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Funeral Reflection for Sister Rebecca Mayer
Funeral Reflection for Sister Rebecca Mayer
Sister Nancy Miller, Prioress
January 2, 2016
I extend my and the sympathy of our entire monastic community to all of you who are Sister Rebecca’s family. She deeply loved each of you – Vern and Barb who are with us today; Cliff and his wife Karen who are not able to be here; and of course Sister Rachel who preceded her in death. Sister Rebecca spoke of her family, her nieces and nephews and their children with great joy and admiration. She was proud of who each of you have become and what you have done with your lives.
Today we are here to celebrate the life of Sister Rebecca who walked this earth for 78 years, with nearly 60 of those years as a Benedictine Sister of Annunciation Monastery. Sister Rebecca dedicated herself to seeking God through the monastic life and bringing people of all ages closer to God through music and sacred liturgy. She was a faithful, prayerful and joyful woman. Even in the midst of her illness she remained so, much to the awe and wonderment of those around her.
Already in grade school, Sister Rebecca found herself fascinated by the Benedictine Sisters who taught her. As Sister Rebecca said, “The individual attention and caring of the Sister who taught me in the 8th grade helped solidify my desire to be able to do something similar for someone else someday.” The seeds of her vocation which truly were lovingly and gently planted by her parents were nurtured by the Sisters. Five years later when it was time to choose a college to attend, she finally told her mother that she wanted to enter the convent. And it was with her mother’s guidance that Sister Rebecca decided to enter Annunciation Monastery – the same community to which her 8th grade teacher belonged.
With her education in music, Sister Rebecca taught music at Cathedral School in Bismarck, St. Joseph’s in Mandan and St. Patrick’s in Dickinson. She was successful in teaching music to junior high students. Not everyone is blessed with that unique gift! The students were receptive to Sister Rebecca’s guidance and creativity. I think they enjoyed her just as much as she enjoyed them. I know that many of her students still remember her, have stayed in contact with her and have continued their love of music over the years!
Soon her attention to teaching students shifted to full time Liturgy Coordinator at Cathedral and at St. Joseph’s and then to her work at the Pastoral Center as Associate Director for the Diocesan Office of Worship. Her work in the office of worship was really life-giving for her. She treasured those she worked with and valued the relationships with the various pastors scattered throughout the diocese. She often reminisced about her time there – so much that it seemed like it was only yesterday when she ministered there.
The students, adults, pastors, co-workers that Sister Rebecca encountered assisted her on her faith journey. Often times she spoke of how their faith always inspired her! She considered all of it a gift!
But Sister Rebecca was more than her ministry. (Oh, by the way, did I mention she served as organist wherever she lived or worked? And nothing got in the way of that including doctor appointments and chemotherapy sessions!) She was faithful to common and personal prayer and the Holy Eucharist. She cared about others and she generously gave of herself to community and all that was asked of her. Out of her care for good liturgy and music, she led the way in creating the prayer books our community prays from for the Liturgy of the Hours. The 10 volumes took 10 years to complete and she was the right person for the task. Sister Rebecca is one that always payed attention to detail. She thought of everything and utilized the expertise of other community members to complete the project. Three times a day – everyday – we hold those books in our hands, we sing antiphons composed by Sister Rebecca, and we remember her as we sing praise and glory to God! She also composed music for Mass. This music is being used by other religious communities and parishes throughout the United States.
It was a challenge for Sister Rebecca as her health began to wane. I remember when she was first diagnosed with cancer. It was scary yet she had such complete trust in God and that gave her such peace through the challenge. While dealing with her illness she also assisted in our development office and she paid attention to every detail there too. Over the past several months she would come to monastery and keep up on those details and it gave her great relief to be able to complete our annual Christmas card project.
Sister Rebecca longed for God all her life. Through baptism, she was marked with the sign of the cross. And it is through baptism that she and all believers have hope in the resurrection. That is what we celebrate in today’s Liturgy.
Sister Rebecca had this lifetime to experience large and small deaths and resurrections, until at last the day came, and she crossed the threshold into eternal life. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he tells us that “for this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.” We believe that Sister Rebecca now participates in the resurrection where she experiences newness of life, nothing at all will hold her down, certainly not cancer or the effects of chemotherapy, and she will rise to a glory that shall not end. And as we hear from the book of Job, “My own eyes, not another’s shall behold him. And from my flesh I shall see God.” We pray that Sister Rebecca is now seeing God face to face and that she now takes her place among the choir of saints.
Sister Rebecca, we know you drew strength from the Eucharist. Jesus promised that whoever shared in the Bread of Life would live forever. Sister Rebecca, we believe you now possess life forever with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.