There are many things that can be recalled in the life of Sr. Susan Helen. Her fun-loving spirit, her spunk and quick wit are characteristics played out in each of our lives and in very unique ways, leaving precious memories that we will all hold onto. “Oh! By the way Sr. Susan, just a few quick questions: Did God meet you with a dainty pair of pink shoes at that pearly gate? Did he have a cup of your favorite Duncan Donuts coffee in hand? Did he welcome you with the name of Auntie? Sassy Susie? Lamby Duck or Susie Q? Can you see this beautiful pink splash that we have made for you?” You don’t need to respond right away but we are curious! However one thing we are certain of is that you are in good, gentle and loving hands!
All these memories bring smiles and lighten our hearts. But I believe the greatest memory we all hold in our hearts about Sr. Susan Helen was her profound and dynamic apostolic life. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, in describing an apostle wrote:
She also filled many roles in her long religious life: dean of studies, director of editorial, author, teacher, novice mistress, local superior, provincial superior and more. But it seems to me that the need to write and make the faith known was what she felt most passionately. And she also encouraged others to write and contribute to editorial. How often she repeated in our formation years, that if we studied we had to give back by writing.
The apostle is one who carries God within her soul and irradiates Him to others.
The apostle is a saint who accumulates treasures and communicates its surplus to humanity.
The apostle has a heart glowing with the love of God and the love of humanity, and can neither restrain nor suffocate what she feels and thinks.
(Thoughts p 159)
These words seem to me to be a summary of Sr. Susan Helen’s life. Her fidelity and love for prayer was what she carried and irradiated to others. Her words of encouragement and her sensitive spirit was communicated to the people she came in contact with and all this left a lasting impression on their lives.
In the years after Sr. Susan left the community of New York, I would often return to her section on the west side of downtown New York where Sr. Susan carried out direct evangelization. Often the people would ask us: “Where is that sister with the BIG Smile? Or they would bring us to some special corner of their office and pointing to a small leaflet taped to the wall would say: “Look at what she left me – I read it every day: “Smile God loves you!” People of every creed and culture missed her warmth and gentle words.
Sr. Susan knew how to accumulate treasures – every opportunity was an experience of “studiosita”, a Pauline word which means to learn from everything. Everything was a subject of contemplation. She would notice so many details in the life of the persons she met. These became the subject of her prayer and the creative juice behind her writing skills. Sr. Susan had a deep thirst for learning. She excelled in her studies. But she felt her knowledge could not simply remain a framed diploma on her wall but knowledge that needed to be transmitted into apostolic works. Her written works, her classes, her apostolic and formational animations were the fruit of her studies. She wanted to give back to God the gifts that he so generously bestowed on her.
Finally Sr. Susan had a heart that glowed with love for humanity. How she loved to be out among the people. Her days on direct evangelization and in the Book Center were cherished moments. I remember wanting to sit at table with her on the days she came home from the Book Center. Her stories and remembrances of all those souls she met were filled with wonder and excitement. How she rejoiced that she could reach out and serve them through our apostolate. She seemed renewed, energized by these encounters… She would glow with happiness. She truly could not restrain or suffocate the zeal and love for humanity that she felt so profoundly.
The time has come to say good bye Sr. Susan. You will be missed. No one can fill those shoes. For many of us you were a teacher, a mentor for evangelization, a Junior formator, a co-novice, a companion in the editorial department, an active member of the Queen of Apostles community and a “dear terror” to the infirmary staff, but for all of us you were and will continue to be a companion on our religious and apostolic Pauline journey. Your life seemed too short on this earth. But there is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads: “It is not length of life, but depth of life.” The depth of your life remains with us and you remain, “Forever a part of our lives”. We love you Sr. Susan and may you rest in God’s merciful, eternal and loving arms.
Sr. Margaret Edward, FSP
Funeral Eulogy, August 2013