Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sister Beatrice Fernandes OSU [Not Ohio State University]

 There was a feeling of being away from the world, alone away from the world, and near the sky, somehow nearer even to the Ribbono Shel Olom.
"It is only a taste," my father said once, looking out across the building and trees,  "But remember, Asher, some tastes remain a long time on the tongue.  A taste of the Ribbono Shel Olom...."

Beatrice inspired trust and her presence confidence.
 The above quote is from a novel by Chaim Potok, My Name is Asher Lev.   I see myself in this novel, and this  section, a favourite of mine, seems to apply to my memories of Sister Beatrice.

Sister Beatrice died on Sunday Afternoon, July 24th.   Her funeral is planned for Thursday.   So I remember...

I only knew her for 6 years or so and then only for three months of each year and then only once or twice a week... a small taste.
I was thrilled that my daughter [right] got to meet her.
I visited St. Ann's and the girls once or twice a week during my stay at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital.
Though she promoted me to "Father John" by mistake, it was a name that stuck with the girls.  

She was not exactly the "Singing Nun".
I would arrive in the afternoon and she would greet me with a list of girls whom I should see.    Amazingly, they all had behvioural problems.   So I would "counsel" them and they would be fixed.... Not.   I was less than successful with all of them; however, this didn't diminish her enthusiasm for referral.   So highly was her opinion valued that all the girls would line up to see me because they thought that they were missing something.

There was always something that took her attention.
One of my favourite older girls had a problem with biting her nails.   [I didn't have the nerve to tell Beatrice that I still bit mine!]  So proceeding on an old therapist's maxxim, "If you can help your client, maybe you can figure out how to help yourself."   I used a "behavioral reward system" [read: bribe] that gave her one piece of a fancy manicure set that she wanted each week  - if she didn't bite her nails.   Well, to make a long story short - we all ended biting our nails.

To be fair to the girls, they had seen more tragedy and sadness in their young lives than most of us have in our whole lives.   Sister Beatrice remained supportive and appreciative of any effort...  theirs and mine.  

She was there directing the girls.
I certainly do not want to canonize her or to make her too special... as there are others of her kind who like her sacrifice their own lives in the service of others.   Mary Peter, Barbara, Judith, Kenneth, Catherine, and their sister colleagues.   I have long been aware that the women-sisters in the church have been the role model for my own ministry.   Beatrice was one who continued to set standards that I have never reached.

She was my friend.
She was sick all last year and I would visit her in the convent attached to St. Ann's.   She was failing in strength and I would say to the Head Sister Brenda that I did not need to vist her if she was tired.  Amazingly, Beatrice always welcomed my visits and especially liked the photos that the girls had taken of themselves.
One of the Sisters wrote me that when asked what they remembered most about Sister Beatrice, "Daniellie, one of the youngest still here (some have left for vacation already) was the first to respond with: LOVE! Kind. others spoke about her smile and all remembered fun at Bounty!!  That is a sure ticket to heaven. No?"

If she isn't guaranteed passage, then I am doomed.  Actually, I am counting on her smiling and telling St. Peter, "He's okay; he's with me."  

I would pray that she rest in peace -- but I know she'll miss her "noisy" girls!