Sister M. Trinita shares her friendship with Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, the two sisters whose murder in Mississippi last week has shocked the nation.
Yesterday afternoon I called Sister Mary Trinita at the community health clinic she’s run for twenty years in Jackson, Miss., wondering if she knew the two sisters who were murdered last week in the nearby town of Durant. The details of the sisters’ deaths are available elsewhere. Here I want to share Sister Trinita’s testimony, and offer a challenge.
“Hi Trinita, you’re answering the phone,” I said, stating the obvious.
“Just walked in the door. I was at the memorial. At the cathedral. It was beautiful. Not an empty place in the church.”
It shouldn’t have surprised me that she would know Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill. Durant is in the Jackson diocese just sixty miles from Jackson, the place Sister Trinita has called home for her entire religious life, and all three sisters in the business of caring for the poor in one of the poorest states in the union.
What I didn’t realize was that they were good friends who enjoyed the time they could steal to visit, share a good meal, and laugh. “I last saw them in April,” Sister Trinita recalled. “They’d come to Jackson to shop and we went out to lunch. We talked and enjoyed reminiscing.”
“They lived the Gospel. Talk about giving your life to God. They proved that they did.”
What I didn’t realize was Sister Margaret and Sister Trinita’s friendship began 21 years ago when they studied together to become nurse practitioners. They shared the weekly three-hour drives back and forth between Jackson and the campus in Columbus, Miss. “Margaret was feisty,” Sister Trinita said. There was a soft chuckle; I waited for the story.
“Once we drove through a storm to make it to class on time,” Sister Trinita explained. The teacher walked in late and announced that the inclement weather meant she was not prepared for class. “Sister Margaret stood up and spoke her mind: ‘We drove through snow and ice to be here and we are prepared for class. Don’t tell us you are not prepared for class!’”
I asked what she’d like our friends to know about Margaret and Paula.
“They lived the Gospel. Talk about giving your life to God,” she mused, “They proved that they did. They would do anything for anyone at any time. They were lovable, and I loved them.”
What I wasn’t prepared to hear was the normalcy with which Sister Trinita considered her friends’ deaths. She told me that on Thursday she received a call at the clinic from one of our sisters who thought of her when she heard the news and called to make sure she was okay.
“It wasn’t me this time. I assured her I was okay but shaken by the news.” That’s what she said. It wasn’t me. This time.
The people of Holmes County, Mississippi, are now wondering who will come to take Sister Margaret’s and Sister Paula’s place.
I asked her if she worried about potential violence in her ministry at St. Dominic’s clinic. “I think about it once in a while,” she admitted. “It could—and does—happen anywhere.” She rattled off a list of incidents she recalled.
“I’m careful, but I don’t let it bother me; otherwise it might keep me from doing what I need to do.”
This, from a woman who three weeks ago was home in Springfield with her community celebrating the three sisters she lives with in Jackson who marked 60 years of consecrated religious profession. A woman who has served in Mississippi since before I was born. This week, this sister of mine buried two friends who were killed in the midst of their ministry and went back to work at her clinic in Jackson.
The people of Holmes County, Mississippi, are now wondering who will come to take Sister Margaret’s and Sister Paula’s place. As Mississippi columnist Sid Salter wrote, “The role these sisters played in the lives of the poor and the sick in Holmes County will be assumed by . . .whom? When the faith-based ministries that politicians like to talk about are targeted, just who takes up that slack?
“Because remarkable souls like these innocent, dedicated women don’t choose to come to rural Mississippi every day.”
Mr. Salter’s point, I believe, is that Sister Margaret and Sister Paula, and My sister, Trinita, are filling a need that so often our governments fail to meet.
My point is, where are the Catholic sisters to stand in the gap?
We have seven remarkable Springfield Dominican Sisters serving at St. Dominic in Jackson, all but one of whom are nearing retirement, and I’m on the downside of my fifth decade.
Who will take their places?
Will a young woman you know? Will you? Will you “Talk about giving your life to God”?
