November 27, 1920 - September 19, 2014
In his book, Eternal Seasons, Henri Nouwen tells us that someday each of us will experience our own resurrection of the body which “acknowledges the breaking in of eternity into the ordinary patterns of our lives”. In the early morning hours on Friday, September 19th eternity broke into the ordinary pattern of sleep for Louise Frances Murray (Sister Avitus). Like any bereaved family, all of us experienced disbelief, shock, numbness, when we heard that Louise had died peacefully in her sleep. Louise broke into eternity with her customary smile on her face! In the midst of our sadness and sorrow, what was not expected by most of us I dare say, were the incredible graces of peace and calm and most of all gratitude to God which have given all of us, especially Kay Magno, strength - to cope with the sense of loss and separation we now feel.
For Louise to pass quietly into eternal life is itself inconsistent with the way she lived her life. Louise, although small in stature, had a personality bigger than life itself and an expansive heart so full of love for her family, the Congregation and all God’s people. A love she shared throughout her ministerial life with her students in schools and Religious Education programs, with patients as a pastoral caregiver at St. Elizabeth Hospital and with the Congregation as an Area Councilor.
Upon hearing of Louise’s death many people have shared a fond memory, a funny story or a comment told to them by Louise. A former student commented that Louise was her favorite teacher. She was so joyful and happy, always singing, she made learning fun. Upon receiving the Employee Excellence Award at St. Elizabeth Hospital it was noted in the Hospital newsletter, “When it comes to Sister Louise, you can always count on a friendly smile, a consoling word, a pearl of wisdom or a kind and compassionate gesture.” While in Congregational ministry as an Area Councilor, her attentiveness, her care and her concern for each Sister in the South Area was appreciated. According to a Sister who lived in the South Area at that time, Louise was the first Sister of St. Joseph who taught her what it meant to be a woman of reconciliation.”
As we move into this morning’s Liturgy, our reading from the Prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God has a plan for each of us. I am sure that when Louise left her beloved Dorchester in 1940 she had no idea the plans God had in mind for her. Louise’s trust in God provided her with the graces needed to respond to a variety of God’s plans over the next 74 plus years. In the early 1970s, after many years in the classroom and school administration, Louise answered the call to be of service to God’s people as a Parish Religious Education Coordinator.
In the late 1970’s with an open heart, Louise responded to the call of the Sisters to be of service in Congregational leadership as an Area Councilor. In the mid -1980s, with continued good health and a generous spirit, Louise said “yes” once again to the plan God had in mind for her as a member of the Pastoral Care team at St. Elizabeth Hospital. In 2010 Louise’s last mission was to Bethany Health Care Center to a ministry of prayer. Louise’s missioning letter contained God’s last plan for her. The mission letter states, “In addition to your ministry of prayer … your ministry will include a ministry of companionship and being a source of encouragement, hope and joy for the staff and residents of Bethany .As with every other plan that God had in mind for Louise, we can all attest to the joy, encouragement, laughter and song with which she responded to her final ministry. In every ministry that God called Louise to, she sought God with her whole heart and found God’s love in the people she served and they found God’s love in her.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians exhorts us to let the message of Christ find a home in us by teaching each other, advising each other and with gratitude in our hearts sing psalms and hymns. All of us here can imagine that Louise having lived her life singing and praising God is now doing that for all eternity.
In the Gospel reading from John, Jesus invites his disciples to live on in his love and their joy will be complete. Through the grace of Baptism and religious profession Louise was a disciple of Jesus and lived in his love. Louise’s joy is complete now.
As we celebrate Louise’s life in Word and Sacrament today let us remember to love one another as she has loved us.
Louise, may our God who claimed you as his own in Baptism and by religious profession now embrace you in the love, peace and joy of eternal life.
Given by Patricia McCarthy, CSJ