June 21, 1929 – November 24, 2016
Just one week ago today, on Thanksgiving Day, Sister Marie deSales, Phyllis Helen Dinneen, prepared to travel to her family to celebrate with them this special day. Those who saw her that morning commented on how lovely she looked in her pant suit, so coordinated, carrying her ever present gray sweater over her arm. Even though “an accomplished artist with an acute sense of color” her dress at times would belie that fact.
In setting out that morning little did she realize that that very day she would be embraced in the loving arms of her God. As Ecclesiastes states in today’s first reading, there is a season for everything and a time for every purpose under heaven. This Thanksgiving Day, one of joy and deep gratitude for the many gifts and blessings received, was now juxtaposed with sadness and questioning, as well as distress at the suddenness of her passing. Although we are not able to understand or to wrap our minds around this occurrence, God’s plan and timing are not in our control. Marie believed that, and as today’s psalm states, “our lives are in your hands, O God…”
Among Marie’s treasured possessions were the Needham Parade Art series, and the illustration of a wood carving, The Angel Guardian, depicted on the back cover of this liturgical aid. For many of us CSJ’s, and I dare say for some Regis faculty and students, the area near the angel guardian, was a favorite gathering spot for conversations, sharing life’s experiences, solving world problems, debating hot issues, etc. The statue symbolized not only a place where lasting friendships and relationships were formed and developed, but also of protection, security, and safety.
We as Sisters of Saint Joseph believe that relationship is at the heart of our mission. The sisters at Saint Joseph Hall with whom Marie shared life for the past five years, spoke of her ability to touch each one she encountered in such a positive manner, affirming and encouraging, even if only by her gentle smile. Each day after morning Mass, she and a group of Sisters would gather in the dining room for tea and conversation which ranged from community happenings, world events, the recent political landscape, the latest sports events etc. Counted among Marie’s numerous qualities were her being a keen observer of life, independence, determination, kindness, generosity, gratefulness, wit, being a student of history, consciousness of the ills of society, one who enjoyed engaging in good conversation and a good debate. Marie lived our CSJ charism of unifying love and throughout her life sought to be of service to the underserved, acting justly, living humbly and walking tenderly with her God.
Many of you know that Marie’s father was a prolific writer. I dare say writing was in Marie’s DNA as well. Her quick wit, her political acumen, the manner in which she could turn a word or phrase gave credence to that. She was also one who captivated the minds and hearts of her students, encouraging and challenging them to explore and cultivate their God given gifts. Four other women of the extended Dinneen family, who shared the initials CSJ after their name, possessed at least one element in common, creativity. God gifted each of them with exceptional talents which they used for the benefit of others, and in service to the dear neighbor, as writers, educators, musicians, or as artists par excellence. In speaking with Marie’s immediate family, they spoke of how Aunt Phyllis, held a special place in their lives, and how she loved each one uniquely.
Gibran states: “Rest in reason move in passion”. This Marie did in her quiet manner. Her passion was for God, for her family, for her CSJ and Regis Community, for art and for the “youngsters” aka her students.
Picasso states, “The artist is the receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place, from the sky, the earth, a scrap of paper, a passing shape or a spider’s web”. Other famous artists are quoted as saying: The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live, Rodin; the position of the artist is humble. He/she is essentially a channel, Mondrian; the job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery, Francis Bacon; Creativity takes courage, Matisse. Do we see Marie being described in any of these statements?
More could be said of this woman to whom God has been so good, whose thankfulness was heartfelt, and who received and accepted all as gift. I now ask Jeff, Phyllis’ nephew, to share with us, memories of his aunt on behalf of the family.
The final words will be paraphrased from those written by Marie herself: My heartfelt thanks to all of you, the members of my family, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, colleagues of the Regis community, and all whom I am so fortunate to call friend. You constitute the mosaic of my life. Your care and concern, your joy and laughter has enriched it. Now I ask God to extend to you many blessings. Let us pray for each other.
Marie, now go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.
Given by Roseann Amico, CSJ