Sister Sally White (Sister Francis Maureen) Overwhelmed by God’s Goodness

Written on: April 2, 2014

In 1942, my family moved to North Atlanta, within walking distance to Christ the King School. I entered 6th grade there and met my first Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart, Sister Mary Alma. For the next 7 years, I studied Grey Nuns and, for me personally, it became apparent that they had a spirit of graciousness, refinement and goodness, rooted in a truly Christian spirit.
I prayed that God would let me know what was stirring within me and eventually God answered. I was one of the first three Christ the King School graduates who entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart.I began my ministerial life as a teacher, walking this ministry path for many years. I taught 6th and 8th grade at Holy Angels parish in Buffalo and 6th and 8th grade at my home parish of Christ the King School, in my home town of Atlanta. I was the first principal of St. Jude the Apostle there. Then, I taught Religion at St. Pius X High School—“PiHi”–for 4 years.

I loved my years in education! But the day came when I felt the need for a change, a fresh start, an opportunity to answer God’s call in a new way. I went into a Master’s program in Pastoral Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans. After I completed the program and all of the necessary certification, a friend working in hospital chaplaincy offered me a job at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. It was, as I look back on my life, a gift from God.
I became Oncology Chaplain, ministering to cancer patients and their families. Although St. Joseph’s Hospital was a Catholic hospital, most of the patients were not Catholic and certainly didn’t know Catholic sisters. I introduced myself to a patient one day and he said, magnanimously, “Ma’am, my preacher told me that even Catholics can go to heaven!” “Well, that is just wonderful news,” I said.
I ministered to many patients in my 22 years there but some remain vividly in my memory. I remember a little lady from rural North Georgia, who was dying. She was just a precious, nice lady and always seemed to be alone. She said to me, “Sister Sally, I never died before and I don’t know how to do it. Will you help me?” It just about broke my heart.
We had many patients dying of AIDS, before the days of the drugs they have now that help people to live longer. They were frightened, they were in pain, they were dying. Many of them were poor. My purpose was, as I saw it, to bring them peacefully to God at the end of their lives.
I sat by their bedsides, even by the bedsides of those who were unconscious. I would talk quietly to them, telling them, “It will be all right. You’ll be fine, you’ll be peaceful. Our loving God loves you and is waiting for you to come home.” I sang to them, prayed with them, laughed with them.

Chaplain, Sr. SallyI remember Emma, a woman in her forties who had a rare form of cancer in her leg. Her leg was amputated but that didn’t control the cancer. Two of us chaplains assisted at her funeral in a Southern Baptist Church, presided over by a female rabbi. We purchased two white doves and released them at her grave. In the silence of a lonely November afternoon, the doves flew heavenward and disappeared into the sky. Emma had gone to God!
Yes, I wept as a chaplain. Yes, I grappled with God. Yes, it was a test of my faith. But I loved the people, I believed in my work and I believed that God was present, even in the suffering. It was an incredible ministry—a gift to me.
My enculturation as a Grey Nun prepared me for my ministry as a hospital chaplain. One’s life as a Grey Nun is always rooted in prayer. That is what has kept me going. If you are not called to religious life, God will let you know. As for me, I have been overwhelmed with God’s goodness in my life.

If you call our Motherhouse and hearing a lilting southern accent, it is probably Sr. Sally- if she calls you darlin’ , you’ll KNOW it’s her!  Sally White


3 thoughts on “Sister Sally White (Sister Francis Maureen) Overwhelmed by God’s Goodness

  1. Anne says:

    I have been thinking about you so much and just now looked you up . Why didn’t I do that before?
    You spoke at Richard’s memorial service at the Lutheran Church in Atlanta in 2006. Before that we had a long time together at St. Joseph’s.
    Please let me know how things are with you.
    I love you.

  2. Peter says:

    I was in your 6th and 7th grade at St Judes in Atlanta and you told me to absolutely contact you later in life for I had a tumultuous life as a child and you tried to reign me in, but little did you know what was going on in my life then. It has been much later than expected as time eats away control. I think it is important that we talk if you would like and reflect. Please send me an email and we can chat

  3. Rev. David Starr says:

    Hi Sister Francis Maureen (Sister Sally),
    Your reflection on your ministry is inspiring especially the part about your chaplaincy. I remember you well from CKS as my 8th grade teacher. I remember when we found out your given name and what a revelation it was that a nun had a real name.
    I am now an Episcopal priest married to an female Episcopal priest. Of course you know my brother, Chris, an Episcopal priest. My stepdaughter is a priest and another is in seminary. Funny how things turn out.
    Affectionately in Christ,

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