Eulogy for Sister Lucy Schneider — Jan. 15, 1927 – Nov. 10, 2019

November 12, 2019 by

Vigil: Nov. 12, 2019 at the Nazareth Motherhouse
Eulogist: Sister Betty Suther

“There are only two or three human stories,

but they go on repeating themselves

as fiercely as if they had never happened before,

like the larks in this country

who have been singing the same five notes over and over

for thousands of years.”

 

This quote from Willa Cather is how Lucy ended her life review (and indeed her life!) along with the words from Scripture: “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full”. This seems a fitting beginning for this reflection on the life of Agnes Adele Schneider, known to us as Sister Lucy Schneider. Sister Lucy left us to join the heavenly chorus on Sunday morning, Nov. 10, 2019, at 12:55 a.m.

We offer our sympathy to Lucy’s family and friends gathered here this evening, especially to her sister Mary, her many nephews and nieces, to her two living band members, Sister Doris Marie and Mary Augustine, and to her dear friend and companion Sister Therese Blecha, and to all of us Sisters of St. Joseph who have appreciated and loved our Sister Lucy these 70 years.

Agnes was born on Jan. 15, 1927, to Lucy and John Schneider six miles west of Salina, their sixth and last child. Her siblings were Frances, John, Margaret, Mary and Lucy. Their father, John, died in 1956 and their mother, Lucy, in 1977. Her sister, Mary Ryan, is her only surviving sibling.  

The Schneider family remained close and they often gathered at the family farm. This farm, referred to as “the Land” or the “pasture,” had a great influence in their growing up. During World War II, much of the farming was done alongside their father. By the time she was old enough to help with the farming, the three oldest siblings, Frances, John and Margaret (Sister Monica), were gone from home and the younger three, according to Lucy, “did the farming, joyfully though laboriously with Father supplying all the know-how and preparations.”

Agnes and her siblings attended Sacred Heart School in Salina and the girls attended Marymount. Music was a vital part of her life. The Schneider children had all taken music lessons from early on. Agnes continued studying music at Marymount as well, but she especially loved “playing by ear” as it gave her the most enjoyment. (It was always fun to have Sister Lucy at the piano. All anyone had to do was name a song and she would play it and we would all join in the singing! She’d often make up clever lyrics to familiar tunes for our many festive occasions.)

Agnes entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 1948, and entered the novitiate on March 19, 1949. At that time she received the name “Lucy,” (her mother’s and her sister’s name). Following first vows in 1950, Lucy was sent on mission to Grand Island, Neb. In the years that followed she was missioned to teach in high schools in Manhattan, Sacred Heart in Salina, Concordia and at Marymount College. In the meantime, she also earned her master’s in English at Marquette University in the early ’50s. During the 1960s she attended Notre Dame University earning her doctorate in literature in 1967. Her dissertation, Willa Cather’s “Land-Philosophy” in Her Novels and Short Stories, proved to integrate her own love of the land in rural America.

Upon returning to Marymount, she chose to live at the Children’s Home in Salina during the 1970s and enjoyed ministry there with Sister Mary Lou Roberts, Sister Therese Blecha and Msgr. Alfred Wasinger. She continued to call that “home” no matter where she ventured in ministry. In fact, she said about the St. Joseph’s Children’s Home: It has “grown right into the flesh and bone of my life … I went there in 1969 and have never really left there in any final sense.”

In 1976, Sister Teresa Regal was already working at Red Cloud Indian School, Holy Rosary Mission, at Pine Ridge, South Dakota. She encouraged Lucy to come and join her. This began her love for the Native American people! She spent a year – 1977 — in Pine Ridge and then returned to Salina and Marymount heading up the English Department while living at the Children’s Home.

It wasn’t long before she returned to the north and to Red Cloud Indian School and Holy Rosary Mission where she taught English in the high school, acted as librarian, played the organ for Masses, helped with many other activities of the reservation and just sharing life with the Lakota people. In 1983, Lucy changed locations and moved to our Lady of Sorrows Parish, St. Stephen’s, Lower Medicine Root in Kyle, South Dakota, and St. John of the Cross in Allen, South Dakota. For 14 years Lucy imbibed the culture of the Lakota people. Their culture, their land and their language created within her a genuine reverence and love for all things Lakota.  

She remained there among the Lakota people until June of 1991 when she took on the ministry of coordinator of community services at the Motherhouse, along with Sister Doris Marie Flax. She held this position with Sister Doris Marie for three years, and then with Sister Janice Koelzer, for five more. Lucy loved her time at the Motherhouse. In her words this time “gave her an opportunity to love and appreciate with gratitude the essential goodness of the Sisters and the lay employees.” Of particular note during these years was the land hurricane of 1992 and her admiration and gratitude to Jerry Gallagher who courageously and generously led the Motherhouse household through this difficult time. Also and not least, most of us will remember Maude Dog, whose steady presence graced the outside and sometimes the inside of the Motherhouse.

