Susan Angela Agnes/Little Sister Hallel - the story of a Call

How I love this picture of Hallel taken the day that she joyfully graduated college, with no desire to go on for any further education.  I think that would safely be what John felt, too, when he finally graduated, after he had to take a year off to fight for his LIFE defeating the gaint cancer.  But now with his listening to God's call, possibly, to the priesthood.  He is shocked to his core facing 6 years of classes, and at this point tough classes!  Meeting with our wonderful humble Bishop yesterday he was told to not get too hung up on the struggles with the classes, so at least John can maybe let go of that stress.  Back to Susan...What I really love the most about this picture is the ribbon peaking out of the back of her hair that day!  We arrived to mass that day - her dad and I - and looking up we saw the Handmaids sitting with Susan on the aisle, and I was touched and amazed to see a shining gold ribbon tied around her ponytail!  Why?  Because each day with my 4 girls - I would line them up and put ribbons and bows in their hair.  My greatest joy now a days is getting to fix the hair of one of my granddaughters.   When I was with Maria for that month of Patrick - I took over the hair of Therese, and it was a gift!  The story of this bow - which I took as a total gift to me - Some bread arrived at the discernment house that morning with this ribbon/bow tied around it.  Susan, in a rare mood on her graduation day, took the bow and tied it in her hair!  It spoke volumes to me of how Susan truly did cherish her home and crazy mom upbringing!  I weep today at the memory/gift/bow! 
Memory/gift/bow that said - "Mom, I love you and thank you for the quirky ways that you showed how you loved us, and cherished LIFE in your nest for those years of childbearing - they were the best and the worst, as you embraced your Most Cherished Cross- died to self - and found LIFE eternal!  This is my way of reminding you that I truly did feel special, and knew that I was called to be a LIGHT to this world, as our dad said to you and the entire world - 'The world needs LIGHTS!' " Susan's bow said this to me on her graduation day from college - December 2007 
I am jumping ahead as I was distracted by finding these pictures...
Susan Angela Agnes born daughter #4 on Sept 18, 1985
I call this my Catholic School girl picture taken out by my statue of Mary in my Mary Garden... it seemed with the 4 girls - I usually had a theme or made them matching outfits or dresses, and there are the bows I was talking about.  This was the time of bangs also, I see.  The girls rebelled away from bangs, when they were old enough to speak up and do their own thing.   I would say that Susan is about 2 here.  She was due to be born around my birthday, but due to bedrest and my weeks laying down due to hypertention - she was born just about on her dad's birthday missing it by 3 days, and then when the first grandson came on Sept 20... well, he and Susan had a special bond due to this, and many times celebrated together.  Most memorable was the year she went to study in Rome for the year and they dove into cake together.  Simon was only 2 that year so diving in just is a good description and fun-loving childlike Sue was probably right there with him!
Susan's baptism with my dad officiating as Deacon.  This was a most crazy time in my life.  I had sat in the barn on a pail with my other 3 around me and cried through my entire pregnancy with Susan!  My precious younger sister, Mary, newly married to her dairy farmer in Wisconsin with a new baby, had been diagnosed with 4th stage Lymphoma!  I wept and prayed through my entire pregnancy, and it is so interesting to now see Hallel and how emotions just are not entertained by her.  She shrugs when you ask her how she feels about things, like it is not worth wasting her time on such things as feelings.  Mary is a very important sister in my life... we shared a close bond even though we are 7 years apart in age.  We resemble our mother with our dark coloring, and maybe that was part of our coming to a closeness?  On our retreat from the city to our cabin at Lake Michigan in the summers - Mary and I would walk down the beach together looking for fossils, and talking about whatever girls would talk about in that day and age.  We probably discussed our siblings, and school, and how wonderfully we were blessed to be walking beside this beautiful lake in sugar sand and glorious sunshine.  Happy in the bosom of our family, with loving parents that for Protestants surprised many with their openess to LIFE!  Mary was number 5, and there were two brothers after her... and then we added 4 more after their parents were killed in an accident!  We reached a total of 11, and actually 12 as we had a brother - a twin to Philip- who lived for 2 days, and is buried in a cemetary in New Hampshire where my dad had been called to his first church - Baptist.
Mary and I would head out for our walks often - maybe daily.  She was considerably shorter than I, at this time, and I would drape my arm around her shoulders and she fit under there nicely.  True closeness!   Visiting, and laughing, and feeling so blessed in this gloriously beautiful peaceful place away from all the hustle and distractions of life in the world.  Mary and I both developed a love of nature and of art.  We both sketched, as we watched our mother draw and paint in the sanddunes.  How this poured out of the two of us... in my romantic early Catholic days and beyond.  Both found the farming countryside of "the farm" in Wisconsin to inspire our call to capture nature as a reflection of God's LOVE for us! 

