By Sister Meredith, OCD
As a second year novice, I was sent to live with our elder sisters at the Casa Nazarena Convent, lovingly referred to as “Casa”. It’s the home for our sisters in need of assistance in their daily living due to age, sickness, or both. I recall being a bit hesitant to go because I was so new to community and I didn’t know our elder sisters all that well, if at all. The Casa has a basement…and to a novice, it was a big, scary basement with noisy laundry machines, dark hallways, and big mysterious rooms. Needless to say, I was scared to go down there to iron my clothes, but what other choice did I have if I only owned three wrinkled shirts and a uniform? It was about 9:00 at night. I got up the courage to go down the stairs and into the ironing room by myself.
As I was trying to fiddle around with the chord, I heard the rolling of a walker and slow, deliberate steps coming through the doorway. Afraid, I looked up quickly and saw that it was Sister Mary Andrew. At the time, Sister’s health was already failing and she was almost blind. She came into the ironing room without saying a word, as we were already in grand silence (the time after night prayer where we Carmelites maintain utmost silence to allow God to speak), sat down on a seat in front of me, pulled out a sheet of paper, and started to recite the Litany of the Sacred Heart. She would say the aspiration, and I would respond “Have mercy on us” and this went on for about 15 minutes until all my shirts were ironed. As I finished, we walked to the elevator together, still in silence, and when the doors opened, she gave me a smile, an encouraging pat on the back, and then went on her way.
Sister Mary Andrew died in June of 2013, about a year after that memorable encounter. When I think of the virtue of zeal, I think of her. Zeal is faith and love in action. Sister saw the need of a little sister though she was almost blind. She reached out to help someone in need when she herself must have been tired and worn down at the end of the day. She lifted me up in prayer and took away my fear without saying a word to me. Being zealous for God is not about being overly active, but by being so present in the moment that you forget your own needs so that you can bring the love of God to others, no matter what it costs big or small. May God reward you, Sister Mary Andrew, and may your beautiful soul rest in peace!