We recently celebrated the feast of St Vincent de Paul. St Vincent was one who cared tenderly for the poor. He is well known today with St Vincent de Paul societies in parishes whose mission is to care for the poor.
Something else that he did that he may not be as well known for was he began the order of sisters called “The Daughters of Charity.” This order still exists today.
I knew a nun who was a Daughter of Charity who I admired and who I believe is a saint. Her name was Sr. Mary Virginia. She had a very important role in the early days of the Lord’s Ranch community that I am a part of. In fact, she was a big support to Fr. Rick Thomas. As Fr. Rick was the head of the community, I would say she was the heart.
Sr. Mary Virginia was the one who helped me the most when I arrived here. She helped me understand what was going on and took me under her wing. She was my spiritual director for the 10 years that she was here when I was here. She helped me through struggles and prayed for my husband Mike and me to get together without me knowing that.
At our wedding, she collected wildflowers and placed them in buckets by our outdoor altar. Our reception was in the mechanic shop on the ranch and she added nice touches like tablecloths. It was pretty rustic back then.
Sr. Mary Virginia had a deep love for the poor like her founder St. Vincent. She cared for the poor, the downtrodden, the outcast, the prisoner, etc. I learned a lot by just watching her. She was quick to pray with anyone she would see that could use a prayer.
On the feast of St Vincent I read in the Magnificat these verses from a hymn:
“He gathered the shivering child,
And placed it next to his warm heart.”
When I read that I immediately thought of a photo of Sister Mary Virginia where she holds two children close to her in the folds of her coat in the snow while she prays. I am putting that photo here for you to see.
For a wedding gift for me and Mike, my sister and her friend collected squares of material that family and friends had decorated, and then my sister and friend sewed them together to make a lovely quilt. Sister Mary Virginia drew with fabric pens on her square a picture of people in raggedy clothes and she wrote, “Do not avert your eyes from the poor.” Her square impressed me the most, and I have not forgotten it.
It is so easy when I am in my car and stopped at the corner to ignore a homeless person standing or sitting there with their cardboard signs, but then I hear Sister’s words in my mind – “Do not avert your eyes from the poor.” I can at the least look and smile and wave, or open my window and give them something, or even just talk to them and ask them their name. In doing so I am acknowledging this is a brother or sister of mine.
Sister was in the background of this community but definitely a pioneer and co-founder so to speak. People often don’t know or hear about her and that is probably the way she would want it. She was a humble servant of God.
The crown prize for me was in June 2014 in St Louis, Missouri. Sister Mary Virginia attended the ordination of my son, Nathan. My husband picked her up and brought her. Even though she was elderly, she stayed for the whole thing and for the reception. She was so happy as we all were!
She loved and laughed and had a great sense of humor. She had a heart of gold full of love and joy.
In her later years, she got dementia and lived in a rest home for retired religious. She died in 2020 during COVID and was unable to have a public funeral, which corresponded with the humble life she lived.
Ask her to intercede for you and those you are concerned about. She will be happy to do that.