When a Monastic Nun Dies…

Our friends the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary announce the passing of Sr. Virginia Mary of Jesus, O.P. in her 42nd year of religious life:

We recommend to your prayers the soul of

Sister Virginia Mary of Jesus, OP
(Virginia Racewicz)

who entered Eternal Life
in her 77th year of age
and the
42nd Year of her Religious Profession
May 14, 1934-March 17, 2011

“The Bridegroom is coming!”
(her last words)

Those are great last words. Sister Virginia Mary was buried yesterday, within the enclosure garden of the monastery; even in death, the sister keeps her enclosure and remains with her community.

As the Summit Nuns has written before, of a monastic death:

The body of [the sister] is laid out in the monastery choir until the funeral . . . The nuns keep a 24-hour vigil praying for the repose of her soul. While the Blessed Sacrament is reposed, the nuns continue the Perpetual Rosary.

Of the funeral they have written:

We chant Psalm 19 going to the cemetery and Psalm 25 returning to the choir. Amazingly despite dealing with the stairway and the procession not always being together we usually manage to sing the doxology right when we are all back to our stalls. As the sisters bow profoundly singing the doxology one can’t help be reminded that our vocation of praise and adoration does not cease with death. In point of fact, our whole life, even a life as long as [the sister’s], is just a practice for the life of eternal praise and love!

The Summit Dominicans have been blessed with a number of young new vocations over the past few years; their novitiate is almost full! In a few days two more postulants who have been trying their vocations for about 9 months, will be clothed in the habit of the Order of Preachers, and begin their journey down the real path that may lead, one day, to their being buried in that same small enclosure cemetery, if God wishes it, and she can say “yes.”

I wonder what they think, while they’re participating in all of this, is it frightening or consoling or full of wonderment, for them? What courageous young women, they are.

Writing of the active sisterhood,
Daughter of St. Paul, Sr. Rose Pacatte recently wrote “When a Nun Dies” for NCR:

A few years ago I was at the provincial house in Boston, which is where our novitiate is located, when a death notice was read to the large community after breakfast one morning.

One of our in-house comedians, who was standing next to me, muttered under her breath, “Yeah, here we go again. That’s how we’ll all end up. A leaflet in the archives.” It made me laugh, but it is so true.


The good news is that we continue to upgrade our obituary leaflet status. When a sister passes to her eternal reward, a one-page notice is emailed to all the houses of the congregation, and to every sister who has an email address. A hard copy follows to each house, with a color photo at the top, replacing the black and white images that were added perhaps in the 1960’s. A mass is celebrated in each community for that sister as soon as it is possible. . . .

When a religious dies, there usually is not much left behind except memories, stories and the good that she accomplished, the holiness of her witness, but most known only to God.

A life lived entirely for Christ, leaving nothing behind…seems right, somehow.

Let’s pray for Sr. Veronica and Sr. Veronique as they prepare to take the habit, and for all young people discerning vocations, and our priests and religious!

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