The parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Lansdale, PA remembered Sr. Marie Benedicte (better known to all as Sister Bene) in the winter edition of their newsletter. Below is the loving tribute written by parishioner Bridget Letukas.
Sr. Marie Benedicte
by Bridget Letukas
"Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing."
- St. Therese of Lisieux
Perhaps Sr. Marie Benedicte, who passed away unexpectedly on the morning of November 13th, best understood these words spoken by the beloved St. Therese. Though Sr. Benedicte, affectionately known as Sister Bene to her fellow Sisters and friends, and St. Therese, known as the Little Flower of Jesus, both hailed from France, they seemed to share something far greater in common: their love and devotion to Our Lord.
Like St. Therese, the love of Christ shone through Sr. Benedicte in simple and ordinary ways and, for the past thirty years, our parish community has been privileged to watch this faith in action.
As a child and as a teen Sr. Benedicte managed to show a loving attitude toward the German soldiers who occupied her familys home during World War II. Rather than anger or vindictiveness, Marie Benedicte expressed sympathy toward the men. They had families, too, she said.
As she grew, Benedicte's love for Christ became even more strengthened, and, in 1951, she entered the congregation of Les Gardiennes Adoratrices in Orleans, France. This group would later join the Religious of the Assumption in 1968, and, about fifteen years later, they granted her permission to come to the United States. In the early 1980s, Sr. Benedicte arrived in West Philadelphia. Not long after, Saint Stanislaus Parish became her home.
We have witnessed Sr. Bene's love for her Savior radiate throughout our faith community. Whether it was annual parish visitations or her work in Landings, which welcomes estranged Catholics back to the Church, Marie Benedicte touched lives.
"Oh, Bene, with her incredible memory" says fellow parishioner Nancy Roth as she recalls her friend. Roth, the Administrative Assistant in the Parish Religious Education Office, worked alongside Sr. Benedicte since her own arrival to Saint Stanislaus in the eighties, and she knew the sister well. She was really excited about evangelization, she says. She would go visit people in the parish, and she would remember little facts about people. "It helped them to come back to the Church, to get them more active." Roth continues, "and with bereavement, she was fantastic."
Perhaps her commitment to the bereavement ministry in the Lansdale area is how most people will remember Sr. Benedicte bringing the face of Christ to us. Pam Mohl, Parish Center Director and Office Manager and a longtime presence at St. Stanislaus, remembers Sr. Benedicte's work. "Sister was a very devout person and loved her faith deeply. She truly cared about every parishioner and took their happiness and sad times as if they were her own."
As Mohl recalls her friend fondly, it becomes clear that Sr. Bene had a genuine understanding of how important the little things in life are. "I was honored to know Sr. Benedicte . . . What a blessing to work with her every day. She had a very keen and astute memory for details. She could recite to you not only where the parishioners lived, but members of their family, and any significant events. This genuine caring touched many hearts."
In fact, in her eulogy to her fellow Sister, Sr. Mary Ann Azanza, wished Sr. Bene could still be around to console those suffering from the passing of their dear friend. "She gave away herself to us, her sisters," she told the congregation gathered for her funeral last November. "In so many ways, big and small, Bene was there to give you a lift to the doctor, take out the trash, unload the dishwasher, tell a funny story, offer you an article to read or two or three or pray intensely for a special intention."
"She was our sister and our friend," added Sr. Mary Ann. Yes, Sr. Benedicte was our friend. She loved us, and we loved her right back. More than that, like her fellow country woman, St. Therese, she was a flower whose beauty stood tall in times of grief, pain, and sadness. But most of all, she was a giver, and the love and knowledge of Christ she gave us is best expressed on the words engraved on the ring she wore since the time she took her vows: "I know him in whom I have believed."
Thank you and God bless you, Sister Benedicte. You will be missed until we meet again.