Mary, Phil, and my mom working at the farm - it was so overgrown that we had to make a path to walk!  There was another life-story that brought Mary into such a closeness with me!  With each pregnancy for me there would come a point with rising blood pressure that I would go on increasing bedrest.  This was hard with each new little one that I had to care for, and Pat would be busy with chores and crops.  So when I was pregnant with Nancy and I had 2 year old Ruth to care for - it turned out that Mary was free and looking for something to do.  She came and embraced farming and helping me with a joy and enthusiasm!  She was loved by Pat and his two brothers that he farmed with!  And in turn Mary fell in love with the life of the farm, and it truly is a life and not a profession!  So Mary lived with us for probaly 3 months all together, and about a month after Nancy was born we knew that she needed to move on and find her own life.  We asked her to be Nancy's Godmother along with Pat's sister, Marge and her husband.  She had aided in bringing Nancy safely into this world, and it was so good to have her take over the responsiblitiy of Godmother too!  Everytime that Mary would come to visit and as she would leave - the two of us would always be in tears.  We so loved each other, and I knew how much she understood and appreciated the beauty of our life on the farm!  Mary did then find her farmer, Gerry, a dairy farmer in Wisconsin!  They married and had a little precious daughter, Audrey!  But things were wrong somehow... Mary had horrible pain, and eventually it was discovered that she had late stage cancer... now you understand my tears for the months that I carried Susan in my womb!  I wondered how she would be, and now at 27 I would say that not having time to give emotions much of her concern or time...is about the way to describe her.  "There are just better things to concern yourself with!"  Susan

Mary holding Audrey on her baptism day with neices on both sides - Ruth knew Mary well after she had lived with us for those months, and she is Nancy's Godmother.  The next year when I had Susan, after Mary had Audrey - my thinking was that once again we would ask Mary and her husband, Gerry, to be Godparents, along with Pat's sister, Mary.  Why?  When it looked like Mary's life was coming to an end?   For that very reason... so that the Lord would have to answer my constant prayer that Mary would be healed!  She told me that she would gladly spend her life as an invalid in a wheel chair, if she could live and see her daughter grow up with her husband - the life she had longed for and prayed for on the farm!  When Susan was 8 months old on July 3, 1986... Mary died.  Adding to the drama at this point... I had just gotten the call from my doctor that my 3 1/2 month baby in my womb was dead!  I called the hospital room to tell my parents, who were at Mary's bedside, the hard news.  They told me that Mary's vitals were dropping and she was dying... "Tell her that this little one will be with her in heaven, and that a piece of me is dying along with her."  and they promised to tell her my devastation at losing my precious sister, plus suffering the loss of my beloved little child - I later named him Thomas as July 3 is the feastday of St Thomas, the Doubter.  This seemed so appropriate for Mary, as she had gone through a period of time where she questioned her faith, and then due to the circumstances of LIFE- the Cross - she had come to find the Truth and embraced it before death!

Mary just 7months before her death at her last Christmas camp! 
Both Nancy and Susan have asked me about why they have a Godmother in heaven... "You are called to pray for her soul, and she is looking out for you and praying for you too!"  say I... It is pretty special to have her there, and she needs our prayers too! 
So our family traveled the 4 hours up to Taylors Falls for the funeral of my 28 year old sister.  The night before her wake - I started to hemorrage severely as I was then losing my pregnancy.  I collapsed and Pat rushed me across the river to the St Croix hospital, where I had been a student nurse for the summer about 10 years before this... They struggled to get an IV into me, and I thought that I would die and join my sister at that moment.  They did get it in, and I desperately drank huge amounts of fluids so that I could get to her wake that afternoon.  I shakily made it there!  Each step of saying goodbye was so hard... the closing of the coffin, the funeral, the seeing dirt go on her coffin at the cemetary... step by step it sunk in that she was no longer on this earth!  It wrentched my heart to look at little 20 month Audrey, and I promised Mary that I would include her often... whenever I sewed for the girls I would sew for her too.  When we went to Michigan for our week -we took her along many years, and loved to reacquaint with her!  I even had the great joy of sewing her a dress for her first communion!  How I felt Mary looking down on us specially at that time!  Such a wonderful gift to share that most gloriously special day with her and her great Dad!

This is probably about the time that she fit under my arm - Christmas picture from our home in Flint, MI!
Susan is my topic here... She was a quiet and sweet little daughter #4.   Her sisters treated her like a baby doll at first.  I remember the crowns that Nancy made for the 4 "princesses" and pushing little Susan around in a regular doll carriage.  With 4 girls we had a fun playhouse, that had once been the chicken house for some summers.  There was a big table and chairs out there and there was a kitchen set that had come as a combined Christmas gift one of those years complete with plastic food and dishes!  What fun!  There was always 4H too!  With projects in many areas, and even livestock started to creep in with Ruth showing chickens a few years just to get our feet wet before the big jump into beef!
Mary with her sweet tiny Audrey!


The 4 girls all wearing mom's shoes and showing their respective attitudes! 

