In the opening ritual we just responded with a phrase from our congregation’s Vision Statement: a life that is simple, prayerful, courageous and compassionate. Truly that was Edyth’s vision for her life as a Sister of St. Joseph for seventy one years. Her deep spirituality enabled her to do whatever needed to be done selflessly, graciously and with great compassion.
Born to Mary and John, Edyth grew up in Brooklyn, attending St. Mark’s Parish School and St. Brendan’s High School. In those formative years, times together and love of horses created close family bonds as Edyth’s love for all of them grew.
After entering the , Edyth taught elementary grades and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies from St. Joseph’s College and a Masters from St. Bonaventure. An excellent teacher, she always brought out the best in her students and was so sensitive to their needs for encouragement and support as they faced challenging situations in their personal lives. She helped them live one of her favourite mottos: “Smart people never put other people down.”
Edyth always saw the needs of others and quietly and surreptitiously met them. With family, it was getting the deck of the lake house fixed, in community it was widely known: ”Edyth will take care of it.”
Our congregation recognized Edyth’s many gifts which included her ability to build community and that is what she did as Assistant and Principal of Our Lady of Perpetual Help for thirteen years and then for ten years as Principal of Sacred Heart Academy. Always able to take the perspective of another, Edyth sensitively helped to reconcile differences and bring people together for the sake of the entire school community. Even after leaving full time ministry, Edyth empowered the young women at Bishop Kearney High School to produce the annual yearbook and went to great lengths to make sure it was done well.
Edyth did enjoy life with family time in Saratoga, loving her grandfather Sunny Jim and the racehorses. Family and friends know the story of Sunny Jim’s liniment, a liniment for horses that he viewed could heal anybody’s cuts or bruises. If you complained that it was meant for horses he confidently replied: “If it is good enough for a million dollar race horse, it is good enough for you. ” It was a cure- all and I believe Edyth was viewed as a “cure-all” by all who knew her. Saratoga was also the place where Edyth cared for her brother the year after he suffered a stroke.
Edyth enjoyed literature and Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea was a favourite. The image of the wounded healer was an inspiration not to run from pain but to bear it in order to heal. Edyth experienced this in her own life struggling with cancer and awaiting healing. She savored that news of healing as she savored every moment in front of her. She recognized God’s hand in everything and truly lived with a grateful heart. God was truly with her in every moment of her life.
It is the season of Advent a time to be awake, alert to God’s presence in our lives as we wait in expectation to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Edyth’s practice for Advent was to spend quiet time with God. She never anticipated that this Advent she would enjoy the fullness of that presence with the mystery of God’s love unfolding. I am sure that she continues to take care of us as she wishes for us in the words of St. Paul “May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith and may you be rooted and grounded in love…..knowing the love of God that surpasses all knowledge, so that you may be filled with the fullness of God.
Sister Edyth Therese Fitzsimmons died on November 30, 2020 in the 71st year of her religious life.