November 18, 1928 – January 4, 2018
“I did the best I could, in the time I had available to me,
and in the circumstances in which I find myself.” Mari Ryan, CSJ
In Mari’s room over the recliner she sat in, hung the quote on the back of your program. As Mari’s illness progressed I am presuming that this quote gave Mari some assurance that even though she had no control of the time she had available to her or the progression of her disease, she never gave up, she did the best she could..
Each day I try to reflect on a word or phrase that will help keep me focused during the day. It could be a word or line from Scripture or a quote on a calendar or something I’ve read in a book. For each day of the year, Joan Chittester’s book Living Well often has a quote that I find insightful. Two quotes, one from January first and the other from today, January ninth, remind me of Mari. “Art is the imagination unleashed on the world making it a more seeking, more sensitive place.” the other “Beauty (art) is the spirituality of hope… when we cultivate the beautiful, experiencebecomes a symphony to be celebrated.” (Max Frisch) These references to art reflect just one facet of Mari’s life. Her beautiful art work some of which is included in Mari’s funeral program has made us more sensitive to the beauty of this world and gives us hope for a better world.
For me and I hope for each of you, the Scripture readings for Mari’s Liturgy have a particular message for us as we remember Mari as a faithful Sister of St. Joseph, a woman of the Church, and a minister to the people of God. The quote on the cover of our program is from our CSJ Constitution the section “Spirit and Purpose. I quote: “We stand with the poor in the struggle for justice, incarnating hope by seeking to improve the quality of human life.” Not only did the beauty of Mari’s art give hope to us but her various ministries, be it at Aquinas, at Casserly House, or the Department of Youth Service, reflected the importance of each person’s dignity, Mari was a beacon of hope to all to whom she ministered, another aspect of her very full life.
During this liturgy we will hear a reading from the Book of Proverbs. In her lifetime, Mari could be described by the adjectives in this reading. The reading describes a valiant woman as a joyful woman, a smile on her face, a strong woman, a patient woman waiting through the storm and night for new life. The last few years of Mari’s life were evidence of her strength and patience as she weathered the storm of disease. A loving woman ever giving, ever caring, a sharing woman who gives her gifts and treasures to those both near and far and for us as Sisters of St. Joseph, that is the “dear neighbor.” The last line in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians tells us to be steadfast and persevering, fully engaged in the work of Jesus. “You know your toil is not in vain when it is done in Christ.” Mari’s final ministries working for peace and justice, advocating for the poor, companioning people on their spiritual journeys was all done in the name of Jesus. In some translations 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 a posting on the guest book on Norton Funeral Home is an entry from a former student from Aquinas, Newton. She describes Mari as “such a joy, full of energy, and so encouraging to all the students”. 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. Mari lived the Beatitudes in so many ways as a Sister of St. Joseph. Our Gospel also reminds us that “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of what is right and just for your reward is great in heaven.” Mari’s trust in God and Sophia Wisdom provided her with the grace she needed to respond to a variety of ministries over her 64 years as a Sister of St. Joseph. Mari was a gentle humble woman, a merciful woman, a forgiving woman she was a happy woman. As her days were coming to an end and she was resting more and more, a peace-filled smile would come across her face when she sensed your presence and opened her eyes. She knew that her new life in God was approaching.
I dare say that each of us here this morning can remember a time in our lives when we were the recipient of Mari’s joy, her strength, her never ending patience, her ever giving love, and her gifts shared. I would ask you to hold those memories in your hearts and in the days and months ahead remember that Mari, who so generously gave these gifts to us would want us to do the same for others.
Mari, in your over 64 years as a Sister of St. Joseph and the almost 90 years God gave you, you gave more than your “Best” to the people of God. Now rest in peace, for your reward is great in heaven.
Given by: Patricia E. McCarthy, CSJ