Dancing with God ... Sister Mary Matthew

I got word today that one of my CSJP Sisters passed away after a sudden stroke.  One of the hard parts of being away from community during this time for my studies is not being able to be with the community as we celebrate the life and love our Sisters who have gone home to God.  I know that the stories which will be told in the coming days of our dear Sister Mary Matthew Griffin will bring laughter and tears to all who loved her. Saying that she will be missed is an understatement.  We will not be the same community without her here on Earth, but I know she is praying deeply with us and for us now that she is with her loving God.

When I first met Sister Mary Matthew at a community assembly day, I wasn't quite sure what to make of her.  Unlike most of our Sisters at groovy sister hq, she wore a blue veil and suit. Most of our Sisters, no matter what their age, dress simply and wear our Peace Cross as their symbol of identity, per our Constitutions.  We have not had a community habit for several decades outside the Peace Cross.  But Sister Mary Matthew felt at home in her blue suit and veil (and Peace Cross).  She also was fairly outspoken.  We ended each of our community assemblies with an open mic session.  You could always count on Sister Mary Matthew to saunter up to the line and use the microphone to share her passionate opinions about some current issue with her Sisters.  What made this remarkable to me as an inquirer and later a candidate and novice was that her viewpoints were not always ones that resonated with most of her Sisters.  And yet she held her convictions deeply and spoke them with integrity.

I will never forget the assembly when it clicked ... Yes Sister Mary Matthew might be focusing on different aspects or perspectives on current issues than most of her Sisters.  But she loved our community deeply, just as she loved Jesus deeply, and she was able to be herself with us even when that might have made her different.  When I think of what makes a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, there's not just one thing.  We don't all look the same.  We don't all think the same.  We don't all act the same.  But in addition to the deep love of God, desire to follow Jesus and seek God's promise of peace for all God's people there is something.  There's a spirit, a spark, an integrity that shines through.  Sister Mary Matthew had that spark in spades.  It was just her own special variety. In many ways, I think Sister Mary Matthew kept us real.  She challenged us.  She loved us.  And we loved her.

One of my favorite memories of Sister Mary Matthew was at the end of one of our recent community assemblies.  After our intense day of prayer, conversation and business, we generally celebrate with a dinner and party.  Some of us like to roll up the carpet, push back the couch, and have a little impromptu disco dancing.  You haven't experienced CSJP community until you've danced!  Generally it's the younger ones of us (in spirit if not age) who enjoy this particular community activity.  In recent years, Sister Mary Matthew has joined us.  She was a blast, full of joy and energy, dancing with her Sisters.  I thought I remembered a picture of one of those gatherings, and sure enough, I found it.  Here's how I want to remember Sister Mary Matthew ... embracing her CSJP Sisters joyfully and playfully.

Eternal rest grant to her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.  May she rest in peace with you forever.  Amen.

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