Written on: July 27, 2013
Reflection at the Funeral Mass for Sister Mary Sharon given by Sister Jean Liston, GNSH
In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, our second reading today, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit dispenses gifts..all to be used for the common good.
Sr. Mary Sharon possessed many gifts. She was known as a person of integrity with a deep commitment to justice.
Over the years, all of us experienced and witnessed her compassion, especially for the poor, the underprivileged, and the uneducated.
Sister Mary Sharon was a dedicated educator. As an elementary and high school teacher, she modeled for others how to serve; how to create a more compassionate world…
Sister was a talented administrator and a creative leader….
All of these gifts and all of her efforts were aimed at giving glory of God through service to others.
This is especially true for the women and children of Marguerite’s Place.
On December 9, 1990, Marguerite d’Youville, the foundress of the Grey Nuns, was declared a Saint in ceremonies held in Rome. To commemorate this historic event, and in response to economic needs in the United States at the time, the leaders of the Grey Nun congregations in the United States and Canada decided to support a project for the poor. After careful study, a specific focus surfaced…a long-term program for women and children…its location, New Hampshire, where such programs were non-existent.
In 1992, as Superior General, I had the privilege of missioning Sister Mary Sharon and Sister Elaine Fahey to Marguerite’s Place in Nashua, NH.
Marguerite’s Place is a residence for homeless mothers and children. For 16 years under the leadership of Sister Sharon and Sister Elaine, numerous women and children were given opportunities for education, childcare, and housing. Marguerite’s Place became known as one of the most successful institutions in New Hampshire.
In our first reading, the Lord addresses Job out of the storm…After God allowed trial and heartbreak to come into his life, Job began to doubt himself. Everything went wrong, but he refused to accept the role of victim. He never gave up his faith in God. Those who suffer understand this best. This is what Sister Mary Sharon tried to convey to the women who called Marguerite’s Place home.
Sister Mary Sharon’s many gifts and achievements were recognized by others and both she and Sister Elaine received numerous honors and awards. To name a few: In the year 2000, Rivier College presented Sister Mary Sharon with the Thomas Merton/Dorothy Day Award for service to the poor. She also received the State of New Hampshire Award to End Homelessness, as well as a Commendation from Governor Sununu. In addition, a lengthy tribute to Marguerite’s Place was entered into the United States’ Congressional Record by Senator Judd Gregg.
In 2008, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart elected Sister Mary Sharon to serve on the Grey Nun Leadership team. She served for two and a half years before resigning due to ill health.
Thomas Merton once said, “Love is our destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves, alone. We find it through others.” Sister Mary Sharon knew that God was her destiny and that she could find meaning in life through her relationship with God and others.
During her 55 years as a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart, Sister Mary Sharon was known for her generous and self-sacrificing spirit, using her many gifts for the common good…Yes, using her gifts to heal the broken-hearted. Through it all, she never forgot that God was her destiny and only through committed service to others would she find the real meaning of life.
With Job and St. Paul, as Fr. Walter Burkhart writes, we all wonder…“How is it that billions of stars can fly to the heavens more speedily than light? Because an all powerful Christ gives them being. Not once, but continuously day after day. How is it that 4,000 varieties of roses can grow and perfume our earth? Because an imaginative Christ gives them life. How is it that you can shape an idea, construct a building and transplant a human heart? Because a still human Christ gives you intelligence. How is it and how can you believe that the Son of God died for you? How can you confidently expect, YES, to live forever? How can you give yourself unreservedly to God and to your sisters and brothers? Because a living Christ infuses faith in you, fills your flesh with hope and inflames your very bones with a unique love not of this world.”
Sister Mary Sharon, you have loved greatly and, in return, have been greatly loved.
“Rejoice, O highly favored daughter. Blessed are YOU, dear friend, blessed are YOU among women.”
Rest in peace!