Sister MaryAnn was bright, warm, like a sudden surge of sunlight Slain nun is eulogized as someone special who saw good in everyone

DAN RODRICKS

March 25, 1993|By DAN RODRICKS

It was so obvious, there toward the end of the funeral, that hesitate to mention it for fear of trivializing the symbolism. But everyone in the chapel must have seen what happened.

As the bishop and priests at yesterday's Mass for Sister MaryAnn Glinka finished distributing the Eucharist, a wide bar of sunlight poured through a window and painted a wall. By the time everyone assembled outside at the grave, the sun was full in the sky and drying the wet pavement around the Franciscan Sisterhood convent.

There was nothing subtle about this. The arrival of the sun was sudden and sweet, accented by words delivered just minutes earlier, during the homily.

"The sun is not out, and there is pain in our hearts," the Rev. Jude Winkler, a Franciscan priest, had said, and he was right at the time. The day had started wet and gray, and it remained so when Father Jude stood by the casket and spoke, without notes and at length, about the violent death of Sister MaryAnn.

Without his words, and those of the eulogist, Sister Ritamary Tan, the day might have been lost to the bitterness and sorrow left from the murder of the nun. Without this final tribute, Sister MaryAnn's death might have been soon lost in the folds of public consciousness.

It was, in all ways, a remarkable Mass. Simple in ceremony but grand in substance. Passionate and profound. Emotionally exhausting and rejuvenating. Comforting and challenging. It was intimate, with Sister MaryAnn's friends and relatives in attendance. Her mother was there, of course, in a wheelchair, as were some elderly nuns. Bishop John Ricard celebrated Mass with 15 other priests, all in white. It was Father Jude who demonstrated the restorative power of words.

"Blessed are the pure in heart . . ."

How could such a thing be true? By all accounts, Sister MaryAnn was a deeply spiritual woman who saw good in everyone, saw "in everyone a sign of God," loved everyone she met. And yet this "breeze of gentleness," as the priest called her, died a violent death.

"Blessed are the peacekeepers. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are those who seek righteousness . . ."

How could such things be true?

"We are bitter because we believe the meek have been defeated, because this oasis of peace has been violated," Father Jude said. And now sisters at the convent wake and look out their windows for patrolling police. Elsewhere in the city, men, women and children live in the same kind of fear.

But the murder of Sister MaryAnn has resounded from city to suburb, Father Jude said. In death she was blessed, because her passing has brought change.

"It has shocked and galvanized us. It has made us say to ourselves, 'Something is desperately wrong.' " And if a line was ++ crossed with the death of this nun, then what will we do to turn back the other way?

"[Sister MaryAnn] was committed to the poor. The poor are murdered and robbed, and the Lord allowed her to share in their passion . . ."

Her greatest prayers now, Father Jude said, are for those she left behind -- and for the man who killed her.

Keep faith. Hope. Pray. Be courageous. Work for justice. The priest said all these things, and more. If the murder of Sister MaryAnn left you feeling hopeless, he said, remember: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see the kingdom of God."

Sister Ritamary Tan described someone who was funny, blessed with a self-effacing sense of humor, someone who called herself a "little fool," a "fool for Christ," who took risks and trusted in people, who took teaching jobs in city schools that were, to put it mildly, challenging. "If you can say you tried, God will say you have triumphed," Sister MaryAnn once said.

During the offertory of the Mass, one of the other nuns brought a sea shell to the altar, a symbol of Sister MaryAnn's love for the ocean. There was a map, symbol of the spiritual and actual journeys she took through her life. There was even a gift certificate for Value Village, her favorite Baltimore thrift store, and the sisters in the chapel laughed when they heard it announced.

"We thank you for your gentleness, little lamb," Sister Ritamary said. "Be at peace, little fool."

Then, everyone went outside to the little graveyard on the grounds of the convent, and they sang "How Great Thou Art," and placed flowers on the sister's casket. By then, the day had turned warm and everyone noticed the sun.

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