Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Remembering,,,and Walking with Sister Eleanor Eagan, CSJ

On Saturday, August 19, 2017, the school community of Carondelet High School held a Mass and Celebration of life for Sister Eleanor Eagan, CSJ. Nearly 300 people gathered to honor this peppery, shrewd, warm and visionary woman who served at my alma mater for 34 years.

Sister Eleanor lived a full and rich life. She died of cancer at the young age of 88 on June 22 with the former principal Sister Kathy Lang, CSJ telling her that it was her time to go—the Lord was waiting. 

Countless alumnae have shared their own stories and treasured memories of Sister Ellie. It was a blessing and a gift to hear them and share our own. Mine is simple, and one I think offers an important page to Sports and Spirituality.

Those who live their lives in service know the importance of the ministry of presence....showing up....tending to those you encounter in your daily life. Everyone's time and attention is a precious thing; a ministry of presence offers both. But for my family and me, Sister Eleanor's presence was found in an activity many people, including myself, do regularly: walking.

In the late afternoon/early evenings, at the conclusion of another school day and its many activities, Sister E and Sister Kathy head out and off campus to take a walk. They would walk from Carondelet through the neighborhoods adjacent to the school, along the Contra Costa Canal and occasionally into my neighborhood. My dad, once an active walker, himself, often crossed paths for a chat and conversation with both Sisters. 

Sister Eleanor called my dad "Stan the man." Yes, my dad is named Stan, but the nickname was first popularized for the baseball great: Stan the Man Musial. My dad loved any association with the St. Louis Cardinal legend and anyone who would call him by the same name. I think Sister Eleanor knew this; she always had a twinkle in her eye. Her ability to be present with people was a true gift. Through her presence, she made others feel welcome, included and even special; walking allowed her to bring these gifts to many others.
The prophet Micah answers what the Lord requires of us. In Chapter 6:8, he says "to act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God." I have always loved his message, both the verbs and the adjectives. In Sister Eleanor, I have a role model for all three. In the 
 "Blueprint for Social Justice" Bill Quigley states.
Micah then counsels people to walk humbly with God. Not in front of, not behind, but with. That means we walk with God, but it also clearly says that God walks with us. The perspective that sees this world as evil and God as totally apart from the world would never have people walking with God. Walking with God rightly implies that we have an important and essential part to play in the transformation of this world, in partnership with God.
I'd like to think Sister Eleanor and Sister Kathy walked with God—and God with them. 

For those who can walk, enjoy. I hope some part of this exercise is spiritual. As a former runner, the transition to walking hasn't always been easy. But, I do appreciate how prayerful it can be. I like that I need not feel rushed. I love that it brings me outside, into my neighborhood and on the same path that Sister E once tread.

Sister Eleanor wrote her own funeral. She amended the first reading from the Book of Proverbs to reflect the message her vocation as a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet offered to the world. I don't think anyone who knew her would be surprised. And so I found it even more fitting that she chose one final song to be played: Frank Sinatra's "My Way." This ballad happens to be my father's favorite song. Truly, we are more connected to others than we ever really know....or than I know. I have a sneaky suspicion that's what the twinkle in her eye was trying to teach me all along.

Lastly, Sister Eleanor's legacy lives on in many ways, but the book "Valiant Women" does so through her words, her writing. 

In honor of its 50th anniversary, Carondelet High School has published a book celebrating its history and the many religious and lay women and men who founded the school and have kept it thriving since 1965.

Written by Sister Eleanor Eagan, CSJ, and featuring nearly 300 photos, Valiant Women shares the history of Carondelet's founding and captures stories of sisterhood, faith, and community. The book also highlights the teachers, administrators, and students who have made Carondelet the vibrant learning environment that it is.

"This book has been a labor of love for our dear Sister Eleanor, who has been part of the Carondelet community for 34 years," said Carondelet President Bonnie Cotter. "We are so proud to share our rich history with the greater community and relive some of the poignant moments that shaped the school's identity."

I purchased "Valient Women" at the Celebration of Life for Sister Eleanor. The only cost for the book was a donation for student scholarships. I suppose when you spend your life walking with God, and God walking with you, you meet many valiant women and want to make it possible so others can walk, too. 

Carondelet has lost a valiant woman, but her spirit lives...and walks on. 

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