neighbor.
Elaine considered her call to religious life and in particular her vocation as a Sister of St. Joseph another blessing from God. A few years ago, Elaine spoke at an anniversary celebration for St. Mary’s Parish and told the gathering how St. Mary’s Grammar School and Girls High School influenced her life. It was there that she met the Sisters of St. Joseph and fifty-nine years later… we know the rest of the story of Elaine’s vocation… a life lived in fidelity to God and service to the “dear neighbor without distinction.”
I don’t think any of us here could ever estimate the number of children whose first experience of learning was with Sister Agnes Veronica a.k.a. Sister Elaine. As a primary grade teacher, Elaine had the privilege and sacred trust to nurture in young children a love for learning not only reading and math but also helping them to know how much God loved them. Elaine was a masterful primary grade teacher, another blessing from God for which she gave thanks.
On a small handmade card that I came across in one of Elaine’s books was a prayer that was signed “Mom and Dad”. The card was a remembrance of the day she took her final vows. It read “May God protect you always and the Blessed Mother enfold you in her mantle. May St. Joseph, protector of the Order lead you throughout your Religious life and lead you into the arms of our Lord in eternity.” Today Elaine’s parents’ prayer has been answered. Elaine’s reward for her life of fidelity to her vows and her service to the dear neighbor is the joyous, loving embrace she received as she entered her eternal home, into the arms of her God.
It will take us some time to adjust to the suddenness of Elaine’s death but our consolation can be that she now enjoys the fullness of life with her loving God, her parents, family and friends gone before her .May our God who claimed Elaine as his own in Baptism and by religious profession now enfold her in the love, peace and joy of eternal life.
Given by: Patricia E. McCarthy, CSJ