Recently I was in Pittsburgh, PA for a funeral of a dear friend of mine, Sr. Anne Arnold. She died on July 25, two months after her 86th birthday. I was there for her birthday week, to spend quality time with her, and at her request, to help her plan her wake and funeral liturgy. She gave her body to science. It was a graced time for me, a privilege to be with someone who knew her final journey to see the face of her Provident God was near. Needless to say we had some very poignant conversations. One of the requests she had of me was to notify people in her address book of her passing. I dutifully began making those calls and heard some very touching stories about Sr. Anne.
One woman related to me how Sr. Anne’s conversations and writing of letters to her granddaughter brought the girl back to her faith. Another lady told me how Sr. Anne visited her mother often, took her to doctor visits, and kept up a correspondence with her long after she left ministry in that parish. Many told me how much Sr. Anne’s cards and letters meant to them. (She was an avid writer and considered correspondence as her ministry). One story touched my heart deeply. When I spoke with Bill E. he related this to me: “When I was four years old, Sister Anne babysat me. She was so kind and loving. I remember putting my hand in hers and walking down a big hill to get an ice cream cone. (She loved ice cream!) I told my wife, Sister, that something was terribly wrong–because my birthday was in June, and it was the first time in 57 years that I didn’t receive a birthday card from Sr. Anne. I have to tell you, Sister Barbara, that there are three women who have loved me in my life: my mother, my wife, and Sister Anne. I hate to hear of her passing. Is there anything you can send me that she touched, that I could carry in my pocket? I’d be so ever grateful.” (I’m sending him her rosary).
I doubt Sister Anne knew all the ways she touched people’s lives and certainly never bragged about it. She used to tell me how she witnessed the selfless parishioners whose faith and generosity were lived out in dedicated service to their parish, or the patience of those suffering illnesses, or the pain of loss and separation from loved ones. She often told me she was more the receiver than the giver in her social ministry.
She was a woman who lived simply and always tried to be of service to others; one who exemplified the message of the Gospel, especially the Good Samaritan. She had a deep trust in Providence that was her life’s witness. I shall miss her greatly.
What hearing these stories tells me is that we never know how we touch people’s lives by simple acts of listening, loving, caring, serving. The world is in great need of kindness, of these simple and ordinary acts. Let them be ripples flowing out and reaching others. As Providence people we can also be Gospel-oriented people, acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly. Who knows how many lives we have and will touch? Take time today to thank someone who has touched your life deeply!
Barbara McMullen, CDP