November 15, 1910 – October 29, 2016
“You alone on the earth or in heaven above are my Savior and my Lord.”
(I Found a Treasure, D. Shutte)
In Sister Greta’s room, framed and hanging on the wall was a quote that described a Sister of St. Joseph. It read, “A Sister of St. Joseph is hard working, patient, gentle, charitable, generous, obedient, humble prayerful, joyous and simple.” I don’t think it would be surprising to any of us here if we were asked to give a word that describes Sister Greta, that all of the above qualities would be mentioned. Also in her room within reach from her wheelchair were our CSJ Constitution, her Jerusalem Bible, her blue knitted pouch containing her very well worn CSJ Formulary of Prayers, as well as many, many, many novena prayers. Needless to say, I have been in Sister Greta’s room countless times but in her empty room on Sunday morning without her presence captivating my attention it gave me pause. These few articles summed up for me Sister Greta’s life as a woman of prayer and a faith-filled Sister of St. Joseph. I wondered aloud, how many of us have our CSJ Constitution and Formulary on our night stand? I for one do not! Sister Greta lived her life with an attitude of gratitude. I imagine everyone here today has been told that she was praying for you. I can tell you she did pray for you by name, every day. Tucked inside her novena booklets were lists of names of those she was praying for both living and deceased.
Having lived up here on the “Hill” at Fontbonne Hall and Bethany since 1970, Sister Greta’s ministry of prayer and presence is reflected in the words of our first reading from the Book of Proverbs. She was an advocate for the poor, the needy, the sick, the marginalized and victims of war and violence. As we might send off an e-mail to express our concerns or opinions about these issues, Sister Greta, being a prolific letter writer, hand wrote letters to Presidents, members of Congress, and Church and Community leaders. In 2007 she wrote to President Bush to wish him and his family a “happy and peaceful new year” telling him that he will have a happy and peaceful New Year if he does the will of God. As time went on she became more familiar with President Bush and addressed him in her letter of January 22, 2007 as President George. Her concern in this letter was the cause of disabled American Veterans. She reminded the President that he had a great responsibility to negotiate with enemy nations because “millions have been killed or disabled by war” and that she was praying that God will help him make the right decision. In 2012 she wrote to tell President Obama not to be afraid to make good decisions because the Blessed Mother would help him. Sister Greta had a great love for Bethany HealthCare Center. So grateful to Cardinal Cushing for building Bethany, Sister Greta wrote in 2013 to Sister Rosemary, to ask permission to write to Cardinal Sean to tell him that Cardinal Cushing should be canonized.( As, Sister Greta’s niece Pat mentioned she is probably personally thanking Cardinal Cushing right now.) Although Sister Greta held length of days in her right hand, two weeks shy of her 106th birthday; I am convinced that the riches and honors in her left hand were the deep joy and loving embrace she received as she entered eternal life, her reward for her hidden and self-emptying labors.
Sister Greta has had her funeral planned for many years and the readings and music she chose give us a glimpse of her relationship with God. The readings all speak particularly of the love God has for us. St. John‘s letter speaks of the importance of loving one another as God has loved us. Words we can all take to heart. Sister Greta lived Jesus’ words expressed in the Gospel passage of the vine and the branches.This passage gives us an indication of how God’s grace lived in Sister Greta. Through her prayer, Sister Greta was aware that she could not bear fruit all by herself. She knew that her strength was in the knowledge that she was a branch of God’s vine and by connecting with her God in prayer she would bear much fruit. Relying on God’s grace throughout her religious life, she deepened her relationship with God and with everyone she met. Sister Greta proclaimed God’s love by the way she lived her life in love.
In the Gospel reading Jesus invites his disciples to live on in his love and their joy will be complete. Through the grace of Baptism and religious profession, Martha Agnes Turner, Sister Greta, was a disciple of Jesus and lived in his love. Sister Greta’s joy is now complete.
As the quote from our Constitution on the cover of our program states, “Our life of prayer is a dynamic relationship with God, an ever-increasing intimacy with the God who is the source and center of our lives”. Sister Greta’s prayer was nourished by the Eucharist and her devotion to Mary, our mother and Joseph our patron and protector. Her ministry of prayer and presence required the humility, fidelity and courage to let her self be emptied by God so that she could be filled with love, a love that flowed out to the other. As we celebrate Sister Greta’s life in Word and Sacrament this morning, let us remember to love one another as she has loved
Sister Greta, We pray today in gratitude for your life among us. We rejoice with you as you celebrate your new life in the presence of the one who says “live on in my love and your joy will be complete.”
Rest in peace!
Patricia E. McCarthy,CSJ