We’d be so happy to hear from you, and to help you discern whether God is calling you to serve him as a Dominican Sister, either in Jackson or in any one of many other challenging, life-giving ministries.
For more information about becoming a Dominican Sister of Springfield, call Sister Teresa Marron, OP, at 217-787-0481 or contact us here.
Saints are on my mind. We’ve just passed what I think of as a triduum of holy days: All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and all Souls Day. Yesterday we Dominicans celebrated the Feast of Martin DePorres, our Peruvian brother. Today is the feast of the great reformer Charles Borromeo.
In our common prayer, this whole week is given over to remembering the deceased sisters and brothers of the Order of Preachers. We are also, incidentally, getting ready to launch a jubilee year for the Order marking 800 years since Pope Honorius III issued a formal papal document making real St. Dominic’s dream for an Order of Preachers.
If that weren’t enough, for the U.S. Church, it’s National Vocation Awareness Week.
Does it seem odd to you that during a week commemorating a lot of dead people, we are also giving a LOUD shout out to young women and men to consider a vocation as a sister, brother, or religious priest?
Not at all! “The saints” or “the holy ones” are those who have been baptized into Christ Jesus and live their lives for Christ. In his angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis made reference to the Communion of Saints. He called it “Our big family” and said it was “Made up of all the members of the Church, those who are still pilgrims on earth, and those – immensely more numerous – who already have departed and gone to heaven.”
Think Great Aunt Lena. And Uncle Frank. And if you are – as I am, a family historian – think fifth great-grandmother Molly Porter.
Think about more than just dead people.
Think about the selfless neighbor who came to your rescue when your mom’s car broke down on her way to pick you up at pre-school. Think about the janitor who makes sure the trash is emptied in your calculus classroom every morning. On weekends, does he quietly help out at the soup kitchen? Think about the manager at the grocery store, or the elderly lady who unlocks the church every morning. Do they care for ill spouses or disabled children, giving their love completely? Think about the aid worker in Syria or Iraq, who may be the only one standing between hunger and death for hundreds of refugees.
I think about many of my own Dominican Sisters.
- Sister Barbara Bogenschutz, who serves in solidarity with the Sioux Indians at Pine Ridge in South Dakota.
- Sister Trinita Eddington, who humbly meets the heath needs of dozens of people who are poor, or homeless on the streets of Jackson, Miss.
- Sister Ann Brummel, who oversees the education needs of hundreds of students at Rosary High School in Aurora, Ill.
- Sister Regina Marie Bernet, an octogenarian, who through art therapy helps heal the emotional wounds of women and men incarcerated in central Illinois prisons.
Now think of yourself.
Yes, you. You, too, are a member of the Communion of Saints. You, too, have a vocation to love. You too, as Pope Francis says “bear the surname of God.” Your family name is God, because you are God’s child.
Welcome to the family. Welcome to the Communion of Saints.
We mourn the loss of our Sister Mary Dominica Brennan who died this afternoon. She was wise and wonderful woman.
We mourn the loss of our Sister Ann Catherine Radosevic, ever gracious and gentle, 97 years young. We will miss her!
Climbing the stairs to the chapel using the Instagram app #hyperlapse — at Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois Sacred Heart Convnet.
Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL Celebrate Community’s 140th Anniversary
140 years ago today on August 19, 1873 the foundresses of Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL arrived in Jacksonville, Illinois. Their pilgrimage started at St. Catharine of Sienna Convent near Springfield, KY & took them to Jacksonville, IL. They traveled on a horse driven stage coach and then by train to begin the Dominican mission of teaching and community life at Our Savior parish and St. Patrick School.
Sisters enjoy the 140th Anniversary cake and after dinner treats made by Brandon while they view the centerpiece and hallway display.
Sister M. Josephine Meagher
1873-1876 1879-1888 1891-1894
Sister M. Rachel Conway
Sister M. Cecilia Carey
Sister M. Thomas Wight
Sister M. Agnes Maguire
Sister M. Thomasina Simpson
Sister M. Catherine Young
— Springfield OP (@springfieldop) August 19, 2013