Friday, November 13, 2009

What Richer Life

Many years ago somebody made a movie about our Religious Community. It was entitled What Richer Life. As I begin this blog I'd like to share with you about a woman whose life brought to my mind the title of that film, Sister Constance Norick, MSBT. Sister Connie, as she was known, died earlier this week. She was 97 years of age. We'll miss Sister Connie very much, but she gave us much to celebrate. How can that be? Sister Connie was one of the pioneers of our Community. At 14 years of age (no typo!), she left her home and family in Rockford, Illinois for what must have seemed at that time the "middle of nowhere", Holy Trinity, Alabama. There were no jets, and there was certainly no sophisticated interstate highway system. In fact, much of the very young Connie Norick's journey to Alabama was on dirt roads.

Connie was young and so was the Community. Enthusiasm, joy and spirits were high. Our Founders' love for God, great zeal and missionary spirit were contagious. Connie left home and family with one desire, to be a missionary. The missionary spark in Connie's heart was ignited to a brilliant flame that would endure for 83 years, and be passed on to so many.

At our wakes we have the tradition to tell stories about our deceased Sisters. We were reminded about Sr. Connie's and the Community's early days. While spirits were high and joy and enthusiasm in abundance, economic resources were not. Comfort was not part of the pioneers' vocabulary. Sacrifice was the order of the day. Sacrifice is part of a missionary's life.

So many things were said about Sr. Connie. She was very intelligent. She was practical and so creative. Her organizational skills are legend! In the midst of it all, several things stood out. One was that she practiced spontaneous generosity and she encouraged others to do the same. Nothing seemed to be a bother for her. One Sister shared how in her early awkward postulant (first step) days, she was told to mop the floor. She didn't even know where to find the mops. She encountered Sister Connie, and not knowing who she was asked her where she could find one. Sister Connie not only stopped to show this "newbie" where the mop was, but proceded to show her to how to mop a Motherhouse floor! And all in a very patient manner. What a surprise for this young woman to learn later that day that Sister Connie was a member of the General Council (one of the leaders/superiors) of the Community!

We heard how nothing stopped Sister Connie. She felt that she or the Sisters could do anything if they put their minds to it. And besides, Sister Connie had the conviction that the Holy Spirit is leading and guiding us! If the Holy Spirit wants something done and we cooperate, it's going to happen!

It seemed that Sister Connie did do almost anything and everything. She was a nurse. She later pursued university studies and taught nursing and became the Director of the School of Nursing at what was our hospital, Holy Name of Jesus Hospital, in Gadsdon, AL. She obtained a Masters Degree in Biology and ran the Blood Bank in the same hospital.

She was the Dean of Formation in the Juniorate Program. She was responsible for the formation of many Missionary Servants. She later went to Puerto Rico and did pastoral ministry there. She also ministered with the Hispanic immigrants in Lorain, Ohio.

But most of all she was noted for her love for God, for her religious family, her prayer life and great charity expressed in spontaneous generosity.

Sister Connie probably heard the words in our Rule of Life directly from our Founder's lips, "... What more beautiful legacy can you leave than that of an example and life rich in the Cenacle traditions? This mean that even after your death you will be continuing your apostleship through others whom your virtue has attracted to the service of God."

And that is what we celebrate, a life rich in the Cenacle traditions. Thank you, Sister Connie, for the example of a life well lived. Well done good and faithful servant, good and faithful Missionary Servant.

As I listened to stories about Sister Connie's life, I asked myself who are the Sister Connies of the future. I prayed that many young women will be inspired to live this life rich in Cenacle traditions, a missionary life, a life of sacrifice that leads to a great legacy.

And so, Sister Connie, I dedicate this blog to you.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Sr. Connie was quite a Missionary and will be dearly missed. A few months back I was helping out in our Infirmary where Sr. Connie was wheeling around in her wheelchair-She said to me, "I can help out you know-I am a nurse." I responded, "That would be great Connie." Perplexed, she said, "But I don't have any keys." "Oh, don't worry, I have them." "That's good to know, so I wont have to worry about them." As one nurse to another, having charge of the keys is always quite a responsiblity! So even to her last months with us here, she was concerned that all was in order and that she was able to help-the Missionary Spirit of Sr. Connie lives on in the retelling of her story, in the witness she gave each and every day and I am sure she is smiling down on us and saying, as she often did, "That's right!"