Eulogy for Sister Liberata Pellerin: Dec. 17, 1918-May 11, 2017

May 14, 2017 by

Print pageEmail page

Vigil: May 13, 2017 at the Nazareth Motherhouse

Eulogy: by Sister Bette Moslander and Sister Marcia Allen

Eulogist: Sister Marcia Allen

Some years ago when Liebe was very ill she asked her dear friend, Bette Moslander, to give her eulogy. Bette dutifully prepared Liebe’s eulogy; however, as we know Liebe recovered and lived for at least a decade more. This evening I will read the eulogy that Bette prepared. Before ending I’ll invite you to contribute to this eulogy with your own memories of Liebe.

Sister Bette begins:

We are here this evening to remember and honor Sister Liberata Pellerin, better known to all of us as Liebe, a Sister of St. Joseph for 77 years and for those of us who knew her well, a very dear friend and a pleasant companion on the journey of life.

Liebe (Antoinette Elizabeth) was born in Lake Linden, Michigan, the last of 13 children born to Louis and Alida Chartier Pellerin. Her father was born and raised in Quebec, and remained a native Canadian. Her mother was of French Canadian heritage but was born in Michigan and was a U.S. citizen. Liebe was always quick to say that she knew she was loved, if not spoiled from the beginning, by her parents and her nine brothers and her three sisters.

“I had a very happy childhood,” she wrote. “As I was growing up, I knew I was deeply loved by my parents and my older brothers and sisters. I have often reflected on the unloved and abused children of today’s world and am grateful for the love I have known all through my lifetime.”

Liebe was one of the best story tellers I have ever known and it would be tempting to simply share verbatim her entire Life Review as she tells the story of growing up in Lake Linden, a small copper mining town with refining plants for the mines just a few miles away from her home. The family lived in a Company house and her father and brothers worked in the mines. One of her favorite tasks was to take them lunch when her mother made a special dish they all loved – French pasties.

In grade school she was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in St Joseph’s parish school. She excelled in her school work. When she was in the upper grades she was, on occasion, asked to substitute for a few hours in the lower grades. These years of her growing up are the setting of many of our Liebe stories. Stories of Father Raymond the parish priest — something of a benevolent tyrant; and a moving story about the school burning down and the displacement of both the classrooms and the Sisters until it could be reopened.

Her father died on the day she was to be confirmed, May 10, 1931. Liebe was very close to her father and it was a great loss for her. After her brothers and sisters had married, or moved out of Lake Linden, Liebe and her mother lived in a small rented space above a grocery store. She loved her mother deeply and she wrote, “My Mother and I were the best of friends and companions.”  Knowing her mother was not well she said, “I often prayed to the Blessed Mother asking her not to let my mother die.” However, when Liebe was just 18 her mother did die and she went to Detroit, Michigan, to live with one of her married brothers and later with Yolande, her niece. They tried to make it on their own during the Great Depression of the 30s. During this time she was slowly and subtly being drawn toward a vocation to the Sisters of St. Joseph which, she says, she had repressed for a while.

“Eventually I sensed a deep knowing, a call, a sureness about a step into religious life. It was an inner experience and for that reason I was able to overcome the resistance of family and limitation of finances.” When she finally wrote a letter to ask to enter she said about it: “I was not so much asking; rather, it was more like ‘I’m coming!’ ”

Mother Mary Rose Waller was the Superior General when Liebe entered the postulancy on Sept. 2, 1939. She received the habit on March 19, 1940, and made final vows on Aug. 15, 1944. Her first years were spent teaching the primary classes in the parish schools in Illinois, Michigan and Kansas. Countless stories of her exploits as a kindergarten and first grade teacher have entertained her friends for years and they never tired of hearing them told over and over. The stories always revealed her love for the smallest of the children and her delight and humorous insights into their age of innocence.  What was remarkable for me is that she remembered their names and their faces. I remember on one occasion the two of us were in a restaurant and she told me that a man sitting close by was a former child she had in primary school in Manhattan. Simultaneously the man rose from his seat and approached her and as he approached she rose and greeted him by name. They had not seen one another since his school days.

In 1957, Liebe began academic work at Catholic University toward her Masters Degree in Theology and Sacred Scripture. This was during the summers; meanwhile, she continued teaching during the school year. Liebe notes “During my summers at Catholic University the first seeds of renewal in the Church were being sown…I could sense a change coming. Theologians were pointing, unknowingly perhaps, to a new era in the Catholic Church…. With the dawn of Vatican II and afterwards, changes began to appear in the Church and in religious life…It was a time when many were leaving their congregations. Throughout these years I never thought of leaving religious life.”

In 1966, while serving as the Director of Temporary Professed and living at Marymount College, Liebe discovered that she had a severe case of high blood pressure that was resistant to treatment. She entered into a number of years of coping with this health problem that over time required several hospitalizations, angiograms and angioplasties, until finally a successful quadruple by-pass surgery in 1997 brought her a measure of good health.

In spite of her heart condition, Liebe continued her work serving as co-director of novices with Sister Mary Fran Simon from 1967-1970, a time when there were no precedents for formation to religious life in the post-Vatican Church. In 1970, she was appointed vice president to replace Sister Christella Buser, who became president at the death of Mother Therese Marie Stafford. Both were elected to a 4-year term ending in 1975. Then she was able to continue her education in spirituality.

