We come together to celebrate the life of a woman who loved large during her 69 years as a Sister of St. Joseph. Born to Lawrence and Margaret, Alice grew up in Brooklyn with her siblings and attended Bishop McDonnell High School. Upon graduation she entered the congregation whose mission calls us to unity in love of God and neighbor without distinction. Her love of God deepened through her love of nature, all of God’s creatures and the stars in the heavens. She nurtured that love through her relationships with her beloved family, friends and with time in her cherished space in Weston.
Alice was a teacher who loved her students and expected a great deal from them in parish schools at St. Brendan’s, Our Lady of Victory, St. Camillus, St. Patrick, and Mary’s Nativity. Earning a Bachelor’s from St. John’s University and a Master’s in American Literature from Queens College, Alice happily ministered at St. Joseph’s High School for seven years where she formed lasting friendships. She earned a Master’s in Clinical Social Work from Hunter College and generously used those skills to guide and encourage countless children and families.
Her loving sisters at Joseph’s Pax Christi House provided tireless and compassionate care during her last illness. Just as the first disciples gathered together as a community remembering all that Jesus had told them and wondering how they would continue to minister without him, we gather to remember how Alice influenced our lives. Wonderful images of her have been shared as beacon of light, a star in the darkest of night skies, a sister, aunt, cousin, friend, mentor and yes, a rose. At this Eucharist we are reminded that God is always present in our lives and in the gospel we can hear Jesus’ message to us and I am sure Alice’s message to us:
“I am going to the one who sent me. It is better that I go. If I go, I will send the Advocate. When he comes the Spirit of Truth will guide you to all truth.”
The disciples grew in confidence and they could trust that the Holy Spirit would empower them to do the impossible, to take the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth. That is what Alice did in her lifetime and she leaves us, not alone, but together, to bring the message of God’s patient, truthful, never-failing love to the ends of the earth. Our world desperately needs gospel justice and peace and once again, Alice has challenged us to be the light, the rose, the star in darkness for others. Albert Schweitzer reminds us:
“At times our own light goes out and it is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
Alice has lighted that flame within all of us and she calls everyone here today to be that spark that lights a flame of justice, peace and love in our world.
Sister Alice Wheeler, CSJ died on May 27, 2017 in the 70th year of her religious life.