Over the course of the day yesterday, I learned of the loss of two great women of faith, Mary Claire Lyons and Sister Charles, OCarm.
Mary Claire was a decades-long parishioner at St. Joseph’s. She was deeply committed to many ministries over the years but nothing more than participation in the celebration of the Eucharist and the preparation of youth for the Sacrament of Confirmation. I was privileged to get to know Mary Claire when her beloved husband, Charlie, was in the last year of his life, about three years ago. She was very committed to honoring his wish to live and die at home. Once when I was visiting with them at home, Charlie, who was not supposed to walk on his own, tried to follow us to the door as I was leaving and took a fall. He said, “A gentleman does not sit when two women stand.” Not wanting to call 911 for fear they would take him into the hospital unnecessarily, Mary Claire called a friend to help lift him while I enlisted a certain unnamed volunteer firefighter. Together, they were able to lift him. She never stopped expressing her gratitude for that simple act of kindness and respect to Charlie’s and her wishes.
After Charlie passed, I learned first-hand what others had shared with me about Mary Claire. She had a fierce determination to do everything according to a set of standards and values all her own. She knew how she needed to grieve for Charlie and no societal norms were going to get in the way of that. I came to have the greatest admiration for how she remembered her husband in her day-to-day living in the home they had made together and where they had raised their family. May they be reunited now in their eternal home.
Last evening, I also received a call that a lifelong friend of my parents and family had gone home to God, our dear Sister Charles. She and my dad had worked together and then she took her vows as a Carmelite nun, and she worked the rest of her life in physical therapy with the aged and infirm.
I have the most wonderful childhood memories of dining out in the best New York restaurants with her and her fellow sisters. In the 1960s and 70s the Carmelite sisters wore full habits, but that did not stop my dad from egging them on to enjoy a cocktail or two with dinner. How they would laugh! How they loved God and life! How the maître d in one particular German restaurant would roll out the red carpet every time we arrived. For a young Catholic schoolgirl, this was delicious stuff! I loved our outings with her, and the mutual affection between her and my parents knew no bounds. Even in her final years when she was not so well herself, that love poured forth at the death of my mom and again a year later when I received my Master of Divinity. She was proud of that little Catholic schoolgirl all grown up, and she no doubt was an influence on my vocation to the Church. My “prayer” this happy hour is that Sister Charles and my dad are clinking glasses in heaven.
And so the Communion of Saints grows by two. May your precious souls rest in peace, Mary Claire and Sister Charles.