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Sister Eunice Kane

A Woman ahead of her Time

“I read of a reverend who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning…to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years. For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth…and now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.”

This poem “The Dash,” written by Linda Ellis, comes to mind when I reflect on the life of Sister Mary Eunice Kane. As the newest member of the Sisters of the Presentation, it is an honor and grace to share what that little line was worth in regard to the eldest member of our community at the time of her passing.

Born on January 9, 1912, to John and Frances (Fettkether) Kane, in Fairbank, Iowa, Sister Mary Eunice Kane was baptized Bridget Eileen Kane. She entered the Sisters of the Presentation in June of 1928 and professed her perpetual vows on December 27, 1933.

My first introduction to Sister Eunice was in the dining room at Mount Loretto, where she took her meals and shared her life’s journey with those who would join her at table. I was awestruck by her commanding presence, her ability to listen, ask insightful questions and her desire to know you as a person, a child of God. And when one was in the presence of Sister Eunice it was as if you were the only person in the room and she connected with you in your journey at the deepest level. Sister Eunice did this not only with the sisters with whom she lived but with the wonderful staff here at Mount Loretto. When staff members struggled, or their families struggled, Sister Eunice walked right along side them, offering to carry their cross of pain and suffering.

Sister was indeed a great communicator known for her passion for politics; she would craft letters encouraging elected officials to work for social justice and to do the right thing. Letters were penned to those incarcerated, letting them know they were loved by a forgiving God. They were not alone; Sister was holding them in her thoughts and prayers.

Though Sister Eunice struggled over the years with frail health (which challenged her physically), her mind was an absolute wonderment of vitality and activity. From her wheel chair Sister Eunice continued being a prophetic witness of her faith and active participant in life and in the Presentation community with whom she shared life for 82 years. Her ministries included teaching at all levels from elementary through college, her years as director of religious education, religious education consultant and Sauk Valley Area religion coordinator. Sister Eunice was instrumental in establishing training at the Midwest and national levels for catechists through the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) Leadership courses.

“Sister Eunice was decidedly a woman ahead of her time,” says Sister Joan Lickteig. “Her mind was bright, her perceptions keen, her insights far-reaching and her questions challenging.  Whether it was politics or community direction, Sister Eunice was interested, involved, invested and participative.”

As a new member to community one looks to those on whose shoulders we stand on, to watch, to learn and to listen. Last fall I visited with Sister Eunice as she shared her life story and her deep faith in God to whom she vowed obedience, poverty and chastity a life time ago. She told me it was her prayer life that sustained her and the relationship with her Beloved everyday of her life. On the occasion of her 75th Jubilee, Sister Eunice stated, “As I walk this final bridge on the sunset side of life, my heart sings with thanks to Jesus, whose rod and staff give me courage and strength.”

Two days before Sister Eunice passed away Sister Marilyn Breen and I visited her in the hospital. So very frail, struggling for breath, and yet her mind was alert and she recognized and greeted us. We stayed just briefly as not to tire her. Before leaving we told Sister Eunice we would say a prayer with her. We did. Then with all the strength she could muster in a strong voice she offered this prayer that I know she would want us to share…

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I breathe forth my soul to you in peace. And may my last words be Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

And with this prayer her Dash is now complete.

If you would like to make a memorial gift in memory of Sister Eunice, click here.

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