Following the eight years as Motherhouse coordinator, Lucy directed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Concordia. During the next few years she facilitated the coordination of the RCIA programs between Concordia and St. John the Baptist Parish in Clyde, dividing her time evenly between these two parishes.  

In July of 2000 Sisters Therese Blecha, Lucille Herman and Lucy moved to the community-owned house on 15th street in Concordia. During the years following her “retirement” from full-time ministry, (around the time of her 80th birthday!) Lucy loved playing the organ at the parish, playing for parties at Mt. Joseph Senior Village and Sunset Home, Inc., and sometimes entertaining at Marquis Place, an assisted-living facilitiy. She was also a Eucharistic minister at the hospital, a proofreader for the CSJ newspaper, served at the local food bank, wrote eulogies for “Grains of Wheat,” created song parodies for special occasions and did many of the other “invisible” jobs within the local Concordia community. Lucy described this time as the “FULL TIME PASCAL MYSTERY!”

Although Lucy suffered physical setbacks in the remaining years of her life, including Meniere’s disease and breast cancer, she continued living life to its fullest. Lucy’s love for life and for the land inspired all of us. After many happy years on 15th street, she moved to the Motherhouse in 2015 where she continued to be an inspiration to us. Her spirituality was evident in the way she lived her life. Her devotion to St. Joseph began as a small child. In her life review she said that she always prayed to Joseph “to know my vocation, to have continued peace in our family, and to have a happy death.” This devotion endured throughout her life, even until her death.

Lucy moved to Mount Joseph Senior Village in January of 2018. While there just last July, with a Mass celebrated by her nephew Father Bob Schneider in celebration of her 70th Jubilee, family and friends gathered to share stories and remembrances of Lucy’s full life. Those of us gathered there were enriched by the many stories shared by nieces and nephews and friends telling of their obvious love, appreciation and admiration for Lucy!

Reading Lucy’s life review is like reading poetry! For example, she tells about “the thorn in the flesh” that has occurred a time or two in her life — in ministry, in human relationships — “but also [in] pastures and fields and hills, wheat and gardens and rose rocks, cattle and dogs and cats, meadowlarks and magpies and music, pasqueflowers and sunflowers and alfalfa fields, winds and rains and snows, songs and poems and stories, not to mention grandpas and grandmas, mothers and fathers, teenagers and children and babies. P.S. Windmills!” Nothing is immune to suffering. This wisdom shaped her life. She learned it the hard way as we all do. She learned it in her own experience and from the land which she so dearly loved.

And here’s another quotation from her Life Review: “Someone has spoken of the Incarnation of Jesus in terms of ‘the scandal of particularity’ — Jesus’ being one man, of one time, place, culture. Like my Brother Jesus, I, Lucy, as one person, limited also by time, place and culture. The Father graciously wills it so. And God also graciously wills Jesus’ resurrection and that of “all our relatives,” as the Lakota people say, mine included.” Thus her vision of life came full circle!

In Willa Cather’s novel, “O Pioneers,” Lucy loved the quotation we heard in the reading for this evening’s vigil and it bears repeating:

“We come and go,

but the land is always here,

and the people who love it and understand it,

are the people who ‘own’ it, for a little while.”

Dear Lucy, your presence among us has, like the land, left its loving mark on us and all who have known you, and we are grateful for the gift of your presence these nine-plus decades. We have known you and loved you and we have “owned” one another for a little while. May you now enjoy your new home in “the land” where all your relatives who have gone before you reside!

 

Memorials for Sister Lucy Schneider 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 Lucy Schneider’s memory, click on the button below:

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Comments

3 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Lucy Schneider — Jan. 15, 1927 – Nov. 10, 2019”

  1. Sister Philomene Reiland on November 19th, 2019 11:12 am

    Betty, thanks so much for the wonderful tribute to Sr. Lucy! I don’t go to the CSJ website very often, but today my fingers just typed it in subject line automatically (the Holy Spirit??), and voile! What a wonderful story! It gave my day such a wonderful boost to read about another one of our wonderful saints from the Concordia CSJs. I’m sure Lucy et al are interceding before the throne of God for us!

  2. Sr. Rose Messingschlager, CDP on November 15th, 2019 8:26 pm

    Ah Lucy – what a great lady! I joined Lucy on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1984 and left in 1993. So we spent much time together with the Lakota people sharing in their lives. Always a gentle woman and caring person I treasured and continue to treasure her presence in my life. May our Creating God bless her in her new ministry as she brings her music and poetry to complete fruition among all those holy ones who welcome her now. And may our memories of Lucy be our source of comfort at this time. Thank you, Lucy, for who you were/are to each of us.

  3. Missy Ljungdahl on November 13th, 2019 8:45 am

    What a great tribute to Lucy. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story of a wonderful woman!

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