Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Sister Carolyn and Sister Olivia have both worked on Cheyenne River Reservation for the better part of two decades. Both are now in their eighties, and both have decided that it is time to retire. It has been a bitter-sweet experience. They look forward to the rest retirement offers. They look forward to living in community again. They look forward to never having to drive the icy roads of Western South Dakota again. And yet, both weep often. Goodbyes are never easy.

The people also weep from time to time. As I meet with the homebound, bringing the Eucharist to them, they tell me stories about the sisters. One tells of the consolation they offered as first one and then a second severely physically disabled daughter died. Others tell me about how sister was there at the baptism of their children. Others describe small gifts and favors received from the sisters. Still others tell about how sister developed a summer bible school that incorporated volunteers from a parish in Wisconsin and teens from the local community to offer some positive summer programming for area children. Over and over they ask, "What will we do without Sister?"

Sister Olivia departed last week amidst tears and hugs and whatall. It was a clean break, and though the parishes in which she operated were pensive last weekend, they were discovering that like it or not, life goes on without Sister.

On Saturday, we celebrated the formal farewell for Sister Carolyn. More hugging and laughing and tears. She still has a few weeks before departing, but this gave the parish community a chance to gather and to thank her as a body. It was a lovely evening, but it exhausted the community and Sister as well.

Goodbyes, it seems to me, despite their difficulty, are a positive experience. Goodbyes are supposed to be hard. How sad it would be to leave a place, a person, a community with whom you had spent twenty years and to feel no pain at the separation. Goodbyes are hard because love has been shared, and it can seem as though a goodbye means the dissolution of that love. Beautifully, though, we believe that where there is love, there God also is. Thus, to say goodbye and to feel that pain becomes a profound experience of the presence of God. Goodbyes are never easy. Thanks be to God.

1 comment:

J. Thorp said...

My mom and I just reread that last paragraph -- save that for a homily, my friend!

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