September 26, 1912 – February 22, 2017
“Happy the one who discovers Wisdom, in her right hand is length of days; her ways are delightful, her path leads to contentment …those who cling to her lead happy lives . Proverbs 3: 13, 14, 18
This morning we come to celebrate the life of a remarkable woman, a beloved aunt, grand aunt and great-grand aunt, and a faithful Sister of St. Joseph for almost eighty-five years, Sister Maria Grande, Sister Clemento. We gather to give joyful thanks to our loving God for the gift Sister Maria, Aunt Mary ,was to her beloved family, (four generations who are joining us today) and the blessing she was to us, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston. Throughout her life, Sister Maria was a delightful woman, she was content and she led a happy life.
Over the last almost eighty-five years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Maria has lived through the many changes in Religious life. Although there have been many changes in our life, that Sister Maria readily embraced, there has been one constant for Sister Maria – God’s love for her and Sister Maria’s love for God.
If we listen carefully to the Scripture and hymns of today’s celebration, we will get a glimpse of Sister Maria’s relationship with God, her openness to God’s will for her. In our opening song we just sang the words: “so through all the length of days your goodness fails me never”, “God is mine forever” Our responsorial psalm proclaims “I will always praise you, I will always serve you, I will always keep you in my sight.” At Communion “I have called you by name… I love you and you are mine.” In the Biblical sense, Sister Maria knew God’s love for her.
Love, God’s love for Sister Maria and her love of God, was a recurring theme in Sister Maria’s funeral planning.
Our second reading from the first letter of St. John speaks of the importance of loving one another as God has loved us. Our Gospel tells us that eternal life is this: “To know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life is love and love never dies.
For a few short months, Sister Maria was the oldest Sister in the Congregation which really didn’t impress her much because when we sing our responsorial psalm at Mass we’ll understand that nothing else really mattered to her because it was only God who was the “center of her life.” I’m sure that Sr. Maria would not want us to be sad at her death, because now she is enjoying the reward of her life of love. The excerpt from our CSJ Constitution on the cover of your program reminds us that “Our vowed life in Community requires the humility, fidelity and courage to let ourselves be emptied by God that we might be filled with love …a love that flowed out to those whose lives ours touch.” (CSJ Constitution) Some of those lives were students from St. Anthony School in Allston where Sister Maria taught for over 20 years.
At the time of her retirement from teaching after sixty years in the schools of the Archdiocese of Boston the students honored her with homemade cards. Being their art teacher she delighted in not only their beautifully decorated cards but with the farewell comments expressing how her love touched them. Allow me share some of these messages that were written over thirty years ago. “Thank you for your time and patience…you taught me more than I ever thought I could learn,” wrote a sixth grader, Elaine; Gabriel wrote “you are kind and thoughtful.” Shirley made an acrostic for Sister Maria. It reads: “M – makes excellent drawings - A – always smiling, you are nice,
R - Remembered me always, I - Idealistic, A – Appreciated by you” Kenny said, “Wonderful years of teaching the good morals. What you taught came right from your heart.” Richard –“Thank you for teaching me about art and God’s great world, also thank you for all your kindnesses.” And finally from a third grader who later became a Jesuit wrote of his young impression of Sister Maria, -using these wonderful adjectives “gentleness, radiant cheerfulness, elegant simplicity.”
I love to read what children say. They speak honestly; they tell it like it is. For me, there isn’t a word written by those students that I haven’t been the recipient of from Sister Maria or experienced while in her presence. I loved her perpetual smile, the quality of her voice and her enunciation was, as that young third grader said “elegant.” I’m sure we’ve all been called “dear” by Sister Maria at some time or other. That term of endearment always brought a smile to my face and made me feel so special.
The suddenness of Sister Maria’s death took us all by surprise. It sounds like an oxymoron to say that Sister Maria died suddenly early Wednesday morning. Who among us expects to live into our hundreds? But for Sister Maria it isn’t a contradiction given the way she lived each day of her life when in active ministry and her ministry of prayer and presence here at Bethany. Sister Maria roamed around Bethany with the assistance of her walker. Throughout the day, you could meet her in the corridor or in the elevator coming down to the chapel for Mass and her many visits to the Blessed Sacrament. She went to the dining room for dinner and visited Sisters who were not able to leave their rooms. On Tuesday, the last day of her life, Sister Maria was in her usual seat at the back of the Chapel for Mass, went to the dining room for lunch and enjoyed an afternoon tea party in the activity room. I think that was a pretty full day of loving God and everyone she met throughout the day.
As we leave the Chapel this morning to bring Sister Maria to her final resting place, we’ll sing: “When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart! In the early hours of Wednesday morning, there were no shouts of acclamation but God took Sister Maria home, her heart full of love. Eternal life is love and love never dies.
Sister Maria left a message to be read on the occasion of her death, written in her perfect penmanship.
“And now, my “Farewell Greetings to you all, warm and loving. Very special words I wish to express to our dear family, each and every one of you. I dearly love you and always have and always will. Thank you for including me into everything – holidays, festivities, weddings, graduations etc. It was a great joy being with you.”
And as I close, a big “Thank you” to my Community for accepting me as God made me. I shall continue to be in spirit with you always.
Love, Joy and Peace.
Sister Maria Grande
Sister Maria, may you rest for all eternity in the loving embrace of the God you loved and served so faithfully. Rest in peace.
Given by: Sister Patricia E. McCarthy, CSJ