A couple Halloween pictures  - Ruth will have #5 in arms this Halloween - she is big on themes with Paul,Ruth and the kids - I wonder what it will be this year.  The year that Susan was a newborn - I dyed her sleeper black and put a tail on it and cat ears on her head - she was a black cat and the girls and I were witches!

The famous year of the corn leaf/grass skirts!  Susan is just barely walking here and boy does she ever look like Rose!  This was an amazing idea, but we made a terrible mess in all the old friend's homes we visited for trick or treating!  As least I got some of these taken before they were just the waistbands with a few pieces of corn leaf left!  So now you are starting to see why to look up there on Susan's graduation from college and see that golden bow in her ponytail was so powerfully special for me!  All the memories with my 4 girls came rushing over me!

Playing in the front room of our new house - we moved just as Susan turned 3, I had two losses in the years between Susan and John.  The second time twins were mentioned at one point, so that is where the surprise could be in Heaven of two to greet me and not 1... then my words to Dr LaPort that I wanted to have 12 kids when I went in for Ruth would have truly been true!  I would have 5 here with me and 7 in Heaven.  It makes the reunion that much more exciting to ponder and pray about!  I had 5 pregnancies after we moved over to our new farm place and did get one son here with me and all the rest are looking down from Heaven!  So not only did Susan know of constant tears while in the womb and after with Mary, but she knew that I was grieving an awful lot over those years of loss!  How she loved and cared for her younger brother, John!  He was in the midst of all the losses, and therefore so cherished by his sisters, Pat and I!  The most brutal of all the losses were the two I lost after John at 5 months each... I was going in for my regular check up and we could not find the heartbeat.  The ultrasound showed that both boys had died - their cords were fatally kinked.  They were both boys - William and Robert and are both buried together at the foot of Pat's parents' grave.  It is no wonder to me - to see how close our kids are to each other and how each is a warrior for LIFE and the protection of all LIFE!  We openly shared in the joy of discovering that we were to have a new family member and the suffering of those that were called to Heaven.  How precious was John to Susan in the midst of this devastating LOSS!  An ocean of loss and suffering and grieving it was, and we felt that we were sinking in it!  How I prayed that we could have one more after John to show the world without words that "NO!"  we didn't stop having kids because we finally had John!  How many times have I had people say that?  So often!  Just lately when John was in Rochester for his cancer and we were sharing about his family with the nurse.."Oh, you stopped because you had your boy."  Sometimes it is just too much work and too frustrating to tell them the Truth!  Well, I guess that I just have to be quiet about it or explain lovingly, because I never was allowed to have that last living child!  I guess that I need a lot of prayers to get through this life here on earth with my army of prayer warriors/children in Heaven with the Angels and Saints! 

The famous girls in snowsuits pictures just before we moved to our new place  the white building behind was the girls playhouse/chicken house... now it is the shed that Pat and Ed use for things for the bins there.  Our old little house was torn down and burned last fall!  Sad to have that now only in our memories.  Many wonderul years there with our 4 girls!

The girls loved their dad!!!  Susan looks just about 5 or 6 months here.  Pat would come in late for meals and would welcome a lap full of girls,who would all be helping him eat his food!  Pat is a lover of LIFE and was always supportive of our growing family both here and in Heaven!  Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Pat!  You are my champion for LIFE/Most Cherished Cross! 

Up to Bascilica for a Baptims with the 5- John is just a few months old!
The story of Susan always caring for John and watching out for him is best shared in the story of how she saved his life!  We were out in the yard on a nice day, and suddenly Susan said - "Where is John?"  We looked around to see the newly walking John going into the shed just as Pat was backing out a tractor!  We rushed to scoop him up in time!  This caring carried over to school where we were told the story of Susan, who is typical Verly girl fashion was big and tall for her age had taken care of a boy in her class - a son of a friend of ours - she had taken him by the hand and put him in line ahead of her with her well honed motherly fashion!  She truly was the caretaker of little boys for that time in her life.  She and John remained close, and John has shared how he would look up to Susan, as she lived out her faith for all to see,including John.  One huge moment for Susan was Schoenstatt camp.  I really wanted the girls to be exposed to sisters in habits, so we discovered that there was a Schoenstatt community in Sleepy Eye and in the summers they had camps for girls!  Many summers the girls would go and really love their time there!  One year I remember that Maria did not want to come home with us -she wanted to stay with the sisters and her new found friends!  It was not all roses for them there... there are stories of their knees slipping in the sweat as they kneeled in the non airconditioned chapel to say their rosary and prayers each day.  But then they would cool off with water games outside by the Lake!  There would always be wonderful skits and music when we came to pick them up - put on by the campers.  When Susan was about 10 - she must have gone to camp alone that year, because I remember being alone in the car as we drove back to the farm after her week.  We were half way home driving through Morgan, and Susan told me that she wanted to be a sister.  I had to pull the car over as the tears engulfed me!  Not because I would not have grandchildren, but just at the feeling of the Holy Spirit speaking through my young daughter at that moment.  So powerful... and much the same feeling this summer when once again we are driving along Lake Michigan in the car, and John said to me: "I think I am going to do something that is going to make you happy, mom."  "What?"  " I am going into the seminary to discern a call to the priesthood."  Wow! 

