Eulogy for Sister Lucille Herman, May 22,1931-Oct. 5, 2011

October 11, 2011 by

VIGIL: Oct. 9, 2011, Nazareth Motherhouse, Concordia

EULOGIST: Sister Jodi Creten

THE DASH ( Shortened form)
By Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning …to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between the years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth,
and now only those who love her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.

A life is measured not by the year of birth or the year of one’s passing, but by the dash between the two, as poet Linda Ellis reminds us. Lucille was blessed with quite a long dash measured in years  — 80 — a nice round number. But how did she live that dash of 80 years that sped by in the wink of an eye?

Lucille’s dash was enthusiastic, full, fulfilling, overflowing and totally given to life and to others. She lived with gentleness, generosity and great heartedness. She was also a woman of tremendous hospitality. Lucille had an enthusiasm for life, and it showed in her demeanor and in her eyes. Having watched, observed and been mentored by this woman of faith for some 54 years, I know that she was up to the challenges, great or small, that were presented to her. Whether it was a difficult new mission assignment, changing from grade school teaching to that of high school, whether it meant teaching all girls in the apostolic school to all boys in a seminary, she could switch gears with acceptance, grace and aplomb. The Maxim that always comes to me when I think of Lucille is Maxim 39, “Be nothing to yourself and be utterly given to God and to the neighbor.”

      Sister Lucille volunteering in Greensburg, Kan.

Lucille Catherine Herman, born on May 22, 1931, in Hays, Kansas, was the younger of two daughters born to Mike and Bridget (Wasinger) Herman. Her parents have preceded her in death. Her sister, Francie, husband, Frank, and their children, Gene Leon, Mary Kay, Chris, Connie, Joan, Gloria, Peter and Dianna, along with their families are here with us tonight. We offer our deepest sympathy to all of you, whom she loved so dearly.

When Lucille was born, her parents had picked a different name for her, but Aunt Sally Herman, wanted her to have the same name as another niece godchild named Lucille, who later became our Sister Vera Klaus. And so it was!

In her life review, Lucille spoke fondly of her childhood: “I recall my childhood as a very delightful time in my life. Another girl in the neighborhood, Alice Befort, and I became best friends at the incredible age of three. We were inseparable until I entered the convent. With only two weeks’ difference in age, we went all through school together, even trying to sit in the same desk when we entered first grade, because we wanted to protect each other from the principal who was known to have a rubber hose that she used on bad children.”

In the second semester of her freshman year, Lucille decided to enter the convent. Let’s listen in on the family conversation around the dining table: “I told my family during supper one evening. Reactions were varied, but the meal came to an abrupt end for all of us. My mother’s response: ‘If that is what you want, and it makes you happy, fine.’ But that night after she had gone to her bedroom, I heard her crying as she and my father talked about it. My father’s response to my announcement: ‘Just remember, if you don’t like it, this is always your home.’ My sister’s response: ‘Oh, yeah! You will be a none-at-all!’ We all know that that teenage response gave way in later life to ‘someone for all!’ One day, sometime later, my father said that if I enter and then decide to leave, it will be for one of two reasons: either because I couldn’t have all of the ice cream I wanted or because I could not go to the theater every time the movies changed.”

To the present, Lucille has loved milk shakes, and we often sat together at DQ or Sonic here in Concordia where she could delight in her favorite treat. And movies? She always enjoyed them!

Lucille was taught by the Sisters of St. Agnes for nine years and admired them as educators but was never drawn to their community. As she says: “It is the mystery of vocation.” And besides, her aunt, Sister Adeline Marie was a Sister of St. Joseph! So, on Sept. 1, 1946, Lucille entered our CSJ community, receiving the habit on March 19, 1947, and the name Sister Mary Richard. Her first profession was on March 19, 1948, and she was finally professed on May 23, 1952. Lucille is survived by her faithful band members, Sisters Christella Buser, Margaret Rourke, Mary Savoie and Vivian Boucher. She is predeceased by band members Sisters Helen Hake and Rose Vaughn. To her band members and to her Circle “R” sisters — Therese, Cese, Carolyn, Lala, Polly, Dorothy, Jan, Shirley, Mary Lou, Lucy, Marilyn S. and Leo Frances — we offer our prayerful support. [NOTE: Sister Leo Frances Winbinger died in the early afternoon on Oct. 5, just hours after the death of Sister Lucille.]

