We come together as sisters, associates, co-ministers and friends to remember and celebrate the life journey of our sister, Eileen Diana Christie. In remembering, we are drawn to the mystery of Eileen’s last journey in Lake Hallstatt, Austria and the long waiting to know how she went missing. But in that waiting we became more aware of her precious life and its influence on countless persons.
We were joined in the waiting by her sister Florence, her nephew Bill, her sisters in community, Mary, Pat, Jeanette, Linda and our entire congregation. We learned early on of the companionship of many who cared deeply from St. Anthony’s Parish, St Patrick’s, St. Anthony’s High School and so many who prayed and waited with us. Many here today were together at a national gathering of the Sisters of St. Joseph when we heard the news that Eileen was missing. So we were joined in our waiting by the entire Joseph Family of Sisters and Associates in the United States and Canada who hoped and prayed with us.
As we reflect back on the time of waiting it held its times of anxiety and fear but also allowed us to remember how Eileen touched so many lives with care and compassion. It brought so many together from the various communities in Eileen’s life to pray and encourage one another.
In the reading from Lamentations we will hear in today’s liturgy, we are reminded that God’s kindness is not exhausted. In remembering Eileen we can rejoice that her connections with so many was a way for God’s kindness to touch and encourage others who, in turn touched an encouraged one another. This includes all of the Austrian Police and our US embassy staff who searched over an extended time with all of the resources at their disposal.
Eileen trusted in her loving God and took many opportunities to be in silence and solitude in places of natural beauty, filled with the grandeur of God. Whether it was the seashore, the woods or the mountains, Eileen strengthened her faith and trust in God’s unconditional and all-inclusive love. It is not a love to be kept to oneself but to be shared. So, as Eileen shared that love with all of us here and so many who are with us in spirit, she would want us to do the same. As we hear in the gospel of John: “As God has loved me so I have loved you, remain in my love.” If we are to remain in God’s love we must understand that every living being and all of creation is imbued with that love and nothing can be excluded.
As we celebrate Eileen’s life we can be consoled by the vision of Pope Francis described by our sister, Beth Johnson:
“At the end we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God.” Rather than enjoying this by ourselves, “eternal life will be a shared experience of awe in which each creature resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place. All creation “will share in unending plenitude.” The fullness of God will be our common home.” We can be certain that Eileen entered into that fullness from a place of exceptional beauty and peace.
Let us be grateful for Eileen’s life and her example of compassion and awe. In over two years of waiting for closure we have come to appreciate her presence with us and have kept her memory alive. Today we celebrate Eucharist in her memory, a celebration of thanksgiving. We will bless a memorial stone in our cemetery as a reminder of Eileen’s life with us.
We are grateful to Dr. Mascolo and his wife Evelyn who placed a memorial plague in Austria, at Lake Hallstatt. Its inscription will give witness to Eileen’s life with us and reads:
“Sister Eileen went missing at this site in July of 2016. Sister was a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. She taught at St. Anthony of Padua Grammar School and d St. Anthony’s High School in Long Island, New York. Sister was an avid traveller and loved by many. She had a profound effect on countless lives and is greatly missed. Plaque placed on October 15, 2018.”
We, too, miss her but hold her in our memories and in our hearts. To this we say Amen.
Sister Eileen Christie, CSJ was lost on July 6, 2016 in the 45th year of her religious life.