A hot summer day working with the calves before the fair.
This started the "game" between Susan and myself over the next 12 years or more... I would ask her if she wanted to attend this meeting with sisters or talk to this person about her call... And she would answer - "Well, I am not sure I will either be a sister or have 10 kids!"  I love the fact that John is sharing more about the years they shared in High School.  He speaks of watching Susan at the Festivals in the Diocese when she was on the Diocesan Youth Council. 

The 5 with Simon in 2004.  I know it's random but I am really into the 5 together these days.  This must have been the year that Susan graduated.
Dressed alike and smiling sweet - the 4!
John makes TEC - I guess that Nancy is missing.  The first time John said that he would be a priest in a deal he made with God when he thought that Simon had choked on a bean and was dying.  Remember that John?
Well, back to the story of Susan/Hallel...
John said: " I remember sitting there watching her faith in action and the joy she was doing all that with."  When they were at the High School for two years together, John was hugely impressed by the Susan that he saw in the hallways and cafeteria each day.  Friendly to all and including any that she saw were left out or hurting.  She swam on the swim team as did all the girls, and actually did quite well - not great or anything like that.  The time John and Susan shared traveling to school in the old blue van- Mama Bluey - John wrote a paper about how that humble van became a source of great shared JOY as they "head banged" to Christian music with great smiles and shared craziness!  Susan's prom was one for the history books.  She and some friends got dressed up - Susan wore Maria's dress from the year before- and took the MAT bus to the prom and had a great time together their senior year.  They probably had a lot better time than anyone there!
Susan back from college the summer of 2005 to show for her last year in 4H... John with grand champion Bertha and her calf. 

2005 - Nancy and Paul come back to Marshall to teach John... Susan in college and heading off to Rome the following fall and Maria discerned out of the monastery, and back at St Thomas too!  Simon a month away from being one, and grandma becomes his baby sitter while Ruth works!
I am getting carried away with the pictures since this page is just for Susan.  Yes, Susan graduated and gave a wonderful graduation speech about how she learned life lessons from Mr Rogers.  She even got a scholarship at St Thomas from this speech!  Yes, Maria blazed the trails ahead of Susan and there was not much debate for her - she wanted Catholic Studies at St Thomas too!  So with great anticipation she planned to go to Rome for her entire Sophomore year!  She was openly saying that she was looking at what the Lord was asking of her as far as her young call to discern religious life! 

 A photo shoot I did on the farm before Susan left for her year away in Rome... it was hard to see her go for that long, but she was very excited!  She had an amazing year there, and we have Fr Corrola to thank for introducing her to the Community of the Lamb.  They have a house there in Rome and Fr thinks that they are amazing!  When Susan told him that she had decided to join them - he told her that he knew she belonged with them!  I think it is safe to say that she fell in love with Rome, the Holy Father who was new that year as John Paul II died on April 2, and Benedict XVI took over after that.  So Susan was there for the change in Pope from the one who represented our entire marriage for me... Domestic Church/family/LIFE - Blessed John Paul II!  Susan fell in love with Benedict as well as the little sisters of the Lamb, and all the Saints that abound in Rome.  She had chosen her patron saint - St Agnes - while visiting Maria in Rome just prior to her confirmation 3 years before that.  Knowing the story of St Agnes has become huge for me as I work with young people at the many retreats that I work!  Knowing her story of staying pure and untouched even as she was put in a house of prostitution!  She had promised herself to Christ as His Bride, although she was beautiful and wealthy.  They tried to break her by putting her in a house of prostitution and the only man that tried to touch her was struck blind... she left there pure and untouched!   How powerful to have St Agnes to assist all the young people that are put in a house of prostitution by the mouse click that brings it into our homes!!!  Ask her to intercede and help you to come out of this house of prostitution that we are put in by all the media, magazines,internet... that we may remain pure! 

