Connie lived life on her own terms, and those terms were tough. She had strong opinions and delivered them in an even stronger Bronx accent. She had no patience for greed and corruption. She felt that change in Guatemala was only going to come from the bottom up.
She was building homes for poor families in Lemoa long before we started, and our own home-building program was based on her work up to that point. She knew widows and orphans from the civil war, and always had a list of the neediest. She put us in contact with local leadership to help identify schools that needed better facilities. More recently, she helped start a nutrition program in Lemoa which is doing great work.
On Sunday Connie didn’t have much energy so she stayed in bed. The following days she felt better but but her energy level was still low. She mentioned that she had a pain on her left side. However on Wednesday she felt better and we had a beautiful morning prayer together. I share the last lines of the reading that morning from the Maryknoll Book of Inspiration for May 20th:
It is the love of God within me that will be the driving force of my life. The more this love grows within me the more I can say with St. Paul -- I live no longer I but Christ lives in me. (Gal.2-20)
After this Connie had some breakfast, washed her clothes and hung them in the sun to dry. She then spent a half hour doing some email. She felt tired so laid down for a while. At ten o’clock she came into the kitchen where I was working and said it was time for a coffee break so I joined her.
She had barely taken a sip of her drink when she gave a loud sigh and her head fell over and there was no response. I immediately called Valentina, who came running over from the Nutrition Center called to the Alcalde (village leadership) to bring the nurses over from the Health Center. The Alcalde, his helpers, and the two nurses came quickly but there was no response from Connie. The bomberos (first responders) came but could do nothing as she had already died. It must have been a massive heart attack. She left us so quickly and is alive in her new life
Valentina is truly an angel. She knew what to do and managed all the arrangements. Sister Bernice, whose mission is in San Andres, came as quickly as she could and she too is another angel for me.
The coffin was placed in our small chapel and our friends kept vigil all night. The Directivas of the Parish took care of arranging for her burial here in the Lemoa Cemetery.
With the Coronavirus restrictions in pace, only a few people could come to the mass we had in the morning for Connie in in our little chapel. Because no travel was permitted between departments (states) the rest of our Maryknoll Sisters or Affiliates were not able to come. Two of the Charity Sisters who live in Quiche were with us as we walked to the cemetery accompanied by many of the people of Lemoa, who love her and had been help by her, for the burial service which Bernice did so meaningfully and beautifully.
We all threw a flower into the grave. Connie is in Peace.
[ Photos of Sister Connie from 2005+ ]