Monday, January 19, 2009

My concern has always been for the people who are victimized, unable to speak for themselves and who need outside help.
Joan Baez

The picture here was taken at the closing dinner of the Marianist Sisters' Province Assembly in the 2007. It is one of my favorites... the oldest American Marianist Sister, Sr. Laola Hironaka, with me, the youngest American Marianist Sister.

On Friday evening, Jan. 17, Sr. Laola passed away peacefully after suffering a short, but aggressive illness. She was 83 years old.

What can I say about this amazing woman? For one, she loved life. She had a certain joie de vivre. She loved to dance (who else can hula in their 80s??)... she loved to laugh... she liked long conversations with friends and sharing stories. She enjoyed meeting people who were different from herself and really taking an interest in their lives. In other words, she never met a stranger. Everywhere she went she would engage people she had never met in conversations about their lives, their hopes, struggles, joys and families. She loved people....

This love for people was clearly seen in her tireless work for peace and justice. While doing graduate studies at UC Berkeley, she got involved with Amnesty International in its first years. She wrote letters and started petitions on behalf of prisoners of war and those imprisoned unjustly. She became what's called a country specialist - studying the justice issues of a particular country to raise awareness and to help people get involved in ending the injustice. This continued from her time at Berkeley until pretty recently. She also was involved in the fight to end human trafficking (

Although Sr. Laola was one of the most intelligent people I knew (she was brilliant, really) her "fight" against injustice was not a solely intellectual pursuit for her. For instance, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when hundreds of evacuees where sheltered in San Antonio, she visited them daily... listening to stories, bringing a pair of shoes to one woman who asked, playing with children, praying with people... just being present to them. She always said that she wished she could do more...

She lived with a joy that was rooted in her deep faith in God. That is where she found the energy (and believe me, she had energy) and the desire to do what she did. I would be tempted to say that she was saintly. However, I can hear her now saying, "Saintly?! Why would I want that boring life?!" Did I mention her sense of humor?

She had a love for beauty in all its manifestations... from wildflowers she'd pick on her walks, to the ocean beaches in her beloved home of Hawai'i... from cool breezes to the sunsets she and I would watch from the driveway of our home in San Antonio... She had the kind of vision that could truly enjoy what was good in gratitude and humility.

I started this blog with a quote from one of her favorite artist... and someone with whom she had a relationship because of her time at Berkeley. Another fascinating thing about our dear Laola was the fact that she had connections in the music industry that I could never quite figure out. Why would Bono call our house to chat with her? Or how could she talk about Joan Baez as if she was one of our neighbors? By the way, a few days after the Bono phone call she says to me, "Oh, do you know him?" ... She was completely unfazed by celebrity. For her people were just people... all deserving respect... whether they be famous or homeless. It didn't matter to her. That was the beauty of her spirit.

I could go on and on. I learned a lot from her and enjoyed living with her immensely. I'll end with one of her favorite passages from Scripture...

Deep is calling on deep, in the roar of waters: your torrents and all your waves swept over me. ~ Psalm 42 (Monday Week II of the Psalter, morning prayer)

Many blessings to all who read this... Sr. Laola, pray for us
Sr. N

Sunday, January 11, 2009

You must blame my busy schedule 
and not my heart for my delay in extending to you my New Year's wishes.... 
May you make great spiritual strides during this year...
Venerable Mother Adele de Batz de Trenquelleon
Foundress of the Marianist Sisters
Letter 634, January 12, 1826

I tell you, I just can't get over the speed with which the days go by! It seems that I just wrote yesterday and yet weeks have gone by. I hope you can forgive my neglect!

I begin tonight's post with a quote from our foundress. It is appropriate as her feast day was yesterday. The words of the quote are also quite appropriate given the situation. Anyway, we did not celebrate her feast day yesterday, per se, though. Yesterday we celebrated the life of a committed Lay Marianist who passed away late last month. Tomorrow, we will celebrate the life of Mother Adele.

Yesterday evening members of various Marianist communities, both lay and vowed, gathered for Mass at Queen of Apostles Parish to remember the life of Joe Cavanaugh, a graduate of the University of Dayton, Lay Marianist, committed husband, and a tireless advocate of peace and justice. There were stories told, laughter, tears and a shared meal following the Mass. We supported his widow and each other in our shared loss.

Tomorrow evening, the Marianist family and students will gather for a vespers service at UD followed by a reception to celebrate the example given in Mother Adele. After that, our community will share supper with one of the communities of Marianist brothers and priests.

As Marianists we celebrate well. We gather in good times and in sad times... to welcome new people to our Marianist family, to recall our founders and their vision... to bid someone farewell... We celebrate by sharing Eucharist and stories, laughter and tears, prayers of thanksgiving and of petition and always support, companionship, love for one another and faith in the God that has called us to be Marianists.

This, I believe, is part of our gift to the Church and the world as Marianists. Not, of course, our only gift... and maybe not our most important one, but a gift nonetheless. And that I sometimes take for granted and forget how thankful I am for this our Marianist family.

Yes, we celebrate well. But, we don't celebrate just for ourselves or just to have an excuse for fun...

We celebrate as a witness and a reminder that God is faithful. We come together and invite others to join us as a reminder that all people are invited and no one is to be left out. And we come together to renew a sense of common mission and family - we do not do this alone. We support, challenge and encourage one another in word and mostly by example. 

In a world that seems so wrong and all messed up, we gather in a spirit of hope and faith - God... life... love are the victors.

Many blessings to all who read this!
Sr. N