Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sr. Lou 1923-2010

"We weren't afraid of the wind-we were afraid of magnets" -Sr. Lou on the Sisters of Humility's habits.

Sr. Lucille Conley was one of my favorite. She's my father's aunt but I just dropped the great and made her my own. At 16 she entered a convent and made serving the community her life's work. In 1993 she established an apartment complex and center for women with children who left their abusive husbands...something very near and dear to my heart. Despite living in a post-industrial community, (re:suburb of Youngstown) where the good times had come and gone, she was still able to get people to donate both time and money for the women and children that needed it most.

As kids, the convent was a stopping place while we were visiting family in Cleveland or traveling to DC. My brothers and I thought the cafeteria was really cool (often on road trips we would only have pbj's to eat). One year, I recall my cousin Mary (in photo, far left) and I grabbing lemon juice packets to use as rinse to make our hair more blond. I laugh now thinking about how we were explaining to the other nuns and how intently they listened to our beauty advice.

As a grown up I'd stop by there while working on a project in the Youngstown area, sometimes spending the night. Once I brought a girlfriend of mine, she was shocked to see beer in the fridge.

"Come on," I said,"these are Irish nuns," Recalling the late night I spent with Sr. Lou going over my annulment while splitting a Rolling Rock.

There are so many vignettes and cross-sections of Sr. Lou in my life. But as I look back, it was me doing the in&outs and zigzagging, she was just there, guiding me to quilt connections to my father's Irish family and my faith.

I'm returning the convent this next week. I got the call on Friday that Sr. Lou had passed. I think about how having her in my life had made me so much a better person, and I know it wasn't just me she touched.

"We lost a good one," emailed my cousin Maggie, who just named her youngest daughter Lucille. Indeed. We are truly blessed when strong women enter our lives, but even more so when we are related to them.

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