We are all aware of Lucille’s expertise as a dedicated and very fine educator, but did you know that her first mission in 1949 was to New Almelo, Kan., as housekeeper? She has always loved things neat, clean and well organized, but could she cook? Not really! Did she cook later on in life? Not really unless it was on an outdoor grill! But under the guidance of Sister Fulgentius, she says: “I learned to put together some respectable meals!” Living with Carolyn Juenemann these last years, Lucille knew that she wouldn’t have to cook, and that was a relief to her!

Lucille’s love for English literature was probably first nurtured by her superior on mission, Sister Maura, who became a fast friend of the Herman family until her death. An aside about Lucille’s love for lit: shortly after I had first moved to mission in Atlanta, Lucille called and said that she was coming for a literature conference, and would we like to join her at the Fox Theater for the live play “Hamlet” starring Mel Gibson? Would we?! We were there with bells on, and after the performance, we quickly sped to the back door of the theater to catch a glimpse of Mr. Gibson. Not only did we catch a glimpse, but we were in his face and shook his hand before he had a chance to enter his limo!

In 1952, Lucille went to Marymount College  to begin certification for teaching, and from that time on, her teaching career spanned the gamut from  first grade through high school. Lucille spoke fondly of all of her missions and she would often regale me with stories about certain students and faculty members with whom she kept in touch through the years. I never met many of those folks, but I knew them through the word pictures she painted. Lucille taught grade schools in Manhattan, Concordia, and Gladstone, Mich., but in 1961, she was asked to change gears and enter secondary education. She said, “When the time came to leave Gladstone, I was so sad.” She came to the Apostolic School where she “taught for eight years with half of them as director.” Another aside: I was an extremely happy person when Lucille left Gladstone because that year I was in the novitiate, and if she hadn’t been around with her gentle guidance and encouragement during those difficult times, I don’t know where I would be now! I thank God for the gift of her presence at that time and for many times thereafter.

Lucille spent her last year of teaching high school in Grand Island, Neb., and in 1968 she was asked to take the position of Director of Secondary Education at Marymount. She spent time preparing for her tenure there by getting her master’s degree at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. In 1969, she became full-time Associate Dean of Students. Listen to her words about some colleagues at Marymount: “ During this time, I learned to appreciate two of the greatest persons with whom I have ever worked: Jean Sweat and Larry Muff. I could not have asked for a better mentor than Larry.” Of the 10 years Lucille spent at Marymount, the last two were as Alumni Director.

When Lucille’s position at the college was terminated, she found ministry as an educator for eight years at Savior of the World Seminary in Kansas City, Kan., followed by a year in public relations at Notre Dame de Sion Upper School in Kansas City, Mo., and then on to St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan., for another eight years.

Again a change, when she was appointed to community ministry as the Secretary General of the Congregation from 1995-2005. There was no place where she didn’t leave her mark of excellent ministry. At the end of her term in community service, she accepted the assignment of Director of Alumni for Marymount, a position she held until her passing.

Quite a dash, wouldn’t you agree? But the dash has more to do with how one was rather than what one did! And in community, we call that presence.

Elaine Prevalet, SL, in her book, “In the Service of Life,” states that “power is best expressed when we are exercising the gift of being in cooperation with others.” And “to have the sense of being where one belongs, doing what one is given to do, is one of the most liberating experiences of life and one of life’s greatest blessings.”

