August 15, 1932 - April 23, 2014
Good morning, we gather this morning to celebrate the life of Sister Virginia J. Kelley (Sister John Baptist), to remember the gift she was to her family, to the Sisters of St. Joseph and to the people of God, especially the children she taught and to confirm our own belief in the promise of eternal life that Sister Virginia now enjoys.
On Tuesday, April 8th, Sister Virginia suffered a serious stroke which left her unable to speak or swallow. Her condition during the next two weeks reminded us all, her family, her friends and the staff here at Bethany just how fragile life is as we hoped that she would recover from this episode as she had from her previous illnesses. These two weeks of waiting included Holy Week and Easter and during that time, Virginia did have some moments of “resurrection” like the morning she clearly told the doctor she was hungry . On another day when I visited she was watching the Red Sox game. When I asked her if the Red Sox were winning or losing, she told me they were winning. But our hopes of Virginia’s return to good health were dashed on Easter Wednesday when Ginny had her own glorious resurrection into eternal life.
Born on August 15th, 1932 to Bernard and Teresa Kelley, Ginny had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary. In the 1960s when we changed from our traditional habits into the dress of the day, you could depend on Ginny to always be dressed in a blue suit. Ginny didn’t disappoint us today as she is laid to rest in her finest blue and her Rosary beads.
During the Easter season our daily Scripture readings abound with appearances of the risen Jesus to the disciples and the early Christian communities. In September of 1950, Sister Virginia committed herself to the communal life as a Sister of St. Joseph. Like the early followers of Jesus, she devoted herself to prayer, living in community, sharing all things in common and in the “breaking of the bread” the Eucharist. Our second reading from the Acts of the Apostles in today’s Liturgy describes Ginny’s religious life as a Sister of St. Joseph.
On the day Sister Virginia died, the Gospel read in this Chapel was Luke’s account of Jesus walking on the road to Emmaus and joining some fellow travelers who didn’t recognize him. Like the disciples on the road, whose hearts were moved by all that Jesus told them, Ginny was moved to live her life zealously spreading the Gospel in word and deed to the “dear neighbor”. Sister Virginia planted many seeds in the countless young lives of the students she taught and I’m sure many fruits have been reaped from those seeds planted. Two former students have expressed on Sister Virginia’s guestbook page their gratitude to her as their teacher. One woman had Sister Virginia as an English teacher and because of a seed planted by Ginny, she became an English teacher. Another person had Virginia in the first grade forty-six years ago. She is grateful for the educational foundation she received from Ginny.
Sister Virginia, like her Patron Saint, John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus, has through her ministry in education nourished the Faith of countless students and prepared them to find God and to have a relationship with God in their lives.
The disciples’ experience of the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus with hearts burning within them revealed to them the new life that was awaiting them in the resurrection. Sister Virginia’s earthly life has ended and we rejoice with her as she enjoys for all eternity life with her family and friends who have gone before her and with her loving God.
May our God who claimed Virginia as his own in Baptism and by religious profession now enfold her in the love, peace and joy of eternal life.
Given by :
Patricia E. McCarthy, CSJ