“…be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them….” Luke 12:35-40
Sister Germaine was born on May 8, 1929 in Burlington Iowa. Named Shirley, she was one of the eight children born to Willis and Marie Jordan Cupp. She grew up in Moline and became acquainted with our sisters at St. Mary’s parish where she attended grade and high school. Shirley entered the Benedictine community in Nauvoo in 1948 and made her first profession of vows in 1950.
Sister’s life in ministry evolved through several stages. She began as a grade school teacher, then served as school principal for many years. In 1990 she became Pastoral Associate at St. Joseph’s Parish in Rock Island, serving there for 15 years. She also served in parish ministry at St. Mary’s Parish, Moline, and at St. Pius in Rock Island. Most recently Sister was very active with the St. Joseph the Worker House as well as the St. Joe’s evening meal program. And she just relinquished her responsibilities here at the monastery in the last couple of weeks.
I don’t think she ever stopped planning….and giving directions….when she could get away with it!
In all of her life we experienced Sister Germaine as a gracious, generous, big-hearted gentle person who loved us and loved life deeply.
As I reflect on the whole of Sister Germaine’s life it is occurring to me that she….like Jesus….had ‘table ministry’ as a major focus. She was a wonderful cook! Her dinner meals were always tasty and hearty … oftentimes Sister would be in the kitchen early in the morning preparing a soup or casserole to take to work to share with a group meeting over lunch.
Sister Germaine took delight in gathering with people around a meal….whether an RCIA gathering, with friends from St. Joe’s, at a working committee, sharing with family and friends after Sunday Mass….something to eat was very often included in the ‘agenda.’
Sister was a natural to be the caller organizing the providers for the daily St. Joe’s meals…I understand she herself had made all of the calls for the month of September!… that, it strikes me, was another part of her table ministry.
For the past several years here at the monastery Sister Germaine, with the assistance of her family, provided lovely simple centerpieces for the tables in our dining room. ….. another table ministry….
Certainly the table of the altar was central in her life. And her engagement with the mystery of God never ever ceased. In one of our last conversations she shared that a new image of God she had been praying with was “God, the protector of the universe.”
And, of course, there was also the game table! Sister loved a good game of dominoes or Pinochle….and she loved to win! She enjoyed a good time and delighted in opportunities for travel that she had had.
Sunday afternoon it became clear that sister Germaine’s moments of active presence with us were waning. A few of us were in her room, including her sisters Mary and Fran. After I spoke some words of comfort and hope to her, she looked up with that winning smile and turned first to me and then to Mary and Fran saying clearly “Thank you! Thank you!” That thank you, I am confident was addressed to ALL of us gathered here…her family, her community, and her friends. It was a humongous thank you that embraced all we have ever done and been in her life!
And now, Sister Germaine, we say thank you to you!!
Thank you for your unconditional love for us!
Thank you for being such a good friend!
Thank you for your dedicated service to all God’s people.
And thank you for living your dying with such trust and graciousness!
I imagine you now, as in our Gospel reading, at the heavenly banquet table , reclining there with the Lord waiting on you!