Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Gift of Grief

S. Mary David (right) with S. Ephrem Hollermann
If you've read our obituary section, you'll know that Sister Mary David Olheiser died on November 27 and her funeral was held this past Saturday. From the obituary, you'll realize that S. Mary David was a very intelligent, very gifted woman. She used those gifts to serve her community and the Church, and she is a fine example of a woman who had a successful career, and even succeeded in a man's world, as a canon lawyer in the Roman Catholic Church.  In succeeding, she also provided a model for any woman who believes in the capacity of women to contribute at the highest levels without becoming bitter or resentful towards men. She was someone who could keep her eyes on the goal and concentrate on moving forward, while maintaining the greatness of soul that allowed her to love and respect all people, whether men or women.

As some of you will know, I entered the community in 2007, so I only knew S. Mary David in the last years of her life. In those years, we established a real friendship and I'm grieving her death, even though I know she was very ready for the next stage in her being. And the reason I'm grieving is not because she was so successful or a good role model for women, but because she was a kind and thoughtful person. She paid attention to a person as an individual. For instance, when I was going on my first visit home to England, she took me all over the monastery taking pictures, so that I could show my family and friends where I was: "It'll help them adjust to be able to imagine you in your new home", she said. S. Mary David also shared her thoughts with me about living the monastic life. We discussed the difficulties, challlenges and blessings, and she introduced me to authors whom she admired and who had helped her along her path to God. I'm grateful for the insights she gave me.

For all these reasons, and many more, I'm saddened by her death, but I'm glad to be grieving. To grieve for someone means that you loved them and that they loved you, and you made a difference in one another's lives. It's a kind of sadness that I wouldn't want to miss. So, "thank you", S. Mary David, for giving me cause to grieve.

Karen Rose, OSB

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