Lucille’s dash put her in many situations and in many places with a great diversity of  personalities, but she had the inner God spirit and qualities to always meet the challenges. When we went to New Orleans to help after Hurricane Katrina, Lucille was there with hands and heart ready, as she did also in Greensburg, Kan., after the tornado there, and again in Chapman, Kan., because she knew she had gifts that could serve community with community, and she knew that because of the depth of her prayer life that moved from the contemplative interior to the apostolic exterior.  She had so many friends as evidenced by the many cards and kind words of gratitude she received during her illness.  She worked easily with others, always networking and making contacts that would be of service to another. She was never half-hearted or lukewarm. She was not ostentatious. Nothing was beneath her care or attention, whether it was hauling a carload of recycling from Concordia to Salina, making beds at the Motherhouse, serving a meal to the homeless or painting or cleaning toilets. She loved what she did and she did what she loved with sleeves rolled up, a smile on her face, and her big, brown eyes twinkling, always ready and willing to meet the “dear neighbor” wherever that one may be found! What a gift she was to all of us!  Get ready, God, here she comes!

From one who loves literature, to the one who loved it dearly, I’d like to share this poem by Sherman Alexie. This poem’s meaning has revealed itself more to me in these last days spent in Lucille’s presence. Perhaps it takes on meaning for you also.

 Late Summer, Early Fall

She catches a moth,

stunned

by sun and windows.

Cradles it outside, uncups

her hands and lets it fly.

How often do we humans save

what can be saved?

This morning

a young woman has redeemed our kind

by releasing a moth.

O, she half spins and laughs,

and her laughter flutters along with the moth.

This woman catches me watching her.

I laugh and catch my breath.

Make a note. On Oct. 5, 2011, beauty defeated death, and our sister, our aunt, our friend and companion, Lucille, went home to the God she so faithfully served.

 

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Comments

3 Responses to “Eulogy for Sister Lucille Herman, May 22,1931-Oct. 5, 2011”

  1. Elizabeth (Betsy Gasperich) Miller on January 6th, 2012 5:37 am

    Dear Sister Mary Richard, (Lucille Herman)
    I first knew you at All Saints School in Gladstone, Michigan….the beautiful nun who taught the young ones…..and then at the Apostolic School…thanks for all the kindnesses and love that you bestowed on each of us (Aspirants) . You were indeed an example of love, compassion and “FUN”…especially when we had picnics and our plays…what a great time we had….I was so happy that we got to meet again and visit the summer of 2010 in LaGrange. You looked fabulous and it was such a treat to remember those times at the Motherhouse.
    Thanks for all you did…..BEAUTIFUL LADY!

  2. Margaret Tassione on November 18th, 2011 11:26 am

    This has been a long time in coming, but I wanted the community to know how much Sister Lucille meant to me. I was fortunate and blessed to have Sister Lucille as a teacher at the Apostolic School. She fostered my love of literature and writing from the moment she came on staff. I recall her bringing in records of the plays of Shakespeare and explaining to us just what they meant.

    The “Aspirants” always enjoyed and looked forward to her weeks “on duty” with us. She was fun, she was lively, she had a sense of humor, laughed readily, gave of herself, and was so kind to everyone. She was never too busy to speak with anyone at any time. Sister pulled me through a terrible bout of homesickness my sophomore year, and I sincerely believe she set me on the path to youth librarianship I so love.

    Liz Miller and I had the pleasure of visiting with Sister Lucille in LaGrange, Illinois when she and some of the Sisters were here a few summers ago. She shared with us how she was so surprised at being assigned to the Apostolic School, had no idea how to grade a term paper, but how she ended up loving it.

    She was a godly person, full of energy and smiles. I loved her dearly and think of her often, directing Heavenly business. She meant a lot to many young girls who became better women for knowing her.

    You are wonderful women who made a difference in my life. Thank you, bless you.

    Margaret Tassione (nee Morissette)

  3. Patty & Joe Valiquette on October 17th, 2011 7:32 pm

    Sister Lucille was a “Special” person and friend of our family. Sr.” Mary Richard’ at that time, taught me in 3rd grade at All Saints in Gladstone. I remember at Christmas time we made little baby Jesus cribs out of brown paper and pinned them on the side board in the classroom. Any time we did something for someone we cut little yellow straw pieces to fill our crib getting ready for baby Jesus to come. I still have a card signed from my 3rd grade classmates and Sr. Mary Richard while I was a patient in the hospital that year. She was a caring, giving and beautiful lady who will always be remembered. Patty

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