"Let's see, when I was in grade school right across the street from this church, why, we were always called on to come to church for all kinds of things," she reminisced. "The girls were in the choir back then, which was the highest churchy thing we ever got to do, but some of us dependable girls got picked to help the nuns do sanctuary work, like running the vacuum on the altar steps and cleaning the candle tops. Sister was doing 50 things at once and really appreciated our help. I'd go home and Mom would ask me what I'd been doing all Saturday morning at church. 'Oh, just cleaning in the sanctuary,' I'd say, and Mom wasn't too pleased. She'd sweep her hand around the room and say, 'We've got plenty of cleaning to do right here; why can't you help out here? I don't know why you can only clean in church.' "
Lavinia went on: "It's true, I'd think to myself. I hated doing housework around our home with so many younger-kid messes to clean up, but it was nothing to spend all Saturday morning and then some helping Sister. It didn't matter what menial chore she gave me to do, like dusting or running the mop around the baseboards or even emptying the wastebaskets. I was eager, poised and ready to go."
Lavinia's recollection on a good day from her hospice bed jogged my own memory of being one of those dependable Catholic school girls whom Sister picked for special duty, like delivering messages to a teacher in another classroom or being entrusted with a preferred classroom job like putting her teacher's manuals in order on her desk. I could so relate to Lavinia.
[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of health services administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati.]
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