I never cease to be fascinated by how life works, and by the astonishing intricacies of time, relationships, and coincidence.
Several years ago, now, I reestablished contact with a friend from grade school, and we have corresponded frequently ever since. Recently he emailed me with information of another mutual school-years friend—we all three had been Cub Scouts together at St. Elizabeth’s Social Center in Rockford IL—and with news of one of the nuns from our days at St. Elizabeth’s. I had not thought of St. Elizabeth’s in years, but as so often happens, just one mention opened the floodgates of memory.
As a non-catholic, my Cub Scout experiences with the nuns was my first exposure to any form of Catholicism and, while I was even then an agnostic, I was very impressed by their devotion.
The two nuns I still remember after all these years were Sister Marie Immaculee and Sister Ann Sebastian. Sister Marie Immaculee was probably in her 70s at the time. Tiny, with grey hair and an almost palpable aura of love and compassion, she could easily have posed for a Norman Rockwell painting titled “The Grandmother Nun.” I adored her. I remember someone telling me 25 or 30 years ago, that she died.
It is people like Sister Marie Immaculee who make me hope there is a God.
Sister Ann Sebastian was tall and rather stern, very much the no-nonsense disciplinarian—no one tried to put anything over on Sister Ann Sebastian—but never harsh. I had assumed she was long dead, but when I discovered she is in fact alive, well into her 90s and living in a facility maintained by her order, I had to contact her to let her know her influence went beyond the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s.
Here, then, is the letter I wrote her.
Sr. Ann Sebastian
Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity
3501 Solly Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19136
In light of eternity, 65 years or so is but the blink of an angel’s eyelash, but it was about 65 years ago that I joined the Cub Scouts, which held their meetings at St. Elizabeth’s Social Center in Rockford, IL. As a non-catholic, I had never met a nun, and you were my first face-to-face encounter. Not having any idea of protocol, I remember calling you “Lady.” You quickly and gently corrected me.
I have, after all these years, never forgotten you or Sr. Marie Immaculee (who I always see in my mind’s eye when I think of the ideal grandmother) and the other nuns whose names I cannot now recall.
Your always-kind firmness—no one ever put anything over on you—and the joy you all but radiated have remained with me to this day, and when I learned your address through a fellow former Cub Scout, I felt compelled to write you a brief note to let you know of the lasting impression you made on one very young boy. I cannot thank you enough for the example you set for me and so very many others.
God truly loves you.
I do hope it gives her a moment of pleasure. She richly deserves it.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com: