I said goodbye to one last night. No, she didn’t get the official designation from the Vatican, but Sister John Marie Samaha of the Sisters of the Holy Family was the closest thing I’ve seen to one to date. And, if there’s any such thing as a Catholic version of a bodhisattva, she’d probably fit the bill. I’ve got a whole lot of issues with the Church as an institution, but Sister John Marie embodied the very best ideals of Christian living.
Sister John Marie died last Wednesday at the age of 84, and she spent sixty-four years as a nun. I met her over twenty years ago when she became a pastoral associate at my home parish; she was a great comfort to my family when my maternal grandmother died in 1985. Besides her duties in the parish, she established a pantry where people, and particularly families, in need could get some extra supplies or a little help with the bills to get by when money got tight. It didn’t matter what religion you were or even if you were religious at all, if you were in need, she was willing to help. As the Pantry grew, it worked in close coordination with local agencies serving the poor and homeless. My late father worked with Sister on toy drives and at the local free dining rooms.
Sister John Marie approached her work with smiling enthusiasm; you couldn’t help but be willingly carried along with her. She became bedridden in these last few years, but she was always a presence behind the scenes, and the guiding principle would be “what would Sr. John Marie do?”. I figure this will remain the case now that she’s no longer here. May her work continue, and her memory remain forever unwithered.
Eternal rest grant her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.
May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all sentient beings never be separated from the happiness that is free from suffering.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and anger that holds some close and other distant.
(also posted to my lj)