John and Susan in Assisi - evidentally Maria and John visited Susan during her year!  Not 3 groups but just one while Susan was there!  She found herself spending time with the community in blue and when she returned to the U.S.... a group came for a mission to America in Kansas City.  They had been invited by the Archbishop to open a house here in the US and Susan went to go on a mission with them!  She returned from that week saying that it was the hardest thing she has ever done - begging for food door to door in the poor areas of town in the midst of the steaming hot humid summer in Kansas City!  "It was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do, but I have so much JOY when I am with them!"  She described that while they were begging they were given a can of tuna, so when they sat down to eat what they had been given - they realized that they needed to open the can, so they had to knock on a door to have someone open the can for them.  The epitome of what every American hates - we need to have everything and be totally self-sufficient so that we don't have to ask anyone for help.  How can we be humble with that ingrained in us?  Susan was smitten with the Community and there was talk of them coming to open a foundation in Kansas City, but it was still in the future.  Susan returned to school and lived in an apartment on Grand Ave with Maria, but when they planned to marry in June - they would take over the apartment and Susan then decided to live in the Discernment house run by Clair with 3 other girls.  She was very much thinking that she wanted to be a sister at this point, and was actively praying for the Lord to direct her to the order for her.  Susan was aware of the order that Clair was trying to start called the Handmaids.  They were thinking about their life and working on their habits etc.  But the Archbishop was just not ready to support them,so after Susan got another "no." She decided to leave the discernment house and come home for the summer.  She continued with daily mass and even got a key to have a holy hour in the dark church before mass.  She allowed me to share this time with her, and I noticed that she had a set place towards the back of church on the side by the 10th station - the humility station - Jesus is stripped of his clothes.  I asked her why she sat there.  " It is the last pew with kneelers so that people can't see me cry."  Well, I guess when it comes to asking her spouse to show her his path for her - there were some emotions in my stoic calm Susan!
There is one story which happened towards the end of Susans time in the Discrenment house - there was a gathering called Cor Jesu - Heart of Jesus - which had begun among the Catholic young people at St Thomas.  Susan invited me as she was to do a small sharing as part of the night.  She stepped up to the podium and simply and shortly spoke of her love for Jesus and his Bride, the Church.  Then Fr Craig and some other priets put Jesus in the monstrance in the altar for adoration and around the base of the monstrance was a scarf/altar cloth that draped around and hung on both sides.  The church was packed with young people and we were invited up to hold onto the hem of his garment in a close and personal time with Christ.  To add to the power and glory there was reconcilliation going on with numerous priests at the same time as well as amazing praise and worship music being led by groups of talanted guitars and singers!  The most powerful sight to behold was a sister, who had been Christ's bride probably for 20+ years up on her knees and holding onto his garment in intimate prayer time with her spouse!  I share this story when I give talks at TEC for the Church People of God with the song by Danielle Rose- If I touch him
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaCR24-tkWI  Danielle too considered a call and lived for a time in a convent in New Orleans - she discerned out but continues to work for Christ as a musical missionary! 

The Community of the Lamb came to the United States at the beginning of the summer of 2008!  Susan was very anxious to go and give them a hand in settling into the large Belgian rectory they had been given to live in.  Off she went, with the plan that we would swing down there on our way to Colorado for her cousin's wedding to meet them and to pick her up.  This was taken on June 30 in front of the altar to our Lady of Guadalupe in the chapel she had been working on with them.  Susan had just told us that she would be leaving for France to join the Community!  This is the woman that founded the Community - Little Sister Marie, and the founder who is a Franciscan priest - Fr Jean Claude!  They happened to be here for this opening of a new foundation and this was their first time in America!  They were very plesased with the openness and devotion of the people they met here!  Susan had her answer after years of asking Jesus on her knees to show her His plan for her.  She seemed excited to get her passport and visa figured out and it took going to Chicago to pick it up with some siblings and getting to see her beloved Wicked on the stage there to pick up the visa.  She had quite a bit of French in school, but she knew that would be a hard challange which she was up to.  I will put the sight of the Community of the Lamb here if you want to learn more about them... http://www.communityofthelambusa.org/  Just briefly it is a Dominican offshoot that began in 1983 by Little Sister Marie.  They live by the motto: "Wounded I will not cease to Love."  They also beg as their Patron St Dominic did for their food.  They beg from the poor - Marie wondered how the Lord could be asking them to do this - "Show me, Lord."  She was led to I Kings 17:8-24 - the story of Elijah and the widow in the drought.  Elijah asks her to make him some bread... all she has is enough for her and her son to have one last small loaf and then they will die of starvation - "Make some for me and your jar will never go dry or run out."  Her answer!  They represent Christ knocking on the door of the poor as they become the Word by spending time in prayer over it mendicating/chewing the Word day and night! 

Sept 11, 2008 just a short time before we took Susan to the airport to fly to France - St Pierre in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains on the southern border with Spain.  She left with only a backpack filled with her few polos - blue and white to go with the long skirt they would provide. 

All she will take with her... she left her car with the song she had listened to over and over by Danielle Rose - True LOVE! 
How I wept when I would drive her car and hear these words as though Susan was signing them to her spouse!  So amazing!
Also I wept a few days after she left to find her purse, prayer book, all her posssessions left behind on her bed.  So final and so much in keeping in what she heard the Lord telling her... "This much I know - I am supposed to leave it all behind and to be poor."  When I asked her if that meant us- she just smiled and nodded her head.  That part is the hardest for me!  How hard it is not to have our sweet Sue as part of our life day to day!  

This quilt that she had made out of her Tshirts over the years always went with her even to Rome - it was like her arms around us - yet wrong that it was no longer with her!  Her purse and of course the kleenex holder - Susan is a terribly allergic girl and it was common for her to sneeze three times every morning, so it was so hard to see this left behind too! 

