Wake Reflection for Sister Vickie Cravens, OSU
“My soul rests in God alone, from whom comes my salvation; my safety and glory are with God, my strong rock and refuge.” (Ps. 62)
These verses from the Psalms frame Sister Vickie’s statement of her final vows and reflect the source which gave her confidence to begin and to continue the journey of her faith life; a journey from Lebanon, Missouri, through Mount Saint Joseph in Kentucky, to her final union with the heart of God.
Vickie Lynn Cravens, born September 12, 1950, in Laclede County, Missouri, was the first child of Hazel Loree Massey and Victor Lavern Cravens. Growing up her first six years as an only child, Vickie’s journey took its first swerve with the arrival of her, ultimately to be cherished, sister Elizabeth, known as Beth. Vickie knew early that unity was vital to her mother’s and her own sense of family; she reported “many happy memories of playing with cousins on Sunday afternoons on the farm of my Massey grandparents.” And to Beth and all Sister Vickie’s family, all the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph offer our deepest sympathy.
Vickie’s faith journey gained its first shape with her summer 1960 baptism into the congregation of the White Oak Pond Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Lebanon. Over the next years, her faith journey intensified sending her on various explorations – from discovering Catholicism at Girl Scout troop meetings in the basement of the local Catholic School; to, in high school and college, immersion in music as response to God’s creative call; to investigating the celebration of the Mass during her college career at Southwest Missouri State. After graduation, Vickie’s journey found a longer resting space starting in 1973 with the Kinderhook Regional Library, graduate work in Library Science, and the beginning of a deep friendship with Sr. Agnes Irene, a Sister of Saint Joseph from Concordia, Kansas, and her supervisor at the library.
Much later, as Sister Vickie reflected in her letter prior to making final vows with the Ursulines, she would write of her journey:
. . . I feel that God has called me forth from my homeland to journey to a new place that God would show me as home. My journey took me to Kansas where I had a mountain top experience, but this was only a resting place. Next, I journeyed to Illinois where there were special experiences, but this too was not home but a resting place. Next I made many visits into the land of Kentucky. Each trip brought me many memories to be savored and enjoyed. As with Elijah, God was not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but rather the still small voice that has made known to me deep in my innermost being – Mount Saint Joseph is a home of my people.
But before Vickie could establish her Kentucky roots, she made some significant and life-changing decisions. In 1983, Vickie completed her first RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) Program; characteristically, she was collecting information and planning ahead, because she informed the presenters that, even though she was attending, she wasn’t really interested in joining the Catholic Church yet – she was just gathering information to help her make a decision. By the 23rd of May, 1987, Vickie had gathered enough information and laid her plans. At St. Francis de Sales in Lebanon, Missouri, Vickie made her Solemn Profession of Faith and was confirmed in the Catholic Church. She also encountered there a Mount Saint Joseph Ursuline, our Sister Marie Michael Hayden, and Vickie’s journeying took yet another direction, with all due speed, directly toward the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph.
At this time, a second theme emerged for Vickie within her explorations, one that would inform the rest of her journey. We know Vickie as a thorough and careful planner, growing in her confidence and clarity of purpose, generously sharing her many gifts as she strengthened her relationship with the Ursulines of Mount Saint Joseph and moved with apparent certitude toward her goals. Apparently carefully conceived, and step-by-step, we saw Vickie:
- In 1991, becoming an Associate of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph;
- In 1994, making a lifetime commitment as an Associate;
- In 1995, after being told that 44 was NOT too old, joining the MSJ Contact program for those exploring religious life;
- In 1996, starting her Postulancy;
- In 1997, on March 1st, entering the Novitiate; and
- Finally, in Mary’s month of May, on the 22nd in 1999 and in 2004, making her initial and her final vows as an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph.
How clear and focused that progress seemed to be; yet, through it all, in her letters and reflections, Sister Vickie reminded herself and others:
- “I walked [and waited] for wisdom to discern the will of God in my life. The question was not, ‘What am I doing here [at MSJ]?’ but rather, ‘I know that this is what I want, but, oh God, is it your will?’”
- “I do not know what I will be called to do in the future. . . .”
- “I know that things will be worked out in a time table that is not of my making, but with patience it will happen and it may not include me in the solution.”
Yet within all the journeying in both the certainty and uncertainty of trust, Sister Vickie reaffirmed that “I felt that my soul has found a place within this Ursuline Community” and “in awe and trust, I recognize that God is with me through all my existence.” And how Sister Vickie moved forward. With two degrees already, she stepped out of her comfort zone and completed the Ministry Formation program at Brescia University, even working for a semester in the library there. But the Archives were her chief calling and being Archivist at Mount Saint Joseph gave Sister Vickie the opportunity to immerse herself fully in all that she loved:
- Discovering the history and traditions and charism of the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph
- Sharing the lives and the dreams of each sister she encountered
- Sharing the lives and the dreams of those with whom she worked and lived at the Mount
- Inviting others to join with her to enjoy the delights of travelling and exploring God’s created world – anything from “impromptu” planned van excursions to Owensboro to detailed pilgrimages to all the Ursuline shrines in Italy.
Those who lived and worked with Sister Vickie offered words such as:
- Stimulated by challenge
- Marked by her gift of prayer and dedication
- And this last: “She will throw herself wholeheartedly into any process.”
We know that Sister Vickie threw herself wholeheartedly into her life; her prayer; her faith; her love for Church, for God, for family, and for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph. She nurtured “her” Archives and laid detailed plans for the next phase of its journey. In like fashion, she carefully prepared her plans for this most recent phase of her journey – updating archive directions, identifying her myriad picnic tasks, arranging her room at the Villa. But these “would not include [her] in the solution.”
The application for the Associate Program invited candidates to respond to the following question: “At the end of your life, what would you like to be able to say?” Sister Vickie had responded, “That I have been a support and help to the Mount Saint Joseph Ursulines to the best of my abilities. That I have tried to live my life in the tradition of St. Angela in listening to God’s will for me.”
Well, Sister Vickie Lynn Cravens, we believe you were able to say just that. And as we send you on this final stage of your journey where you will recognize what you once described as the “achievement of the perfect relationship: God in me and I in God,” we remember the image you shared of your childhood:
The elementary school I attended was on the other side of a field across from our home. The grass was taller than I, so my father used a scythe to carve me a path, and my mother would watch for my head to appear on the other side of the field each day, knowing I had arrived safely.
We know that our prayers helped prepare that path for you in this last journey, and that your loving God was waiting and watching for your head to appear to welcome you home.
Sister Sharon Sullivan
Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph