When cleaning out Carole’s room in Maria Regina on Sunday afternoon, I came across some hand-written notes from a Retreat that she had given to our Sisters a few years ago. In one session, she has written the following to be shared with the retreatants:
Our relationship with God deepens over the years with a love that continues to call us to be. Our part of the relationship is to continue to say “yes.”\
Each new structure requires a new consent.
Each new awakening or new Yes changes us in some way.
God moves us into a deeper relationship. And we are changed or transformed in some way.
We become reconciled with ourselves and to everyone else and everything else.
That peaceful place of union with God gives us a feeling of harmony and oneness.
I would like to use some of Carole’s own words in sharing my reflection with you today.
Our relationship with God deepens over the years with a love that continues to call us to be. Our part of the relationship is to continue to say “yes.”
Sometimes that relation with God which deepened in Carole’s life over the years was borne out of positive, enriching experiences such as the times spent on a 30 day retreat [not in a suburban retreat house, but rather in a convent on the west side of Manhattan], or the times spent in a hermitage out on LI, or a recent directed retreat made in her own room at Maria Regina. To say that Carole could fine God’s unifying love in any setting is somewhat an under-statement.
But sometimes that deepening relationship with God which calls for one to continue to say Yes to whatever is asked of us, is borne out of pain and sorrow.
Probably, one of the more difficult Yes’s was her time in Puerto Rico. While she may have adjusted to the distress of the heat, it was her mother’s sudden death at Colegio San Conrado a few days before Christmas that later caused Carole to return to the states with a broken heart and some measure of guilt. It was the love of her father and family and the support of the community and friends that carried her through that difficult time.
Each new awakening or new Yes changes us in some way. God moves us into a deeper relationship. And we are changed or transformed in some way.
As I reflect on Carole’s life, I think the time of greatest transformation occurred in Carole when she moved into pastoral ministry in parishes in Brooklyn and Queens or with the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice Team. She loved the interaction with adults and helping them to grow spiritually, with compassion and care for the other; walking with individuals during their final days; or mourning the loss of a loved one.
Those who knew her well saw the change in Carole as she moved into these new ministries. Her spiritual life became more focused, she sensed God leading her in new ways, and she responded to each new call with a YES borne out of prayer and contemplation. That attention to the spiritual life was enhanced when she made the decision to live alone in 1993. Here she created the space for prayer and contemplation, for the quiet she so yearned for.
But Carole did not isolate herself from her family and friends. Her caring heart brought joy and healing to the many persons whom she met along the way. Several have remained life-long friends via telephone calls, emails and Face Book. I told her more than once, that she knew more about my family than I did. She remained part of many circles – whether it be the Holy Rollers from St. Thomas Aquinas Parish or the Ya Ya Girls from the Visiting Nurse Association.
There was also another side to Carole. I sense that most of us here remember her as witty, generous, inclusive and delightful. As one friend who wrote to me said, “Her salty language and unexpected remarks paved the way for people to laugh, relax, and be themselves in her presence.” Of course, the more you tried to get her to change her language, the more persistent she became. No doubt, you can all remember some of those remarks made to you personally or in a larger setting. She thrived on the responses that people made to her. She was authentically herself – a gift of fresh air to all of us. There was no duplicity in her and never did I see her belittle or demean someone by her humor.
Carole loved her family, her many friends – especially her priest friends, her partners in ministry, and her sisters in community. She was for many a confidant, a good listener, a spiritual director, and a voice of wisdom. She loved the presence of family and friends – even calling them when she had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure so they could come to say good-bye. I talked with her last week when I was in Chicago and she mentioned all the people who had come to visit her. I said, it seems that the wake has already begun. Exactly, was her quick response. She even told some that it would be embarrassing if she didn’t die.
I would like to close with Carole’s own words which I quoted in the beginning:
We become reconciled with ourselves and to everyone else and everything else. That peaceful place of union with God gives us a feeling of harmony and oneness.
Carole, you are now in that peaceful place with your loving God. May you experience the harmony and oneness that you have yearned for. And I hope you didn’t use any salty language when God welcomed you with a warm embrace to your eternal home. But, maybe you did!
Angela Gannon, CSJ
Sister Carole Fitzpatrick, CSJ died on June 28, 2019 in the 64th year of her religious life.