It was late on a Sunday afternoon, and I was sitting in the chapel of a hospice care facility, waiting for Cherry to die.
Cherry and I weren’t related by blood, but as her dementia increased—she was in her nineties when we met—I was asked to take on legal and other responsibilities around her care. It was my honor and my delight: I never knew my grandparents, and she became in many ways the Nana I would have loved to have. She was still smart, still funny, still kind.
Even before I took on these responsibilities for Cherry, I experienced another blessing: being hired to work for Pauline Books & Media. I can’t even begin to share how different it was from other work environments I’d experienced: seeing the sisters in prayer, adding names to the prayer intention book at the back of the chapel, all lifted the smallest task into an intentional act of love. It cast every meeting, every decision, every piece of writing into a new light: I was sharing in the mission of the Daughters of St. Paul, bringing Good News to the world. I was dizzy with gratitude.
And then came that Sunday at hospice.
I was seriously afraid. Cherry and I had talked endlessly about faith, and she remained stubbornly agnostic: she saw no evidence for there to be a God, and much evidence against believing. Now she was on her final journey, and I was frightened out of my wits. I sat by her bed and held her hand and prayed for her, speaking the words she hadn’t wanted to hear when she was conscious: the Good News of Christ. “You’ll see him soon,” I whispered; but who was I to say?
Frightened, I took refuge in the chapel, where late-afternoon sunlight filtered through stained glass and the memory of incense shimmered in the air, and I texted Sister Kathryn. “Cherry’s dying,” I wrote, tears streaming down my face. “I’m so scared.”
That’s what will always remain connected in my mind: my concern for Cherry and the strength I found through the Daughters of St. Paul. I talked with Sister then, but it didn’t stop there: I knew at evening prayer that Sunday, and at Mass the next day, the nuns were praying for Cherry, for her soul to go home to God. She wasn’t alone. She didn’t die alone. The sisters were with her every step of the way, and they still are.
We don’t know what happens between the soul and God at the moment of death, and to presume we do is mere ego on our part. What we do know is that God is merciful, that Jesus died for us, and that no one is beyond redemption. But all that, for me, came later: what mattered that particular Sunday was knowing that Cherry wasn’t alone, and neither was I.
It’s a small example, really, of the connection that exists between the Daughters of St. Paul and the individuals they serve. I know people are touched every day through book centers, newsletters, parish events, books, rosaries, pamphlets, radio programs, videos, podcasts… through the myriad ways the sisters’ mission is lived out. They are a powerhouse of prayer, and that life of prayer extends into the resources they provide for the rest of us, to support our faith, to guide our parenting, and to share with us in rejoicing in the Good News.
How do we access those resources? For many of us, it’s through the Pauline webstore, where sisters take orders, wrap the books, and pray—I know they do, I’ve witnessed it—for the people the items will touch. What an extraordinary channel for the Good News! But like any channel, it needs to be functional and useful, and in internet terms, that means upgraded.
The Daughters of St. Paul are giving us the opportunity to participate in their mission, to become an “angel” of the Good News of Christ, by helping them raise the money needed for a complete overhaul of the existing webstore to it can better serve the thousands of people who turn to it each day.
This matters. It matters to people who don’t otherwise have access to Catholic literature. It matters to people whose faith is teetering on the brink. It matters because we don’t know what word, or book, or image is going to open someone’s heart to the Good News.
I’ll be contributing. And as I do every year, I’ll be asking the sisters to pray for Cherry this November. Because she matters, and so does every single one of God’s children. Whoever it is you're worried about, whoever it is you're praying for, God cares deeply about them. And so do the Daughters of St. Paul.
Won’t you help?