Friday, August 13, 2010

Trauma ICU...

St. Paul writes, “There are different gifts but the same spirit (1 Cor. 12:4)." I have spent several of the last 13 days in the Trauma ICU at Fairfax Hospital. The women and men who work there were given a special gift by God – a gift most do not receive. It is their task – their burden – to care for our loved ones in critical circumstances, and often, to sustain life itself. 24/7 ICU nurses watch and tend our sisters. In spacious, glass-enclosed rooms, they monitor vital signs and administer medications. Everything in the room has a function. Everything has been placed there to support or to heal. It is the ICU nurse who is on the front lines of the battle for life. I have been in awe of these good women and men. They are doing for our sisters what we cannot do. They are ever-watchful, respectful of our presence and attuned to the needs and dignity of each patient. They never seem to forget that these “patients” are our sisters - that every person in ICU is loved by someone.

Yesterday, Sister Anne Marie took a huge tin of her chocolate chip cookies to the nurse’s station. Their delight in that small act of gratitude was so genuine. Today, I praise the God of many gifts who has blessed our nurses with the courage, skill and knowledge to walk the line between life and death – the tender place where God decides what is best for each one who suffers. May God bless them and all who use their gifts to comfort and heal.
Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Our "good shepherd"...

On the day of the accident, some time after we learned of Sister Denise’s death, a familiar face walked into the Waiting Room at Fairfax Hospital. Bishop Loverde had received a phone call from the hospital chaplain, Fr. Charles Merkel. He came to be with us – to bless us in the hour of our anguish. Bishop stayed with us for nearly an hour. He listened patiently as we told the story. Then, with Sister Cecilia, Bishop entered the Trauma ICU to anoint and pray for our sisters.
Several days later Bishop came to be with us again as we buried our sister, Denise. Bishop came knowing that there would be a sea of mourners and media trucks camped out across the street. He came because we needed him and I will never forget that gift. At the end of the funeral Mass, Sister Veronica and I, as pall bearers, wheeled Sister Denise’s casket out of the Chapel. As we passed by him, Bishop Loverde blessed her body over and over again with the sign of the cross. In that moment Christ was truly present to me in our good shepherd. In his blessing I felt peace.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Words fail...

It’s been one week since the accident. I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. I have had no words to express what these days have been like for us. What I say now I say as one sister among many. First, I want to thank everyone who has offered prayers for our sisters and for our community. We feel them – they are holding us up. Never has the power of prayer been clearer to me. So many people have reached out to help us through these awful days: Benedictines from PA, MD, NJ, AL, MN, KS, Oblates, friends and family. In this pain we have discovered the depth of love around us. Words fail…both in sorrow and in gratitude.

We buried Sister Denise on Friday. Several hundred mourners gathered with us to sing God’s praise for the gift of her life. Our Gathering Space was transformed into Africa – tables laden with art, photos and fabric told the story of our sister’s life and ministry. Even in our grief there was real joy for the sister whom we love is forever in God’s embrace.

Sister Charlotte and Sister Connie Ruth remain in critical condition. We are waiting in hope by their beds for signs of improvement and healing. Your continued prayers are a gift to us.
I find myself wondering if we will ever get back to “normal.” It would seem that time itself has been divided – “before” the accident and “after.” The only “normal” is our prayer. When I am with my sisters praying those ancient words I feel peace. The psalms are so rich with feeling. They speak alternately of profound sorrow, deep joy, righteous anger and genuine thanksgiving. No matter which one we pray, it touches a feeling inside me for I have felt all these things in the past seven days.

There is so much we cannot know now. The days and months ahead will bring new challenges and new graces. I do know that I have never been prouder to be a Benedictine Sister of Virginia. We have been of one mind and heart throughout this tragedy. We have clung to each other and to our loving God. We have clearly articulated the Gospel mandate of forgiveness and given witness to the grace that comes when we walk in His footsteps. The love we have for one another in Christ is truly stronger than death. It is a love without limit or exceptions. It is ours to give to God’s people through the Church and to the young man behind the wheel of the car that killed our sister. Forgiveness, mercy and compassion…Sister Denise would have laid down her life for less.

Blessings and love to you all...

- Sister Vicki