My Aunt passed away last week and was laid to rest. She was 93 years old. For 75 of those years she was a nun. The year after she graduated from high school she entered the convent of the Sisters of the Resurrection and she spent the rest of her life as a dedicated teacher. She traveled but spent the majority of her years just outside of Chicago at the mother house in Niles, IL. For part of the time she was there she was the Mother Superior of the house. Twice, in fact. And both times the house underwent major updating and renovation.
My Aunt, whose birth name was Anne became Sister Mary Loyola at age 18. She wore a full habit for her entire life. Even after Vatican II when some nuns changed to more secular clothing she and her sisters opted to retain the habit. Oh, over time it became shorter - to below the knees - and they did away with the wimple that encompassed their faces - they kept their veils covering their mandatory short hair.
Twice a year my Aunt, who we always called Sister, came to stay with us. She would come in summer and then again in winter, each time staying for a week. It was when school was out on break so she could get away and come for some rest and relaxation though staying with our big family could not have been much of either for her! I remember how she would often be awake in the night when she would hear sirens or traffic outside because her convent, though in the city, was far off the road and very well sheltered from such noise. Sleeping on her short vacations was, for her, a tad elusive. If the neighbors came home late and walked up the drive way she would be sure someone was breaking in to rob us. In this way, my Aunt had a certain kind of naiveté.
But she was also very smart and so funny! My mother and Aunt together would quip back and forth and giggle like little girls sometimes. They had a keen sense of humor that could be both biting but sharp and it would always take us off guard. In her later years, my Aunt taught herself to use the computer. She learned Windows and email and how to use the internet and she began communicating with family all over the world. She would use those skills long after she stopped teaching to continue to assist her Order with archiving their history and creating bulletins and programs for special occasions. She took on the daunting task of cataloging the Sisters massive library when she was well in her late 80s and she loved every minute of her busy life.
It was only later, in the last few years, she had to slow down. And then she passed away. I wasn't able to attend her funeral but I've been told that it was large! That many, many people - colleagues and former students - all came to pay their respects. And as sad as it is that she is gone I know that this is the moment my Aunt has prepared for her entire life. She believed in the resurrection and now she was living hers through her death. While I don't necessarily share her beliefs I celebrate her life and know that she is somewhere now with my mother and her other sister Sophie and her parents and others who have been waiting to greet her. That I do believe.
I know that in my life I have been absolutely blessed to have remarkable women as role models for all of my life. Sister Mary Loyola was one of them. I have such good memories of her. I'll cherish them - forever. Rest in Peace, Sister.
Love and prayers,