I am also grateful for big things. In particular, I am grateful for the life of Sr. Laurencia Listerman, an Oldenburg Franciscan sister who died late last week at 101 years of age. Sister Laurencia never stopped thinking. Her mind was as clear as a bell to the day she died. Recently, she asked for a list of the names of all U.S. senators and congressmen as she had a few letters she wanted to write to them about some issues that were important to her.
She also recently told one of her sisters that all her life, when she reads a book, she reads it twice. Given her age, she had decided that she was going to start reading books only once.
When I was a student at Scecina Memorial High School where Sister Laurencia was an important mentor to me, she once told us in class, "Remember that it isn't always what you know. It is who you know." Her practical nature was a close second to her idealism.
Sister Laurencia was a true wit and an excellent listener. I recall that she took any thought from her students very seriously. She might look at you incredulously and even disagree with you or sometimes even argue with you - though it was really more of a dialogue - but she always listened to you. She showed her amazement about something you might tell her by opening her mouth and rolling her eyes.
She had the look of a patrician when she wanted to and would raise her head with a glare that suggested she was ready to pose for her closeup.
Sister Laurencia's death was the second of two this week that affected me deeply. The other was John O'Connell, a Chicago native, a layman six years older than I, who, along with his wife, befriended me when I was in the seminary in St. Louis. It was in the late 1960s and the seminary offered some lectures on the Second Vatican Council to the public. John attended and, never knowing a stranger, got familiar with the seminarians. Some of us were invited to his home for dinner and to meet his wife Judy and the five children they called their own. The family eventually left St. Louis and moved to Louisville briefly before ending up In Indianapolis where they have lived for more than 30 years. John was another kind of mentor as he ultimately became someone who practiced what we call the works of mercy most generously and frequently. His faith was one of the deepest I knew.
These losses are as important to me as the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, is to the nation. They mean more to me than the terror that is in the Islamic state. My world has become much smaller.