“During the year 1975—76,” she wrote, “I was privileged to attend the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California. My study was focused on the writings of John of the Cross and spiritual direction. It came at a good time in my life.”

From there she was in charge of postulants for one year and then went to Craig, Colorado, for several years, living and working with Sister Mary Ann Flax. Following her western slope experience, which she treasured, she moved to Manhattan where she worked in pastoral ministry and lived with Sister Betty Suther. Next came a year in Grand Island as Sister Bette Moslander’s secretary as Bette worked for the Quinn Commission. She also worked in Central Catholic High School’s library.

During the post Vatican II years, the congregation undertook a profound spiritual renewal and Liebe was often engaged in direction of 30-day retreats in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, and for several summers in Federation teams for the “Life Programs.” She also gave preached retreats and was sought out as a spiritual director.

In 1982, she qualified as a Progoff Intensive Journal consultant and gave numerous workshops at Manna House and for other religious congregations. The workshops she cherished most were the Journal workshops she gave in the Kansas Correctional Facility at Lansing. She says, “I came to know and love the prisoners who were so receptive to journal writing and whose lives are not unlike our own in desire for new beginnings after having made mistakes.”

In 1986, Liebe was asked to become the congregational archivist and served nearly 20 years in that capacity until 2005. In 1989 she moved to Manna House of Prayer, commuting each day to the archives but also doing some spiritual direction, journaling and helping out with the many programs and other services involved in serving those who came to Manna House.

Sister Marcia’s addition:

She lived and worked as a member of the Manna House of Prayer community from 1989 until May 2015. During those years she was known for her generosity and wisdom, her ready spirit and her love for people and cooking. Yes, cooking! She loved to be in the kitchen helping  prepare the meals, encouraging the cooks and regaling them with her wonderful stories. Sometimes she would just sit in the rocking chair there and keep them company with her wit and wisdom, her warmth and loving attention. And when the need arose she would wield her talent as a cook with efficiency and effectiveness.

Liebe was practical, down to earth and realistic. Let me give you an example of this: When one of her young friends heard of her passing she wrote: “I will miss her greatly, and treasure all the more the afghan she crocheted for me one Christmas, a remembrance of a gentle presence who saw straight through all the crap and never feared calling me on it!” This is as good a picture of Liebe as any! At the same time she was gentle, compassionate and always genuinely interested in people. She was ever ready to start a conversation especially with someone who looked shy or like the outsider in a group. She had a way of drawing people out and was easily likable.

Liebe moved to the Motherhouse in the spring of 2015 and was the same loving and gentle, bright presence there. Visits with her revealed that she was alert to what was happening around her and at the same time to what was happening within. She speaks of this in her last commitment-to-mission statement written for the year 2016-2017:

YES is the word for this time in my life.

I say YES to what has been and what will be.

I say YES to God who has been saying YES to me for 77 years in community and 97+ years of my life.

I want to live the rest of my days as a YES and a thank you

to our community of Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia

and to God who sustains us.

 

I’ll let Bette finish this eulogy. She writes:

As I look back on my years of living in community with Liebe I am deeply grateful for having known her and been privileged to call her friend. She lived life to the full, even when it was difficult. She was a woman who was at peace with her life and with the ways of God with her.

In the years after Liebe had completed her Life Review she would occasionally add a page, or a new insight. Among the last entries added to her Life Review she quotes Teilhard de Chardin’s words on death from The Divine Milieu. Let me close with that quote.

“At that last moment when I feel I am losing hold of myself and am absolutely passive within the hands of the great Unknown forces that have formed me; in all those dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you (provided only my faith is strong enough)  who are painfully parting the fibers of my being in order to penetrate to the very marrow of my substance and bear me away within yourself.”

Liebe adds a postscript:

“SURRENDER is the language of this phase of my life and I am at peace.”

And to this we say THANK YOU, Liebe, for your YES among us – for your wonderful and gracious life which you shared so generously with all of us!

 

 • • • • • • •

Memorials for Sister Liberata Pellerin may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia KS 66901. To make an online donation in Sister Liberata’s memory, click on the button below:

DonateNow
 

Comments

3 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Liberata Pellerin: Dec. 17, 1918-May 11, 2017”

  1. Missy Ljungdahl on May 14th, 2017 9:50 pm

    Thank you, Liebe! I miss you and know it will be a real miss when I am in Concordia this summer. The eulogy captured this wonderful woman. Thank you, Bette and Marcia. My prayers are with the Manna House community and employees at this time.

  2. Betsy Gasperich on May 14th, 2017 2:12 pm

    I met Sister Liberata in 1957 while in 6 th grade at All Saints School in Gladstone, Michigan.
    I knew her through the years in the community and will always remember her smile and sense of humor!
    She was always in good spirits and it was catchy! Thank you, Sister for your years of service and being a part in my journey!
    Betsy

  3. Sandra Hittle on May 14th, 2017 9:56 am

    Sister Lebe was my first grade teacher. She greeted me the first day I started to work at the Motherhouse about twenty years ago. She was a wonderful teacher. I really enjoyed doing her hair this last year. I will miss her .

Feel free to leave a comment...