We reprint here the eulogy that Sr. Nuala Cotter, Provincial of the Religious of the Assumption in the USA, gave at the funeral Mass for Sr. Clem.
Goodbye, Sister Clem
As I look out on all the faces in front of me right now faces so well known and so loved by our Sr. Clem -- it makes me think about her face.
It was a merry face most of the time; you certainly never knew what might come out of its mouth! By the time I knew it, it was a small, wrinkledy face -- amazing to think that 30 years ago, when I first met the Assumption Sisters, she was already an old person! One of the things you'd notice about her face when you met her up close was that one of her eyes was blind and the other one wasn't too strong, either. I never heard her complain about that or about much of anything, really; her bad eyes did lead to her wearing sunglasses a lot, which often made her look like a holy little old movie star. If you've seen some of the photos of her 75th jubilee or her 100th birthday, you know what I mean.
But I got to thinking about Clem's sight as I prepared for today, and I began to see it as a key to understanding something about who she was as a person, as a sister, and as a disciple. Like the blind man in the gospel, Clem knew what she wanted, and that was to see.
She wanted to see people. You could stop by just about any time and Clem would be delighted to welcome you, calling you by name and saying: "Did you eat?" If you said "yes," she'd say, "Eat more! There's plenty!!" and then shove a couple of cookies in your hand or slap a plate piled high with her famous chicken and rice in front of you.
But it wasn't just about cookies or chicken and rice or whatever she had going that day; she also wanted to see you, to know how you were, how your husband or daughter or son or your sister with cancer was. She wanted to see if she could help you in some way, whether by feeding you or giving you some of the bright flowers from her garden, or by listening to your story. And at the end of your visit, she wanted you to see that she would be praying for you and your intention. That never changed, even as she became less and less able to stand in the kitchen or weed in the flowerbeds.
Clem also wanted to see God. That desire led her to a lifelong love of Eucharistic Adoration, a practice so engrained in her that in her last few months, she would awaken at 3:00 in the morning believing that it was time to expose the Blessed Sacrament, and wanting to do something about that. It wasn't easy to persuade her to wait till later!
She understood that seeing God also involved listening to his Word. To that end, she struggled mightily to read the Bible and the Breviary, the book that's sitting on her coffin at this moment. It's the book we Sisters use five times a day for our prayer together. Its full of psalms that Clem pretty much knew by heart: only recently, for example, she startled us: we were singing a psalm, but there was a pause; I'm not sure why, maybe somebody had lost her place. Suddenly Clem came in singing the exact line despite the fact that she could no longer see at all.
But when she could see, she'd use this little gadget, a magnifier with a light. I was trying to use it yesterday as I prepared for today's reflection, and it's not so easy. You've got to have it really squared away, and after a short time, your wrist gets quite tired. But I think the sisters will recognize the truth in what I say when I say that she stubbornly refused to give up. She used this little tool for as long as she could because she valued the Word and, if possible, she wanted to see it for herself.
So Clem saw. Even at the end, she saw with her hands, reaching out for the hands and faces of sisters and friends, holding her rosary and crucifix, seeing them by touching them.
So if we had to summarize her way of seeing in just a few words, we could say that she saw with the heart. And now, as we say goodbye to Clem , we can be very sure that she is seeing everything and everyone that her heart desired: Our Lord and Our Lady, her mother and father, sisters, grandmother, Saint Marie Eugenie, and all the many sisters and friends whom she loved in her 104 years on earth.
I daresay that she is seeing us, too, and looking at us right now with that amused way she had, loving us now more than ever. What a joy it will be for us on that Great Day when we, too, will see her again. Until then, let's try to look at each other the way that she did with loving friendship, with interest, and with care. And lets say: Thank you, Clem, for looking at us, for seeing us with so much love and showing us how to do the same. Amen.
From this website on Sr. Clem:
- A Sr. Clem Movie!, June 5, 2013
- Farewell, Sr. Clem, June 4, 2013
- Rest In Peace, Dear Sister Clem, June 3, 2013
- Celebrating 102 Years, September 25, 2010
- A Century Of Clem, September 17, 2008
- Sister Clemencia Celebrates 75 Years Of Religious Consecration, May 24, 2008
- Ninety-Nine And Counting, September 17, 2007