April 7, 1928 - August 29, 2013
We see relationship at the Heart of mission
How ironic it is that today would be the day that we celebrate S. Vincent Ferrer’s final journey home. Ironic, because in many cities and towns today is the first day of school and ordinarily, as was her practice for most of her ministerial life, Vincent would be greeting students, faculty and staff, parents or others back for the beginning of a new school year.
About a week ago, as I was driving, I was caught by the message imprinted on the van in front of me which read: LOVE THE JOURNEY. I immediately thought of Vincent because I was on the way to visit her. She so loved her earthly journey and what a full and blessed one it was; blessed for her as well for those who to travelled with her, her family, friends, CSJ community and so many others. She would frequently say, “God has been so good to me, I am so thankful, I am so blessed”.
Sister Vincent Ferrer’s life’s journey was characterized by joy, faithfulness, challenge, opportunity, giftedness, respect and grace. She lived it in relationship with her all loving God and with others.
Esther Collins’ journey began in 1928 in Lowell with her parents Jeremiah and Mary Ann who were her first teachers, teaching her and her siblings the meaning and value of faithfulness to a loving God and family, the importance of laughter and companionship and so many other life’s lessons which helped her become the woman she was called to be. One fully human, fully alive!
In 1945, Esther’s journey brought her to Framingham and to the Sisters of Saint Joseph. There, unique relationships were formed with sisters whose friendship and genuine care for each other grew and endured over a lifetime.
Wherever Vincent’s ministerial journey led her, whether as teacher, administrator, councilor, community leader, assistant or local community member, she revealed to those with whom she shared life, her sense of humor, her spark of energy, her zeal for life, her dedication to the mission and her profound love of God and love of neighbor without distinction. She had cultivated an interior strength and a willingness to open herself to the movements of the Spirit which helped her to accept the challenges or detours that she encountered along the road and to have the ability to discern new paths, maybe through circuitous routes, to bring about life giving changes or peaceful resolutions to difficult situations.
Vincent’s passion for education was evident. Being trained as an educator, a profession to which she devoted herself for more than 60 year, Vincent served God’s people in various city schools throughout the archdiocese as teacher, administrator or Guidance Counselor. It did not matter to her the color of one’s skin, or ones ethnic origin or socio-economic status. What did matter though was the total growth and development of the students, the involvement of the parents, the preparedness and professionalism of her teachers and staff, and the understanding that learning could be fun.
Through God’s providence, Vincent’s first teaching assignment brought her to St. Francis Xavier School, located in Sacred Heart Parish, Roslindale. How fortunate was I when I entered fifth grade in 1949 to have this young, energetic, happy Sister Vincent Ferrer as my teacher. Each day we were warmly greeted by her smile and “good morning”. She modeled for me and all the others whose lives she touched, the meaning of the words “excellence tempered by gentleness”, even though at the time those words were unfamiliar to most of us. From her first assignment 1948 until her final involvement at Fontbonne Academy in 2013, S. Vincent Ferrer revealed an unwavering spirit, constant enthusiasm and an adventuresome outlook on life. Always drawn to what was life giving, Vincent, so loved her interactions with the young woman at Fontbonne Academy. I am certain that her presence, smile, quips and laughter will be sorely missed by all in that community, especially the girls.
Some of you may remember that Vincent, when an Area Councilor, had a terrible fall. When she recuperated she wrote the following note to the community which was published in Soundings. She would probably say something similar today: I paraphrase:
As far back as I can remember I have never been a woman of a few words, but honestly at this moment, the expression Thank You seems to be the best way to express my inner feelings. Never before have I fully realized that good health is one of God’s greatest gifts to us and I sincerely and lovingly thank each and every one of you for helping me to share in this gift. May the Lord in return for your many prayers, well wishes and deep love for a community member, enrich your lives. Gratefully and lovingly, The AC who flew through the air.
Earlier this year when Vincent received word of her diagnosis, it was life altering. After much prayer, she chose to spend her remaining days in Bethany with her sisters, preparing herself to meet her God. Although she knew the words of Jeremiah, “I knows the plans I have in mind for you”, she planned it all, when to tell her niece, Bobbie and the sisters at Holy Name of her decision, when to share the news with the Fontbonne Academy community and when to move to Framingham. Once she did all that and had settled into Bethany, she determined that her remaining days would be as life giving as possible and they were; she visited friends, became involved in various activities, took a trip to Foxwoods, and was an inspiration to the residents and staff.
Vincent acknowledged God’s great love and care for her and the immense joy she experienced being a Sister of Saint Joseph. She heard the invitation to follow Jesus and was up to the challenge of a life of self-giving and together with her Sisters and by God’s grace, Vincent tried to respond with her best self.
Because Vincent was enlivened by the Spirit, it was possible for her final Yes, to be an expression of her faith and trust in her God. Vincent understood that the journey is essential to continuing to live the dream. She was a remarkably valiant woman who made the Gospel promise tangible as a woman religious, as a woman of the Church and as a tremendous lover of God and of all life.
I began by sharing the message imprinted on the van which read Love the Journey, the rest of the message was something like: sit back, enjoy the journey, and leave the driving to us. We are grateful S. Vincent Ferrer for your life among us and for the many unique gifts you freely shared. Rests now in peace, leave the driving to someone else, enjoy the continuing journey with your all loving God.
S. Vincent Ferrer requested that there not be any sharing of memories and we will honor her request.
Given by Roseann Amico, CSJ
September 5, 2013