Funeral Reflection for Sister Stephanie Dolyniuk
~ Sister Nicole Kunze, Prioress
January 5, 2024
We gather as a faith community today to celebrate the life of Sister Stephanie. We extend our sympathy to Sister Stephanie’s family, her many nieces, nephews, and cousins, especially those able to join us today here in the chapel or through the livestream. We also welcome Sister Stephanie’s friends from Corpus Christi parish, St. Alexius, and the University of Mary. We thank all of you for your prayers and support for us.
We Sisters and I think most of you, too, would say Sr. Stephanie was a great storyteller. It seemed Stephanie always had a story to share and it didn’t matter to her whether it was the first time or the hundredth time you had heard it – she was going to tell her story. Storytelling is not a gift I have, so I have struggled trying to figure out how to share the story of Sister Stephanie with all of you. Through her storytelling, Sister Stephanie connected with others, shared her faith and music, and showed that she was in control.
Sister Stephanie connected with people of all sorts throughout her life, but I want to focus on her family connections. She had family of all ages and in all places. As I called various relatives on her emergency contact list, I quickly realized that “niece, nephew, cousin” were terms used in the broadest sense of their definition. I talked to a nephew, then a great-grand-niece and then a cousin that was likely once or twice removed. It didn’t matter to Sister Stephanie – you were all her family. When we helped Stephanie pack a bag for the ambulance ride to the Bismarck emergency room, she made sure her address books went with her. They turned out to be a valuable resource for her while in the hospital. I know some of you received phone calls from her during that last day. She was connecting with others until the end.
I cannot neglect all of the friends Sister Stephanie made throughout her life – and I’m talking about the animals, not people. She had her named cats – Cricket and Sophie are two I heard about – along with Betty’s dog, and the many, many stray cats she befriended wherever she lived. In terms of people friends, there were the St. Alexius volunteers and employees she shared breakfast and lunch with in the hospital cafeteria, the University of Mary staff who had her sing at the monthly birthday party gatherings, and the founding members of Corpus Christi parish.
Sister Stephanie’s faith life was shared with others through the many prayer services she led over the years. Last year, she created a service to pray for all affected by the war in Ukraine. In the summer of 2021, a local TV station covered our weekly prayer service for rain, created and led by Sister Stephanie. Over the years, Sister Stephanie created and led many prayer services for deceased family members and friends. In those services, Sister Stephanie often shared her musical talents through her voice and guitar playing. She always seemed to have a song in her heart and she wasn’t afraid to sing it out loud.
Sister Stephanie was independent and wanted to be in control. Many times, her independence regarding her healthcare was a challenge for our monastery health center and administration. She made sure she was in charge right up to the end of her life. She was the one signing all the forms at the hospital and according to her ICU nurse, Stephanie placed herself on comfort care just a few hours before she died. We found notes in her personal file from ten years ago regarding her wishes for her wake and funeral. That is why you will find Snickers bars on the dining room tables. It was what she wanted. On her last night in Bismarck, Stephanie continued to dictate her wishes to Sister Barbara – who should receive what in her room, who should give the reflection at the wake, and who should preside at the funeral Mass.
Sister Stephanie lived a full and faithful life in our Benedictine community for over 68 years. Stephanie, you were a gifted storyteller, and we will continue to share your stories for years to come. We will miss your presence among us. Thank you, Sister Stephanie, for sharing your life with all of us. We are grateful for the gift you have been to us. May you now share in the glory of God with the saints in heaven.