This almost too personal note from Christ to his beloved was almost too personal to take in!!!  "I belong to my love, and his desire is for me."  Song of Songs 7:11  She loves her spouse Christ and left it all behind for HIM!  Susan/Hallel was just home for her first home visit - they get one every 3 years or so.  We asked her when she knew that this was where she belonged - "The first day I was there."  She is happy and her quilt is now a beloved possession of her loving brother, John, who probably misses her the most.  He feels that they are her loving prayerful arms that are holding him and giving him that closeness that he misses with his sister Sue! 

In October we had a surprise call from the group of 6 little sisters that were living in Kansas City... they wanted to stop in and meet Susan's family on their way to the Twin Cities.  They were taking two up there to learn English for a month!  So we had the great couple days of meeting some of our new family for the first time!  This was breakfast just as they were leaving and Simon so sweetly looked around the table and pointed with his hand to each one - "We are all family!" he so sweetly touched us with his understanding of the bond we all felt and knew would be the Truth.  We were not losing Susan but we were gaining many new members that would always love and pray for us and all our needs as we would for them! 

They came during harvest and got to ride in the truck and see the corn go from the truck into the ager and the bin.. then Paul had put a sign on the barn for them and didn't have room to put little sisters... but they thought that it was wonderful and used this picture to show that they were in America farm country!

It happened that they were here for our hour of Adoration - I think that for those there it was a huge surprise like - "Have I died and gone to Heaven?"  to see 6 sisters walk in and join in the hour of prayer and Benediction!  This was before the big remodel - Hallel just saw it for the first time when she was home a few weeks ago.  She thought that it was most wonderful!
So while we were getting acquainted with our family of the Lamb here - Susan was fully embracing being a postulant with 10 other girls in France.  She struggled with learning the language and found that it hampered her ability to show her silly self to others.  It hampered her personality, which we that love her know can be pretty silly when let loose!  Her letters were rare, and much cherished by us.  She informed us that she would be taking the habit on the vigil of the feast of the Queenship of Mary there in France on August 21st.  So Pat, I,John and Nancy all bought tickets with the great JOY of being there for her at this huge moment.  She wrote that although the French was difficult that she was mastering the driving of the old stick shift vehicles around there.  It was very hilly so this was a personal accomplishment - especially remembering our first time driving the stick shift car we had here on the farm - she put it into reverse and ran into a truck parked a long ways back and that prevented us from ending up in the pasture!  She took the back window out of the colt, but we were just relieved that it had come to a halt!  So this was a huge accomplishment for Susan!  The other thing that she discovered she was good at after having our woodstove for heat for many years at home - she was good at starting a fire!  She also learned that she had a real love of working carpentry work and woodworking with her hands!  It looks like Pat did get a few girls with the love of working with their hands like their farmer dad - Ruth is quite amazing with her ablities with home improvements, making furniture, and even mechanics!  Susan too is happiest when she can work on their building projects and make their furniture.  Right now she is working on the many doors they need to make, stain and varnish and put up in the new little Monastery in Kansas City!  I am sure she is happy to be helping out in that way!

I have a friend of the Community that lives right there and attends their special occassions and sends me pictures of Susan... here is when they received their crosses as new postulants... Thank you, friend Pierre! 


A cherished picture of Susan we received in her apron working on a wood project. 

Another glowing picture to comfort us knowing that she glowed with JOY!  As Susan was learning the LIFE and the French language - we had John getting his first internship and moving to live in South Dakota and check crops with Centrol.  He started to complain of double vision, and with the wind blowing dirt in his eyes all day - I thought that it was a increasing damage to an old eye injury.  He went to the eye doctor and ended up with contacts and glasses, but it was getting worse by the day.  So on Father's Day 2009 we took him to the Marshall ER for a CT scan.  The results shocked us - there was something there in the center of his brain!  We headed off to Sioux Falls and a needed MRI, but from home we called France to let Susan know.  "Mom, do you remember the Gospel for today?"  "It was Jesus calming the storm."  "Well, mom, this is the storm and Jesus is in control."  With those words we started to with effort be able to give it over to Jesus and trust in HIM!  We kept Susan up on what was going on, and the moves we made from one hospital to another when they told us that they wanted to do horrific brain surgery on our 20 year old son!  It was the first time we had heard the word tumor, and we just knew that we had to get a second opinion.  We found one of the best neurosurgeons in the world in St Paul at St Joseph's Hospital - where I had done much of my nurses training almost 35 years before!  Not in this unit though - it was brand new and beautiful!  Soon it brought our family together - Susan came with another little Sister Benedict to be with her brother and his family - as we faced that John had cancer of the brain!
Daily mass fed us in this amazing chapel where I cried to God - how can this happen to my son?   This is the crucifix of St Peregrine - he was healed of cancer when Jesus reached down from the Crucifix and healed him!  How we prayed and hundreds joined us through our caringbridge site - http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/johnverly 

There is nothing that gives John more hope or joy or peace or any of the fruits of the Spirit more than when he has his entire family around him, and cancer did that for him!  It brought our family together!

