Tomorrow the long line of Pauline sisters, family and friends wound its way down the hill behind our publishing house to the mausoleum to lay to rest our dear sister, Susan Helen Wallace. Tonight, in a few hours of silent waiting, I cherish my memories of this sister whom we all love.
Sr. Susan, endearingly nicknamed Auntie by the community, had for almost thirty years been a member of the publishing house of the Daughters of St. Paul as a writer and editor. Her books for children and Basic Catechism are still popular. As her generous laugh plays in my heart, I did something she probably never did: I googled her name. ”Susan Wallace” appeared in every listing of the first nineteen pages as the author of one book or another. Those webpages were in English, but even after those pages, the entries continued in a variety of languages.
One heart on fire with the Pauline mission.
And now, even as she leaves us for heaven, she will remain present here with us through her books, present in people’s homes, classrooms, libraries, and hearts. Though she will never have the opportunity to meet these new readers, she already has carried them in her heart and in her prayer…each of them.
Blessed James Alberione, founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, assured us that unlike those who carry out other apostolates, the apostle who uses the media to communicate the message of Jesus will know on this earth very little of the good she accomplishes. There is an anonymity to her mission she can’t escape. She will never actually meet most of those who read her books or use her apps, listen to the music she records or land on a webpage she created. But God knows them. He knows how he uses her work to find his way into their hearts to bring peace and truth, life and conviction. The Lord has recorded all of these seeds she has sown in the book of life. And Blessed James Alberione urged us to carry in our hearts the people who are influenced by the Pauline mission and to feel a responsibility for them. “Sow your seed,” he wrote, “and when you will arrive at the judgment seat of God, you will have a crown of souls around you who received spiritual help from you.”
I want to share something Sr. Susan wrote at least twenty years ago in a magazine article. It is particularly meaningful because she suffered for most of her religious life with the crippling effects of severe rheumatoid arthritis.
“The days of our lives are marked with mystery. The fact of our very living is a mystery to some…. No matter how we want to get around it, we are confronted, time and again, with human limitations, and even more specifically, my own limitations. …The skeptic looks at these human problems and says: ‘See, there can’t be a God or how would he let negative events crop into our lives?’ The believing person looks at the same realities and says: ‘I see the picture, but I have to admit that I see only part of it. I see some of the reality, but not the totality. There has to be more to this situation than my human vision can account for. And there is Someone who does see the whole picture. My vision will sharpen the more closely I draw near to him. My earthbound vision will take wings. It will lift me out of the narrow confines of thinking only at the natural level, and will lift me to the plain of the supernatural.’ …Faith takes the bitterness out of suffering. It solves the riddle of our frightened existence and places us safely in the arms of the divine and human Christ. One way or another, he gives us a share in his Calvary and a taste of the uncertain silence of Holy Saturday. Then Sunday comes, and with the first streaks of dawn resurrection.”
Sr. Susan, you were such a presence of joy in our community and in the mission which we were privileged to carry out at your side here at Pauline Books and Media. As we lay you “to rest,” we know you will never really rest, for like your favorite saint, Saint Therese the Little Flower—whom you can finally meet in person!—you will spend your heaven still doing good to all those who will read the books you’ve written for years to come.
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP
August 21, 2013
Books Written by Sr. Susan Helen
Sr. Susan's father once wrote how much she had loved to read the lives of the saints as a child. Once she discovered them, she devoured every book in his library on the these friends of God. Her favorite were the books written by Louis de Wohl.
In her early years as a Daughter of St. Paul, Sr. Susan walked the streets of Manhattan bringing the Word of God and her smile to everyone she met.
Since the sisters lived on Staten Island, she and the other sisters would take the Staten Island Ferry across to Manhattan each morning and at the end of a long day, tired, they would return on the Ferry.
It was on these daily rides on the Ferry that Sr. Susan began writing
about the saints for children, something she continued to do up until a few years before her death. She knew that meeting these men and women who had followed Jesus had been important in her own life and knew what it could do for kids even today. Sr. Susan wanted to make their lives accessible and interesting. Though some of her titles are out of print, right now these are popular.
Sr. Susan’s need to know was impressive: her need to know in depth, to know with certainty, to know through study and through experience. She was never content with superficial knowledge. It was her need to know that made her such a gifted teacher and writer – especially in the field of catechetics. She was the primary author of Basic Catechism which for the past thirty years has been a basic introduction to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Read the eulogy given at Sr. Susan Helen's funeral