When you read the Obituary of a Sister, you see the list of her ministries and the years of her service.
Does one wonder who was this woman?
Shortly after Muriel’s birth a nurse said to her mother, “these little feet are going to go where no feet have ever gone.” How true that was!
She had a small family. Her mother, father, her sister Florence, brother-in-law, Jack and her nephew, John, all of whom she loved dearly and all pre-deceased her. So it was a privilege that our families and we became her family. As Muriel would say, we were the “4 daughters she never wanted”.
This past Sunday, we heard from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians: There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit, different kinds of service but the same God, different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone.
Muriel T. Smithwick, a woman gifted beyond measure. On Friday, I went through Muriel’s address book and called her many friends. I called her dear friends, Dolores, Norma, Faye who shared with her so many of life’s adventures. I called the many places of her ministries: California, Florida, Westchester, Jersey, Long Island.
What I thought would be a difficult task was, in fact, one that was so uplifting and inspiring. Each person I spoke with recalled Muriel’s zest for life, her vibrant, whole hearted relationship with each of them, her thirst for knowledge, her skill at communicating, her vitality. She was always up for anything, always ready to celebrate. One said to me, “once she met you she knew you forever”.
Her obit will read that she was a teacher and principal in multiple elementary and high schools… by far, an extraordinary teacher of Italian. She was a diocesan supervisor in Brooklyn and Newark.
Muriel met obstacles and with her deep faith in God and with her “will of iron” she embraced them and moved forward with that same joie de vivre.
In 2003, she was diagnosed with fairly advanced macular degeneration.
Unable to see beyond shadows, her keen mind helped her to recognize voices and continue to engage in vital, stimulating conversations.
Forced to retire, she became the “mistress of Bragg Street”. She memorized telephone numbers: plumber, electrician, exterminator, pizza parlor, Chinese restaurant – all orders went through Muriel. She even managed to continue to bake a great key lime pie!
No longer able to read, she listened to the noon day and nightly world news, to the reading of the congregational news, to every best seller on disc. Each evening at dinner she asked for the “scoops” and updated us on the latest best seller.
Every evening as Muriel went up to her room she would say, Sogni d’oro – golden dreams a domani – till tomorrow.
And now we know that all of Muriel’s tomorrows will be spent in the embrace of a loving God –and so, Muriel… Sogni D’oro, A domani
Sister Muriel Smithwick, CSJ died on January 14, 2016 in the 71 year of her religious life.