July 22 1920 – August 7, 2016
We join our voices in a ceaseless chorus of joyful thanksgiving.
The text from our CSJ Constitution printed on the cover of this worship aid, reminds us that prayer is a dynamic relationship with God who is the source and center of our lives. Today’s readings, from Jeremiah, Paul and Matthew and the hymns selected reiterate a similar theme giving us a glimpse into Eleanor’s life as she lived it–connected with her God in a special loving relationship. I believe, with St. Paul, that Christ found a dwelling place in Eleanor’s heart; that she was rooted and grounded in God’s love and because of this relationship, first nurtured in her family and then as a Sister of Saint Joseph, she was able to open herself and to ask her God the hard questions, “What do you ask of me?” “Where do you want me to serve you?” “Where can I sing your praises?” “How can I be an example of Your unifying love to others?” It was God’s spirit stirring within her that motivated all her choices, allowing her to fully, freely and joyfully respond to God’s call, whatever the graces and/or challenges with fidelity, humility and courage. Eleanor permitted God’s song to be sung in her as teacher, student, Music Supervisor, Religious Education Director, Pastoral Minister, Chorus/Choir Director, or by being a welcoming presence, engaging in hospitality to others with Mary Krause, or as a faithful friend and companion, retiring twice, or knowing the appropriate time to personally request a transition in ministry or to make the choice to move here to Bethany Health Care Center. So, how can we keep from singing?
Knowing that God was the center of her life, Eleanor was convinced of the words of the prophet Jeremiah which speaks of God’s relationship and promise to the exiled people of Israel: I will show up and take care of you as I promised and I will bring you home. I know what I am doing. I have it planned. I will give you a future full of hope. When you call and pray, I will listen. When you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I will make you find me. I will make sure that you will not be disappointed. And Eleanor wasn’t. She knew that God alone spoke the words of life. She found that treasure in the field. She could ask for nothing more. So, how could she keep from singing?
In 1995 Eleanor discerned that after 40 years as Director of the CSJ Chorus, she would retire from that ministry; she would however, continue sharing her gift of song here on the hill for a few more years. Needless to say Eleanor’s leadership as Director of the CSJ Chorus was a significant loss for all of us. She shared so selflessly, was attuned to those around her, made an incredible contribution to the music ministry in our community and had a positive impact on the lives of so many. When Eleanor really retired, there was a gathering of all involved in the community’s music ministry. During that evening of prayer, food, fun, and sharing, Barbara McHugh, today’s Leader of Song, prepared a fitting tribute using Eleanor’s first name in an acrostic message. Paraphrasing a bit: E -ethics, your work ethic is always honorable and without question; L- love of your ministry that showed through your smile; E – an example of selfless giving, it is never about you always about the mission; A- attitude, always positive, even in challenging times; N - now, a time to rest, relax and gather your graces; O –an original, one in a million; and R – righteous in your beliefs and taught us by your life. I will expand a bit by using Eleanor’s last name Z - Zeal for the mission and charism; I - integrity speaking her truth at all times; T- her tenacity, thankfulness and thoughtfulness; and O - oneness with God and with others. So, how can we keep from singing?”
There is so much more that could be said about Eleanor’s life, other significant areas of involvement, events, ministries, and stories regarding this remarkably gifted and humble woman who possessed a tremendous God given talent that she put at the service of others. I leave you to fill in the gaps because I have already said more than what Eleanor would have permitted. How can I keep from singing?
In closing, I share with you the lyrics of a song written by Mason Williams …to me it sums up in a simple yet profound way, Eleanor’s life and legacy of God’s gift of love to her and of Eleanor’s love and desire for each of us. It is called- A Gift of Song:
- A gift of songs is a gift of love, though how this is, I cannot say. But who receives a gift of love, must send it freely on its way. As I receive, so let me give, and live in joy my whole life through. A gift of song is a gift of love here comes a gift of love for you.
A gift of song is a gift of love, it falls to earth, we know not where. But who receives this gift of love, it follows then that you must share. As I receive, so let me give, and live in joy my whole life through. A gift of song is a gift of love and now I’ve sung my song for you.
We give you thanks O loving God for gifting us with S. Eleanor Zito, a woman of joy, grace, and energy, who made a positive difference in the lives of so many of us. Go now in peace and may the heavenly chorus welcome you.
Roseann Amico, CSJ