July 7, 2020
Dear Sisters and all,
I just read about Sister Maria’s going home to the Lord and I wanted to respond in person. I attempted to do this earlier this morning, but with little success via my iPhone. So, I am trying again!
I was surely grateful to be have been with all of you earlier this year, and even more grateful to have had a chance to visit, at that time, with Sister Maria, a little bit. I had known Sister Maria and her family for many years! Since I just do not return to Springfield as much as I used to, I was happy to spend some time at the motherhouse and visit with so many of you, especially Sister M. Anita, (Whose family I see often here) Sister Regina Marie, Sister Mary Michaela, and so many others. I was able to visit with Sister Maria in the hall and pray with her for a moment.
I don’t know if some of you remember, but Sister Maria’s parents (Ruth and Karl Eck) lived next door (1516 Whittier I think) to my grandparents Les and Mary Jones (on 1520 Whitter St.) in Hawthorne place. In those days, when August 4 was St. Dominic’s day, my aunt Sister Margaret Sienna and her longtime friend and companion Sister Mary Martin, would be having her home visit at the same time as Sister Maria and her home visit companion, who I believe may have been Sister John Vianney. Those were great days of fun, family, and faith for the Jones and Eck families on Whittier, neighbors and friends.
The family and neighborhood relationships, woven and forged by the God’s providence, certainly became the foundation of life for so many of us in that neighborhood, to this very day.
My grandparents really were close to the Ecks and “neighbored” a lot in those days. In fact, I remember quite clearly the night that Karl Eck passed away during the night suddenly, from a heart attack, I believe. He was certainly young at that time…perhaps in his 50’s. The year may have been 1956 or 1957.
The family and neighborhood relationships, woven and forged by the God’s providence, certainly became the foundation of life for so many of us in that neighborhood, to this very day. My mother and Marilyn became fast friends through all of the years, and she would often speak of Jack Eck. And, I am grateful that I can remember all! Sister Maria would later become principal of Sacred Heart, following the legendary Sister Mary Blanche, and was in fact principal when my sister Mary Therese was an SHA student. Sister Maria was very good and very patient with “MT.”
I am particularly grateful that Sister Maria and Sister John Vianney would take time in later years to visit Mom and Dad in their declining years at our home on Douglas Street.
These are challenging days to be sure, but most of all I am grateful for the tapestry of faith and family woven together on Whittier Avenue in Springfield in Hawthorne Place, in the parish family of Blessed Sacrament where I was blessed to be missioned three different times, and which to this day keeps us anchored and on course! Then, as now, the parish Church of “The Church of the Blessed Sacrament” stands as symbol of the presence of the Lord in the lives of the Eck, Dirksen, Rudolph, Jones, and Vann families.
Lerner and Lowe may have written the song The Street Where you Live, but it is, in fact, “Street where we lived”—Whittier Avenue—where the Jones and Eck families formed our faith, our families, and our vocations in response to the love of God.
Gratefully yours in St. Dominic,
Bishop Vann's aunt, Sister Margaret Siena Jones, was a Springfield Dominican Sister who forever endeared her nephew Kevin to her religious community. We continued to be blessed by his friendship and kindness. He is the bishop of the Diocese of Orange, California.