July 18, 1927 – September 20, 2013
For the past two months, we, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Bethany Community have mourned the death of many our Sisters. It not only has been difficult for the Sisters living here, but also very trying for the nurses and staff that have cared for the Sisters as their patients. However, as faith filled people we know and believe that each Sister’s life has not ended but has merely changed. God’s loving hand reached out to these Sisters and bestowed upon them the gift of eternal life. And so it was that last Friday morning God peacefully beckoned Sister Mary Ruth McLaughlin to her new life in Christ.
This morning we, Sister Mary Ruth McLaughlin’s family, her friends, and Sisters of St. Joseph, particularly those women who entered with her, come to this chapel to celebrate Sister Mary’s life as a dear sister, an aunt, grand aunt, friend, and member of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Earlier this morning at our welcoming prayer we heard a reading from our Constitution- Spirit and Purpose that characterizes our CSJ life:
“As Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, we are an ecclesial community of women, sharing life in an apostolic, diocesan, religious congregation. To express our love for God and neighbor, we profess publicly vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience.”
We do not know the exact time Sister Mary’s vocation or the significance of these words became enfleshed within her. But we do know that after graduating from St. Mary School in Lynn, Mary entered on September 8, 1946 the Novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph. For many years Sister Mary Ruth or as her many knew her, Sister Lerina, ministered as a Sister of St. Joseph as an elementary teacher in many Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. Her disposition as a teacher was caring. In her classroom she tried to instill within each child the zeal to reach his/her potential as a student. As a primary educator Sister Mary Ruth knew there were many years to go until graduation from high school. Her tenderness, compassion and gentle smile gave her students a desire to pursue their education to higher levels of learning.
In his letter to Timothy St. Paul’s says to: ”fan the flame – the gift that God gave to you”. I believe Sister Mary Ruth did that! Not only did she realize the talents that were within her, but with Congregation support, she studied at Mass College of Art. There she learned techniques that not only deepened her inner being, but also gave her skills to teach art in the classroom. Thus, Sister was well known as a professional Art Teacher who spread her talent and knowledge to elementary school and high school students. Sister Mary Ruth’s artistic qualities did not rest just in her talent as an artist. It was in recognition of her gift of a soprano voice, that Sister was selected to be a member of the Archdiocesan Papal Choir. On many occasions Sister was pleased to blend her voice with other choir members to praise God at Archdiocesan liturgical celebrations as well as entertain people in concerts.
To be able to accomplish all aspects of her ministerial service to the dear neighbor, as well as cope with ongoing situations of aging, prayer had to be a treasured value of Sister Mary’s life. In her intimate relationship with God she relied on God’s promise of faithfulness to her. She recognized what Isaiah had proclaimed, when he spoke of the, “mountain of God’s temple, as the place that onemay be instructed in God’s ways, and walk in God’s path.” Certainly as Sister Mary (Lerina) fulfilled her ministry as a Sister of St. Joseph, she witnessed to those to whom she ministered, and to her family, an ecclesial religious woman, professionally equipped for the service to God’s people.
I had the privilege of journeying with Sister Mary McLaughlin this past year. Some days her life was in flux, but she accepted God’s grace, and justified God’s will for her in her illness and in her health care. On my visits to Bethany to see Sister, I would notice her attempts to walk the corridor to gain strength, or go to the chapel to visit a Sister’s wake. In each instance Sister manifested a gentle spirit, with a smiling face, always delighting in the compliments of how fashionable she looked. During the summer the Sister across the hall from her and I would see Sister Mary Ruth sitting in her chair watching the Red Sox!
In the fourteen chapter of St. John’s Gospel, we hear one sentence spoken by Jesus to His Apostles. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith in God.” I think Sister would want us to take these words to heart. Perhaps if she could speak to us now, she would say: “Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be sad, yes, I have gone away, and if you really love me, you will rejoice because I am with my God.” Sister Mary believed and trusted the God who had called her 67 years ago to religious life. She believed that the God who loved her would prepare an eternal place for her with Him.
Sister Mary Ruth’s death is a great loss to her loving family. And we, the Sisters of St. Joseph are grateful for the gift of Sister Mary McLaughlin’s life as a Sister of St. Joseph for the past 67 years.
Memories are truly gifts. They allow us to keep the spirit of a loved one alive in our hearts. I invite anyone who would like to share a memory of Sister Mary Ruth McLaughlin to come to the podium.
As we commend Sister Mary Ruth McLaughlin, (Sister Lerina) to God, let us find peace in the knowledge that Sister Mary Ruth may now see and experience this loving and compassionate God. May she know the joy of eternal peace.
Given by Sister Gail Donahue, CSJ