There are some things about Sister Adelaide that I will never forget. She was born the year our congregation was founded, in 1914. I lived with her in New York for a year. On the eve of All Saints Day she dressed up as St. Therese, the Little Flower. Turning her eyes upward to imitate an angelic being, she spritzed every Sister with rose room freshener. The convent and the nuns smelled like roses for a week. Her desire to keep her sisters healthy was evidenced in the way she prepared our meals, with one exception. Each day groups of Sisters packed books to take out on the streets of New York. Walking to the Staten Island Ferry and on to Manhattan subways as we traveled to our destinations gave us quite an appetite. Sr. Adelaide’s Reese’s peanut butter cup sandwiches came to the rescue! Her recipe: place chocolate from end to end between two slices of bread and smash it down. This was not one of her healthy meals, except for the healthy dose of love.
I enjoyed the times I drove Sr. Adelaide to visit friends in New York factories. As she handed out the latest issue of The Family magazine, their faces lit up. Even today, over thirty years later, I remember stories about this small, slightly bent Sister with an engaging smile and warm chuckle. Sr. Adelaide brought the joy of the gospel in her encounter with others.
Her patron’s feast day is December 16th. Saint Adelaide is the patron of brides, in-law problems, parenthood, parents of large families, second marriages, step-parents, widows, princesses, empresses, exiles, prisoners and abuse victims: a very impressive list for Catholic mom readers. Her story reminds me of a Sister Adelaide story that occurred after her death.
Though I lived in Chicago I was able to attend Sr. Adelaide’s funeral in Boston. Another Sister and I drove up to our publishing house to deliver items and pick up a large book order. Sr. Adelaide’s funeral wasn’t sad; it was a time of celebrating all she brought to the beginnings of our order in the United States. When it was time to leave we had the joy of welcoming a new Sister to our community. We rented a U-Haul to accommodate our book order and moving boxes. During our journey home we prayed for Sr. Adelaide and recounted memories. We sang, prayed and bumped along Highway 90 until a flat tire slowed us down. Putting on our emergency lights, we stayed in the right lane and drove on toward the next exit. A short distance later a gasket blew and steam poured out of our hood. We pulled over.
These were the days before cell phones. Our best chance of getting help was to hop the fence and find someone home. It was cold outside. We began knocking on doors and ringing doorbells. No one answered. About ten houses later a lady opened her door. She greeted with unexpected words, “My prayers are answered! I asked God to send someone to pray with my son. He is dying in the next room.” Before telling her of our troubles we knelt around her son’s bed. He was a young man of thirty. The doctors had told her there was nothing they could do. There was no hospice or home care at this time. We listened to her story and after a bowl of hot soup we asked her name. Adelaide, she said.
For me, this story is about God’s Providence and the amazing intercessors we have in the communion of Saints. It took a flat tire and a blown gasket to get us to stop in Adelaide’s neighborhood. We knocked on doors until we reached hers. I am reminded that each of us is an instrument of God’s love. This Advent we share stories of hope, of holy men and women waiting for the Promise of God. We share the salvation story passed on for generations. Our family faith stories are just as important for rooting the faith in children as we connect them to the greatest story ever told.
- This Advent which one or two faith stories can you share around the table?
- What stories did you hear from your parents or grandparents?
- What story do you have about the intercession of a saint?
- Tell a story about the power of prayer in your life.
- Retell the story of Christmas in your own words.
- Ask other family members if they have faith stories to share.
Here is a timeline of some stories my order shares as a celebration of our 100 years of founding. 100 Years of Stories
Copyright 2016 Sr. Margaret Kerry, fsp