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An Easter meditation

Sister.Julia.about.1985.crossing.the Mississippi

Aunt Julia lived a counter-cultural life. That’s her in the 1985 photo above, walking on a wood plank over a small stream far up north in Minnesota.

Hard to believe that this tiny rivulet, as it heads south, turns into the mighty Mississippi River, coursing over 2,500 miles, expanding at places to a width of more than two miles and draining a watershed of more than 1.2 million square miles.

It’s kind of a miracle. Like Jesus rising from the dead.

The quietest of lives

Julia was my father’s older sister. She went into the convent in the late 1940s, becoming a Dominican nun. She led the quietest of lives, teaching in grade schools around the Midwest for something like half a century.

She died in late 2011 at the age of 93.

At her funeral at the motherhouse of the Sinsinawa Dominicans in a rural area of Wisconsin across the river from Dubuque, Iowa, I noticed that a listing of her assignments showed her moving every couple years.

“Obviously, she was a trouble-maker,” I joked to one of the sisters.

Gentle spirit

She laughed, and said the real reason was because Sister Julia was such a gentle spirit that she would be moved around to provide a calming presence in convents that needed one.

Sister Julia turned her back on an American culture that trumpets a selfish materialism. Instead, she followed Jesus. She lived an amiable life of service. She was pretty much happy. She brightened the lives of those she met and taught and lived with.

She lived the resurrection. She embraced the meaning of Easter.

Patrick T. Reardon


  • Kathleen Naughton Posted March 30, 2013 3:48 pm

    what lovely ode to Aunt SisterThanks PAt for capturing her spirit so eloquently

  • Mary Chappell Posted March 30, 2013 4:40 pm

    That’s beautiful and absolutely true. I remember her so well and she was so proud of you and your writing abilities. I recall her showing your exceptionally well written letters from college to my Mom and myself. She knew you had a future as a writer and she was absolutely on target. This is a wonderful tribute to her and the picture is perfect.

    • Patrick T. Reardon Posted April 1, 2013 9:07 am

      Thanks, Mary. She sent me the photo about 10 years ago, joking about how she was crossing the Mississippi.

  • Mary Elizabeth Posted March 31, 2013 10:44 pm

    Pat this is beautiful. Aunt sister was gentle but she could be tough too.
    Great thoughts for Easter.
    Happy Easter
    Mary Elizabeth

  • Geri Greenfield Posted April 1, 2013 7:18 am

    Thanks Pat for helping us remember Aunt Sister. Hopefully we all have some of
    her qualities within us. Love Geri

  • Patrick T. Reardon Posted April 1, 2013 9:03 am

    Glad you liked it. Need to hear some stories about how tough Aunt Sister was.

  • Marie Julia Barrows Posted April 2, 2013 1:40 pm

    This is beautiful. I loved Aunt Sister so much and was writing to her since I was 14. Her calming presense and love for God came through all her letters to me and I will always treasure this. And now with Uncle Connie gone from this earth, the Reardon siblings are all together once again in heaven with our Lord. This brings a smile to my face.

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