May 12, 1924 – March 7, 2016
The words taken from the Servant Song which we just sang,“What do you ask of me, Lord, Where do you want me to serve you?” Seemingly were questions S. Ruth Little (S. Buriana ) frequently asked of her God as she discerned along each step of her life’s journey.
The readings from the prophet, Micah, and Paul’s letter to the Romans pose similar questions…What shall I offer? How do I come before you? How best do I use the gifts you have bestowed on me?
As I reflected on my limited knowledge of S. Ruth, and on the scripture and music she selected for her liturgy today, I was stuck by the continued invitation offered to open oneself to hear and respond to God’s call. Words such as relationship, integration of gifts, passion for the mission, and faithful service were among the many thoughts that surfaced in me.
Perhaps as she prayed with these readings S. Ruth was given a glimpse into how she and God connected, joined in loving relationship. A relationship made evident, in her reciprocal steadfast love, her reliance on God’s grace, her openness to freely receive as well as her willingness to generously give.
Some years ago in an article written for Soundings, Ruth shared with us the happenings of a congregation gathering. In her musing she described the event as presenting a new opportunity to embrace and foster the mission of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in our time; to reflect on the personal responsibility that each one had to steward her own gifts with energy and enthusiasm; of nurturing relationships, while bringing new life to those with whom and to whom one ministered. She also presented the challenges that surfaced among the participants. Although her reflections were written years ago, the message is as apropos today as it was then. Perhaps for her it was to carry out her call, to live the CSJ mission and charism of unity and reconciling love, its gifts and challenges, with zeal and gentleness.The question: What do you ask of me Lord?
In recent days I had the good fortune of meeting Ruthie’s brothers, Robert and Richard (Dick) and her sister-in-law, Cynthia. I heard stories of her love and the devotion she had for all of you her family. How proud she was of her 22 nieces and nephews and the next generation of the extended Little family. In a few minutes, Bobby, Ruthie’s nephew, will offer reflections for his family of his Aunt Ruth.
My acquaintance with Ruth began years ago when we were both school administrators. Ruth, as a Catholic school educator, whether as teacher, principal, or administrative assistant, demonstrated a calm, organized, informed, professional demeanor almost never getting “ruffled”, as she collaborated with her collogues in ministry. Her ministerial assignments brought her to various corners of the archdiocese from one end of Rt. 495 to the other, as well as locations closer to the city and many in between. No matter where she was called to serve, Ruthie did so willingly, opening her heart and hands to those whom God sent her. She knew well that “Relationship was at the heart of mission”. Over these past few days, many who lived with or taught with Ruth, commented that she possessed outstanding gifts as teacher, and administrator; that she had the ability to lead by example as the gentle mentor and advisor, that person of wisdom, the one willing to offer assistance, to lend a listening ear, or to offer sage advice. This was her mode of operation with those to whom she related, whether parents, children, teachers, or administrators. Her quiet influence was an example to be imitated. To paraphrase a statement I read recently, an outstanding educator knows how to champion children; to never give up on them; to know and understand the power of connections and insists that children became the best they could possibly be. S. Ruth fit that very apt description of educator par excellence. She witnessed to all, her commitment to God’s active and inclusive love in her ministry of education until her retirement from Holy Name School in 2008. The questions…What do you ask of me Lord? Where do you want me to serve you?
The depiction of Ruth the educator could also define Ruthie the Community member who shared life with so many. The relationships she developed the spirit of prayerfulness she demonstrated, the qualities of joy, generosity of spirit, gentleness and openness she exhibited and the hopes and challenges presented, were gifts that she conveyed to all with whom she lived.
After many years of faithful presence and service, Ruthie was ready to discern the next step on her journey, praying with the questions she had prayed so many times before. The response was clear, transition to Saint Joseph Hall. Leave behind the ministry you love and in which you were actively engaged for over 63 years and your Sisters in your local community at Holy Name. Take time to relax in God’s love, enjoy the ocean, dance as you are able, re-establish or form new relationships. Ruthie did that. Eventually, Ruthie’s health began to decline and it was evident that she needed the care that only BHCC and its compassionate staff were able to provide.
For almost 74 years Ruth lives as a dedicated Sister of St. Joseph. This past Monday, S. Ruth Little in her own way, asked the question one final time, What do you ask of me, Lord? God responded Come to me, Ruth, my beloved one.
Ruth you’ve had a long blessed life and faithfully tried to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God. May we try to do the same. Go in peace dear Ruthie, dance with you God for all eternity.
Given by Roseann Amico, CSJ