15 October 2010

To a Religious Dying Old

I recall pulling Sr. Kitty aside some time ago and telling her that I was leaving my youth ministry job to pursue my vocation.  Her eyes twinkled, and without hesitation she asked, "What order?"  She knew, you see, that my heart would be drawn to religious life.  "The Capuchins," I answered and Kitty beamed.  "They do good work."  She gave me a big hug, promised me prayers and we parted.  That was more than two years ago.  That was the last time we spoke.  And today I'm a simply professed Capuchin friar now and she left us yesterday to be with the Lord.    

Kitty always knew, actually.  With an impish grin on her face, she knew the hearts of people just by looking at them.  Perhaps she could be scattered in her thoughts and in her later years, her southern gait slowed more rapidly than her southern twang.  But, she always knew the heart.  I can recall her picking up a man on some street in Baltimore that she had just met.  He spoke little English; my meager Spanish dwarfed hers.  And yet, Kitty knew this man needed help.  She knew that it was safe to nearly force him into her station wagon and get him a job, if only for a day.  

Sr. Kitty adopted Baltimore and Baltimore adopted her.  She moved through the Hollins' Market area with muddled steps, but an air of confidence and belief.  The heat, the weather, the city's refusal to heed her supplications to fix this or clean that, all melted away as she introduced work camp participants those she had previously met on the street.  She'd make the introduction and let the Baltimore native explain their existence in the city.  She'd turn to me, and in a confidential and loving tone confess, "I'm worried about her."  "We need to keep him off the streets."  "We've really been able to help this family."

Kitty went to her eternal reward yesterday.  I have not seen her obituary yet, but I don't need to see it.  You see, Kitty Nueslein probably won't ever make it to my "deceased" prayer list, she'll compel me to keep her on the living list.  I must confess, there's nothing more beautiful than a religious dying old; it is the best of both worlds: we live our lives in service and then head home to the One we served.

God speed, Kitty.  (Sr. Katherine Nueslein, RSM)


Sarah said...

This is a great tribute to Sr. Kitty Nueslein, RSM. I came across it while I was looking for her obituary. I had the pleasure of meeting and knowing Sister Kitty while I was a Bon Secours Volunteer in Baltimore last year. She was a wonderful woman and will truly be missed by many. Thanks for sharing your memories. -Sarah

UP said...

Didn't know her, but I wish I had.


Maggie said...

This note about Sr. Katherine truly made me smile. I worked with Sr. Katherine back when I was a volunteer with CapCorps in Baltimore. She was truly amazing and someone I will never forget. Thank you for writing it.

mtjofmcap said...

My pleasure Maggie.

She was, no, is, one of the best.

We're a richer Church because of her and a poorer one because we have her no longer.

Vincent said...

Very touching and true tribute. I worked with Sr. Katherine when I was in CapCorps Baltimore in the 90s. Unfortunately I was not aware of her passing until now. Thank you for writing it.