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Vigil Service for Sister Loretta Luecke - Homily: Deacon Bill Finnegan

The readings for this Vigil Service for Sr. Loretta are beautiful and meaningful readings for all of us gathered here today.  The first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans is a blueprint for how each of us is called to live our life as a Catholic.  St. John’s Gospel reading indicates what awaits us if we live in accordance with God’s will for us.

It is impossible, on this day, to hear that first reading and not think of Sr. Loretta.  Recall St. Paul’s opening words of the reading:

No one lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.  For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.

This is exactly how Sr. Loretta lived and died.  She, and Sr. Joan (and you seldom saw one without the other), decided early on to dedicate their lives to Christ.  While other teenage girls, in the early fifties, were thinking of boys and dances, these two young woman were thinking about how they could serve the Lord. 

A life of prayer was important to them.  Indeed, as I recall, they chose the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, Missouri, because, among other reasons, they prayed the Breviary daily.  Such was the importance of prayer.

Diane, Cindy & I met the sisters almost as soon as we arrived in Alaska, and I have had the pleasure of working with one or both of them ever since.    Sr. Loretta loved Alaska, and the parishes in which she served here.  She served at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, our neighboring parish, for over 10 years, before coming here to Holy Cross in 2002. 

She served the people of Holy Cross through some trying times for our parish - and she was the symbol of stability and continuity that allowed the parish to thrive in spite of not having an assigned pastor for so many years.  She held us together. 

Sister was a force to be reckoned with - a great administrator.  But she also had a wonderful sense of humor.  Those of you who have heard her and Sr. Joan speak about their early life as novices, laughing the whole time, know what I am talking about. 

Those who shared morning coffee with her after daily Mass also got to appreciate her sense of humor.  But after a few stories, she would then announce, “Time to get to work”, and the daily life of the parish would begin again.

She will be sorely missed by all the members of Holy Cross, but especially by the small children who would ever so politely approach her office after Mass, each weekend, to ask for a piece of chocolate from the ever present candy dish.  And you had to be polite and say, “please”, or she wouldn’t give me a piece - I mean, she would not give the child a piece of candy until they did.

On the back of the worship aid you will find a verse from the book of the minor prophet Micah, which she, herself, picked years ago.  It reads, “This is what Yahweh asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with God.”  From my observation, this is exactly what Sr. Loretta did for her entire life. 

The Gospel today promises eternal life in the heavenly kingdom for those who hear the Word of God, believe in the One Who sent Jesus, and lead a life filled with good deeds.  Such a person, when she dies, the reading states, “has passed from death to life”.  That is what we believe has happened to our beloved Sr. Edward Marie, as she was named when she became a novice in 1953, and when she professed her vows, almost 62 years ago. 

She is now in the eternal presence of God, but she is also enjoying the loving embraces of her father, Edward, who died one day after her 15th birthday; her mother, Agnes, who died four days after her 22nd birthday, and just over a year after sister professed her vows; and of Fr. Ernie, the founding pastor of Holy Cross Parish, and a longtime friend.

She and Sr. Joan have been friends since high school, and have been virtually inseparable since coming to Alaska.  As most of you know, Sr. Loretta never liked to fly, and Sr. Joan was her comfort when she did fly.  They will take their final flight together later this week, as Sr. Joan escorts the body of her lifelong friend to her final resting place at the Motherhouse in O’Fallon.

May perpetual light shine upon Sr. Loretta; and may she rest in peace.  Amen.


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