The complete picture - together with our Family and our Faith we will beat this, John!  Susan stayed by her brother, but when it looked like it could be a while to get the answer she went to wait in Kansas City and live the LIFE of contemplative prayer that they are called to.  We know that when she comes to visit that she is missing a lot of what she is called to do with each day of contemplative prayer.  We make every attempt to get to daily mass - we were actually prevented by a snowstorm one day she was here, and then we try to do morning and evening prayer together, and finally we even were able to pray through the Gospel some of the days - where each line is repeated about 6 times together and that reveals some powerful messages as you take it in - the Spirit speaks to us! Becoming the Word and taking it out to the world as Jesus asks of us!  How I love the chances I have had to spend with them in their chapel in Kansas City or in France... I feel that my call to become a sister has been gifted back to me through my daughter answering her call.  I know that deep down in the temple within that I am a contemplative and that time in prayer that I spend each day with every beat of my heart and with each breath that I take - "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus with your Blessed Mother at your side!" 
Facing the fact, after many tests and different hospitals, we knew that John had cancer of the brain.  He launched into chemo immediately and we knew that going to France for Susan was impossible now.  The airlines agreed and refunded our tickets, except for Nancy, who was going to go and represent the family.  John was unable to walk after he had a biopsy through the back of his brain to diagnose his cancer - leaving him with left sided ataxia! 

John at the county fair just days after his surgery - his dad had to help him walk by supporting him under his left arm!  We moved out of our bedroom on the main floor and put John there with the bathroom connected.  John would still call his dad to help him to the bathroom during the night.  After his second chemo - he couldn't get ahold of us on the phone, so he had to get there by himself... he did it!  I started to think that we might be able to go to France after all.  Nancy had just left the day before, so after checking with the doctor - she said that it would be fine, with this chemo there is not worry of infection - "Just have him get up and walk around time to time,so that he doesn't get clots in his legs."  she said.  Within 24 hours John and I were heading to France! 
John napping on our lay over in the Amsterdam airport on our way to Toulouse, France!  We were in shock that were actually going to be with Susan for this huge step in her life!  It was so wonderful the way that we were taken care of by the airlines - knowing that John was handicapped.. they picked us up with a cart and let us to the front of the lines.  So amazing!  We were picked up at the airport by the Community - the sister put in charge of John and I had been a pediatrician before she joined the Community - she spoke wonderful English and came to the airport to pick us up.  Immediately we felt to be in the best of hands and that God was watching out for us in our madcap trip with John disabled and very sick! 

They placed us right in St Pierre, so we were there when Susan came with the postulants and saw John for the first time on his walker which had been rigged up by therapy in Marshall so that he could balance that side and not fall over and get around on his own!  All were amazed to have John and I there - it was truly miraculous.  Susan told us that we didn't need to be there, but there is no doubt that she was happy that we were!  We had to pinch ourselves... we are in France!!!
A funny sidenote - John's suitcase wasn't with us on the plane when we landed, so for the first few days he had to borrow some clothes from the little Brothers - we laughed that the Lord made a way for John to be a humble dressed in blue little brother want to be.  We also laughed about John having a little sister for the first time when Susan became a little sister the following night!  Lots of JOY to go around on this most glorious occassion!

John dressed in blue speaking with the foundress, Little sister Marie, and Judith.  So on the vigil of the Queenship of Mary on an outside platform behind the chapel of the Trinity late afternoon-evening we shared with Susan this huge occassion of her taking the habit and changing her name! 

They lay prostate before their Spouse and humbly asked the community to accept them...

Each item of their clothing was given to them with special meaning attached.  Like Susan's sandals signify that she should walk always with Jesus carrying his Word to the world. 

What an emotional moment when they return clothed as a little sister!!! The tears flowed, and two years later when Pat was there for Hallel's vows, and witnessed the taking of the habit the night before... he then, with tears in his eyes, understood how powerful it was for us when Susan did this! 
So radiant and excited was Susan and just for us Little Sister Marie spoke in English when she announced her new name - "You shall be called little sister Hallel."  Nancy, John and I all looked puzzled at each other.  We thought that she would choose her patron saint, Agnes, or someother great saint of the many.  But she explained later that she just didn't know who to choose, so she spoke with little Sister Marie - "I had just tought to myself that I really liked the name Hosanna, which another had chosen.  So when Marie told me that there were names similar, such as Hallel.  I knew right away that was it!  When you say my name you are giving God the highest praise!"  If it looks familiar - just think of Halleluia which is what it is from.  There are Hallel psalms - 145-`150 and grand Hallel psalms around 100 in both directions up or down.  The joke around the community is that the word for grand in French also means tall and Hallel is about a foot taller with her 5'10" height compared to the tiny French sisters! 

Such a amazing night with many families with little ones there... one can hope and dream that for Hallel's final vows... we can all be there in a huge family way!

