Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sister Phyllis

Sister Phyllis’ ‘home’ is technically Kennydale Hill, near Renton; she went to WSU and taught school in Ellensburg. When I arrived and said I was from Seattle, inevitably people would respond ‘So you know Sister Phyllis!’ Initially, she was in Italy with a pequeno having surgery, so I didn’t meet her until about a month ago, but I’ve gotten to know her since then.

Sister’s 50th anniversary of taking her vows is on June 23rd. She’s taking a vacation at home and going camping at Mt Rainier with friends she’s been doing this with for many many years (with a bottle of wine).

She used to work at Miacatlan in Mexico. She remembers the days when they would sometimes only have beans to eat for more than a week, the days when they were really struggling.

One day, long ago, Sister Phyllis walked with 95 little boys under the age of 10 to the entrance of Xochicalco. It’s about 5 km from the orphanage and each one carried a small packed lunch. When they got close to the gate, she told them all to stay behind and hide. Then, she approached the gate and in her nicest, sweetest manner told the guard there that she had several children from the local orphanage and could they please enter for free? They didn’t have enough money for the entrance fee. He looked at her and hesistated, but eventually agreed to let them in. So she called out and 95 little boys appeared. They spent the rest of their day exploring their own culture in a way they couldn’t have without her.

She has a story for every situation, and then some. She arrived in Nicaragua for the first time in April of 1982. She felt such hope in the country, there was progress in education and economics among the poor for the first time in a long time. But a few months later the US embargo began. She would sorrowfully tell how a baby died at their convent because they couldn’t get medicine, not even aspirin.

Sister Phyllis has experienced real tragedy through the people she has cared for as most of us will never know. But she also is always the first with a joke, a funny story or to give thanks for the kindness of others. I hope I’m that happy when I’m her age (and still camping!).

Happy Anniversary Sister!

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