Funeral Reflection for Sister Claire Schmitt
Sister Nicole Kunze, Prioress
September 2, 2020
I thank all of you for being here today to celebrate the life of Sister Claire. Our monastic community certainly extends our sympathy to Sister Claire’s family who are with us, in particular her brother Joe. We thank all of you for your prayers and support for us.
In mid August, our monastic community gathered for our annual meeting. We received reports from various committees and completed some other business. At evening prayer that day, I shared the annual commissioning reflection, where I send the sisters forth into the new year with an idea or phrase to live out. The past five months of the pandemic have left many of us feeling alone, anxious and even hopeless. I asked the sisters to live in hope and be ministers of hope to one another.
Just like a teacher, a prioress often wonders, “Does what I share with the sisters make an impact? Will they remember this a week from now?” About a week ago, there was a short article about hope placed on our bulletin board, so obviously, one sister remembered my reflection. It was Sister Claire. She shared a reflection from one of her favorite authors, Father Harold Buetow, on hope. How did I know it was Sister Claire? She had a unique way of bringing your attention to the main point of an article with her method of highlighting and her handwritten notes. Let me share a few quotes from Buetow’s reflection:
“Biblical hope … doesn’t promise that our projects will succeed or that we will find within ourselves the capacity to overcome all obstacles. Biblical hope is bluntly realistic. The cornerstone of hope lies in Jesus’s resurrection where, unexpectedly and seemingly impossibly, life defeats death.” (Buetow)
That last sentence in particular seems significant as we remember the life of Sister Claire today. In her funeral services plan, she asked that we reflect on the scriptures and on the passage into eternal life. She wanted the services to remain focused on the spiritual, not on her life, though I believe there are examples where her life helps to illustrate the spiritual.
The theme of our community retreat in June was “Heartened by Hope." In her last conference, our retreat director shared how service to another can bring us hope. Service connects us to each other. In service, we give ourselves to the other. There are some significant examples of Sister Claire’s service to others in her life – caring for her ill mother in her later years, the assistance she provided to her friends Lonna and Jazmin over many years, the faithful care she provided to her sister, Sister Miriam, during her final years, and to Sister Grace, serving as Grace’s eyes and ears as both of these senses declined for her. Sister Grace gave me permission to share this remembrance she had of Sister Claire:
“There was a side to Claire seldom seen or heard and that was her rare sense of humor and playfulness. Every time she would bring me some of her treasured pictures or stickers, she would knock on my door and then danced to me with a ‘shuffle, shuffle, stomp, stomp’. I think there was a dancer inside of her.”
Sister Claire was a faithful letter writer to her relatives and pen pals, including several incarcerated individuals. She even kept a log of who she wrote to and who wrote her a letter in return. I’m sure her letters provided the recipient with hope. Sister Claire’s life showed how our presence to another can fill them with hope. Sister Claire truly was a minister of hope to many people throughout her life.
In Chapter 4 of the Rule of Saint Benedict, we are told “to place our hope in God alone." That type of hope only comes about because it is built upon a personal relationship with God. That relationship is founded upon the experience of God’s actions in one’s life and a sense of the divine presence. Claire’s collection of quotes, prayers, books and pictures illustrated her relationship with the Lord and that she truly sought God as all monastic women should. She was faithful to her personal prayer and lectio along with our community prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist. Now that her earthly journey has ended, life has defeated death and Sister Claire’s hope in God has been fulfilled.
Thank you, Sister Claire, 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.