I think that John and I could barely believe that we were standing here with glowing little Sister Hallel and our dear cousin, Fr Craig Timmerman, and Nancy!  For me to have my two children together in the midst of this storm called cancer that was happening as the huge step for Hallel!  When we arrived home after our week long whirlwind trip we were so filled with amazement - we did it!  It was a huge sense of accomplishment for us as we faced our ongoing battle for John's life!  Susan/Hallel would return to the U.S. to be with John in a few months.  She came just at Thanksgiving and we had had another blow.... John's cancer had grown through two kinds of chemo and he faced 6 weeks of radiation! 
One thing that I must share here is that we were blessed with a day in Lourdes before we left France.... here is John with his hair wet after being in the baths - "I asked them to pour water on my head, because that is where I need my healing."  Hallel was with a group of us and all of us went into the baths for the intention of John's healing!

All of us went into the baths for the intention of John's healing!  Many candles were lit not only for John, but John lit one for a girl his age, who has since died.  To see the sick in the line for the baths - so desperate yet hopeful - you see the young with cancer even children.  Lord, such a holy place of healing.  John said of the day in Lourdes that it was "good."

 This picture of John being helped to walk with his arms around Hallel and Nancy - it looks like he is on the Cross and so he was..."Take up your Cross and follow me." says Jesus to us! 

One quick story that is pretty funny/special.  It is called our Krusties pancake story.  In one of our rare letters from Susan that year before she took her habit - she mentioned that she had made pancakes but they certainly didn't turn out like Krusties. It gave me the idea that for Easter I would send one of those huge packages of Krusties pancake mix - all you need to add is water for nummy pancakes!  It cost a whole lot to do this silly thing, but I thought it would be great.  Well, 4 months later we arrive in France and the first morning I am taken down the hall to make us breakfast and I am handed the unopened package of Krusties... each morning I make us Krusties pancakes for our breakfast.  I was told that it was a second package, but I knew better.  So now when we want to remember our time in France or a special occassion in France - we will have Krusties.  And that bowl in the picture above is how you drink your hot coffee or tea in the morning - you drink it out of a bowl.  This is true in Kansas City too!  I guess it must be French, for sure it is the way you drink your coffee in the Community of the Lamb! 

At Hallel's feast on the hillside the day after her taking the habit!  Artwork by Little Sister Judith! 

Hallel with her Goddaughter, Therese, November 2009.  She had come to take John to radiation for that week.  All 5 kids were together at Maria and Nancy's house, but I stayed at home with Pat until Thanksgiving day.  That day Ruth had to work here in Marshall so she and her family were missing. 

Our Thanksgiving feast filled the house!

Then Hallel got to see the Verly family that had gathered across town at the Holdahls'.
Soon Hallel returned to Kansas City, but remained living there until the following July.  We made some trips down there during those months.  Ruth had a wound care conference in Kansas City for a week in March, so John and I went along and stayed with the community.  John had gone through his stem cell and was cancer free and just was taking some time to get back on his feet before returning to college the next fall. 


John once again dressed in blue when we went to spend a week with Hallel.  They had gone to get some old vegetables from a market on the corner and John borrowed one of their jackets. 

Hallel and John walking the streets of Kansas City in March 27,2010.. John had completed his stem cell and returned home in mid Feb with no cancer - CR - complete reponse - Christ Rules!
Hallel actually lived close by in Kansas City from around Thanksgiving 2009 until July 3rd, 2010.  She called us just before she was to leave to let us know that she would be leaving for France and taking her first vows there the following summer.  She told us that her family was welcome to come and say goodbye to her.  Thinking how much easier it would be if she could come this way - I asked Little Sister Benedict about that.  "You are all our family too, and we want to see you too."  So armed with that knowledge - 4 different car loads of Verlys headed to Kansas City at 4 different times to say goodbye to Susan/Hallel and to have an experience with the Community of the Lamb!  The first group to go was Pat with his mother, John, and Simon for a few days.  It was a special time of meeting the Community, having Simon entertain at meals by standing in the midst of the refectory and talk at great length about topics that crossed his minds, prayer and meals.  Hallel also spent time down the basement doing woodworking and making "icons" out of wood pieces.  She ran the saw and showed us how to sand and varnish our finished creations.  The next group to go were the Librandes - Hallel got to spend time with her Goddaughter, Therese, and to meet her new nephew David.  They walked through the neighborhoods and Joseph got to meet the Community.  He has not had a chance to get back there since nor was he home for the home visit we just enjoyed with Hallel here during April snowstorms here in Marshall!  Hallel has been so much praying for the safety of her brother in law, Lt Joseph, and would have loved to give him and hug and a bless, but it just was not possible.  Someday...
My chance to say Goodbye to Hallel came after Nancy and her fiance, Bill, went as the 3rd group.  They went knowing that Hallel would not be at their wedding two months later on August 28th - the Feastday of St Augustine.  That was a hard fact to know that she wouldn't be there with us, but we did have paper Hallel there - she found the burn barrel on Hallel's home visit.  So we were the last - 4th carload  to go and say goodbye - Simon got to go again with his family and myself!







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