October 18, 2006
“Prayer is an act of love, words are not needed.” This quote is from St. Teresa of Avila, a mystic and the first Woman Doctor of the Church, whose feast we celebrated on Sunday, October 15. This quote also exemplifies the life of Sr. Mary Beatrice, who passed away on Sunday, October 15.
All of us clearly remember seeing Sr. Mary Beatrice day after day sitting in the chapel with her head bowed resting in the arms of God with her rosary in her hand. Words were not necessary!
Mary Fidelma was welcomed into this world on February 11, 1910, by John Webb and Frances Beatrice Clark Donahue. She was the fifth child of a family of ten children, four boys and six girls. She loved her family and had a wonderful childhood. She fondly remembered family morning and night prayers and winter evenings when all of the children would gather around their mother as she read to them. Her father would help out with Mother Goose rhymes and songs. Being the middle child, she was very carefree and did not have many responsibilities until her two older sisters, Sr. Rose Catherine and Sr. Jane Frances, left home to join the Mount St. Joseph Ursuline Community. Then she became the oldest girl at home, so she had to grow up very fast, but as she said, she “enjoyed the love and respect that her younger sisters and brothers gave her.” Isn’t that so like Sr. Mary Beatrice to put a positive spin on any situation?
But it was not long before Mary Fidelma joined her two sisters and entered the Mount Saint Joseph Formation program in September 1930. Then, on March 19, 1931, she received the Ursuline habit, following what she had told her older sister when she was very young: “I will be a sister and my name will be Sister Mary Beatrice.” (Her mother’s name.) There were 15 in her novitiate class, and they were referred to as the “Rosary Band.” We do not know who gave their class this name. Of the 15, Sr. Blanche Rita Bickett is the only living member.
Sr. Mary Beatrice taught for 51 years — mostly in the primary grades — in Earlington, Owensboro, Fancy Farm, and Axtel. (My home parish. She left the year I was born. Little did I know that many years later we would live together in Jeffersontown, Kentucky). She also taught in Calvary, Peonia, and Fredericktown in Kentucky and Jeffersonville, Indiana. She loved all the places where she taught and referred to them, as “Holy Ground.” She loved being a primary teacher, believing that “the little ones brought [her] much closer to God.”
Sister Mary Beatrice retired from teaching in 1984, and returned to the motherhouse. In the beginning, her ministry was to help with household chores and feeding the sick. She also carried the mail to the sisters’ mailboxes. She was told once that she was a very important person while everybody watched and waited for their mail. Can’t you just hear her little chuckle and see the sparkle in her eye when she heard that? But the one thing that she so loved about being retired was having the time to spend in the chapel. All of us have been blessed by her many prayers for this community. A few years ago she moved to Saint Joseph Villa. Eventually she was unable to go to the chapel and graciously accepted it without a word. As Sr. Charles Marie said in a note to her “you are too good to ever complain….”
As always, we are grateful to the nursing staff and for their daily care of our sisters, especially Sr. Mary Beatrice. As the staff knows, she had very few needs and expectations and she never wanted to inconvenience anyone.
To me, Bea was a saint. She said, “It is unbelievable! Words cannot express the greatness, the goodness, and giftedness of God’s love.” She lived her love for God, and God in his goodness called her home during the fall of the year because He knew how much she loved this season. She said: “If words could tell of my great love for the fall of the year with all of its beauty, color, blessfulness and gifts.”
One of her favorite childhood memories was on Christmas the year that she walked with her father in the snow to go to midnight Mass.
It was not midnight,
it was not December,
it was not snowing,
but it was during the Eucharist
that Sr. Mary Beatrice quietly slipped away — to continue her rest eternally in the arms of God.
Given by Sister Mary Henning, OSU