Visiting the Maria Regina Residence
“I am inviting you two ladies to come to my 80th Jubilee Mass and celebration! I am allowed to invite 8 people. My family is all in heaven, but you are like my family now.”
I noticed that even though it has been quite a few years since Sr. Marie Franck served as a teacher of 60 sixth-grade boys (yes, in one classroom), music teacher, hospital administrator, or mother superior, she hadn’t lost that talent, so common in my experience of women religious, to know how to command while seeming to invite. It didn’t matter. My fellow Legionary Mary and I were honored by her words.
It was during this visit that Mary and I realized the impact our weekly visits were having on the three elderly Daughters of Wisdom (Sr. Marie, Sr. Mary, and Sr. Robert) and one Montfort Brother (Br. Paul) at the Maria Regina Residence in Brentwood. Our Legion work brought us warily to the Residence beginning in February. Awkward, small-talking visits became more fruitful as we began to share music, prayer, interests, concerns, rosary beads, religious books, and even Yankee baseball trivia with them. Some of these residents are able to remember us from week to week. They have become more comfortable with our visits and appear to consider us as part of the Maria Regina family.
Legion work usually becomes equally fruitful for the legionary as well as for the recipient of the work. Visiting Maria Regina reminds Mary and me of the value of a life lived for the glory of God. We see the joy in our friends’ faces when they think back on their 70-80 years of service. We are encouraged to carry on with our own works, which seem to pale in comparison. How inspirational to see that despite the physical and mental challenges which advanced age brings there is always the desire to attend Holy Mass, recite Hail Marys, and continue devotions to the Blessed Mother and St. Louis de Montfort.
One great fruit to result from this work is the connection being made between the success of the Legion of Mary and a handful of elderly women and one man who offer up their daily trials and prayers to God. At the conclusion of our visits we are almost always sent off with smiles, expressions of thanks, and assurances of prayers. “My vocation now is to pray and sacrifice for others,” declares Br. Paul. “It is very important, and I have plenty of time to devote to it. I will do it for you.”
The Jubilee Mass and Celebration
On the morning of August 5, 2017 Mary and I arrived at the Montfort Spiritual Center in Bay Shore to attend the 80th Jubilee Mass and celebration for Sr. Marie Franck. We then learned there would actually be eight Daughters of Wisdom honored that day as jubilarians. (Their years of service ranged from 50 to 80 years.) We also learned from Sr. Pat, the Provincial for these sisters, that Sr. Marie would not be attending. Sr. Pat explained that although Sr. Marie was very excited about the events of the day she was not feeling up to it when she awoke that morning. “And when you’re 99 years old, you’re allowed to get tired!” Sr. Pat said.
“Can we stay for Mass anyway?” we inquired. Sr. Pat smiled and escorted us to the front left pew, reserved for
Sr. Marie. I saw that honorees and guests were filling in the other seven pews but Sr. Marie’s pew was empty. We sat down to ready ourselves for the start of Mass. Sr. Pat joined us.
After Mass, Mary and I shared with each other how blessed we felt to have been able to represent Sr. Marie and pray for her at such an important milestone in her life. In speaking with several other members of the Daughters of Wisdom community, we felt as if we were a link connecting them to their “Mother Marie” whom they don’t often get to visit. We snapped a few photos, then decided not to stay for the luncheon in order to drive to the Maria Regina Residence and share some semblance of this exciting day with Sr. Marie. Members of the community planned to visit her later that day or the next, but they gave us her corsage and asked us to present it to her.
We arrived at Sr. Marie’s room to find her watching a televised Mass. She looked great. Her hair had been done the previous day in anticipation of the jubilee and her face glowed. How happy she was to see us! Besides giving her the corsage and Mass program, we showed her the photos we had taken that day. “Oh, yes! I know all of them. I’m their grandma now, you know.” She stated, more than once during this visit, that she thought it better to have stayed home. “I have to be smart and take care of myself. It would have been an exhausting trip out for the day. I didn’t want to be trouble for anyone else if I started to not feel well.”
Honestly, at age 99 it may have also seemed for her a bit daunting to venture out of her comfort zone, but there is no denying that 80 years spent concerned for the welfare of so many others is continuing into 81 years.
Congratulations, Sr. Marie Franck!
– Fran, Regina Cordium Praesidium member