Saturday, June 27, 2009

Photopost: Funeral of Germaine (First "Tridentine" Funeral in over 40 Years at Assumption Grotto)

Our beloved Germaine - Grotto's 82 year-old housekeeper, launderer, and occasional cook, was laid to rest yesterday after being struck down by a vehicle in front of Assumption Grotto on Monday night as she left the parish. The priests learned that after she had received the Anointing and Apostolic Pardon by Fr. Perrone in the street, that she still had a heart-beat, even at the emergency room where Fr. John and Phyllis remained with her, and her family, for some hours. Hence, it is a small comfort to know she was still alive at the time the last sacrament was given to her. It was very providential that the priests all headed out the side door right after she was hit and were able to be with her.

Both Fr. Perrone, and Germaine's sister, Rita, gave me permission to shoot and to post the photos. You can get these through the main page at the Grotto website, as well, but I wanted to make a more permanent record here. What folllows below is a slideshow of the Mass. Fr. Perrone was the celebrant in this Solemn High Mass (1962 Missal). Fr. Charles White IV was the deacon, and Fr. John Bustamante was the subdeacon and homilist. Father's homily is below. Also, in this post, is the beautiful column by Fr. Perrone which appears in this Sunday's bulletin.

Please keep Germaine, and those closest to her in your prayers - the family, her friends, and especially the staff and priests who tended to her at the time of the accident. Please pray also for the man who struck her, and his family. Consequences always affect many people. He was arrested on a number of charges. Bad decisions made while driving, and wrong choices in life yield the most painful lesson when the end result is the loss of human life. Germaine herself would want us to pray for him, and I have hope that she is already interceding for him.

Homily delivered by Fr. John Bustamante at Germaine Wisniewski's funeral

In today’s Office of Readings, the Church selects a passage from St. Gregory of Nyssa. He says, “In our human life bodily health is a good thing, but this blessing consists not merely in knowing the causes of good health but in actually enjoying it. If a man eulogizes good health and then eats food that has unhealthy effects, what good is his praise of health when he finds himself on a sickbed? Similarly, from the Lord’s saying: Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God, we are to learn that blessedness does not lie in knowing something about God, but rather in possessing God within oneself.”

St. Gregory then quotes our Lord when He says, “The kingdom of God is within you.” St. Gregory is saying that by purifying one’s heart, the divine beauty shines forth in each of us. The Lord says elsewhere, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).

Each of us is called to reflect the light of Christ. There is one who perfectly does this in a way that exceeds the image of reflection—it is our Our Blessed Mother. She herself says in the Magnificant, “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” In heaven, we no longer only reflect the divine beauty, but, being perfected, share in the perfection of God.

Being with others forms bonds of attachment. For me, even four and a half short years of seeing someone daily afforded ample opportunity to see in a deeper way how precious each person is before God. You can’t get to know someone unless you are around that person. How much more so with God? How much more must God know and love each of us? And, for our part, what other way is there to know God and respond to his love than to constantly be in His presence? Through prayer? Through adoration? And certainly through the Most Holy Eucharist?

Our work itself is meant to be a prayer. It is but one way we carry out the command of St. Paul : “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thes 5:16-18). Our vocations are the way to heaven. Our daily responsibilities and tasks are these little things that are to be done with great love. Whether it be running a parish, or keeping a rectory in order—these little things are precious and meaningful before God.

I always find encouragement and receive a glimpse of God’s Providence when certain events happen to fall on a certain day of the year. We offered today the Extraordinary (or Tridentine) Form of the Solemn Requiem Mass. And according to that calendar, in some dioceses, today is feast of Our Lady of Succor. The more familiar form of this title is Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Every Tuesday we honor Our Lady with the Perpetual Help Devotions. There are many different forms of the prayers of this devotion—the prayers I learned as a child are the ones from the Byzantine devotion—they are beautiful and sublime.

In the prayer in temporal wants, we would pray, “Trials and sorrows often depress us; reverses of fortune and privations, often grievous, bring misery into our lives; everywhere we meet the cross.” How these words gather the sense of the faithful in many ages of the Church during times of war and suffering, sickness and death. Yet later we pray, “Grant that we may endure all with love and patience…I place in thee all my hopes and I confide my salvation to thy care, O Mother of Perpetual Help.”

A singular but great consolation to us is to know that a soul has received both absolution for their sins and the Apostolic Pardon at the time of death. The Apostolic Pardon grants a plenary indulgence to a soul—removing all temporal punishment due to sin and opening the gates of heaven to the soul. It is a great grace dispensed from the treasury of the Church and one we would all be privileged to receive when it is our time to depart from this life. We all were granted the consolation of knowing that Germaine received these prayers before she departed from this life.

How many generations of people did not know what became of their loved ones after death? How many people today now have lost their way and not even heard the words of our Savior: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

May each of us today renew our love of God and—in a spirit of love of neighbor—live the Gospel message of faith, hope and love. May we encourage each other, call those who have wandered back to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. And through the intercession of St. Gregory, St. Cyril and Our Lady of Consolation, may each of us be daily be prepared and worthy to stand before Our Lord and merciful Savior. Amen.

And, here is Fr. Perrone's column for this week. He not only talks about all that she did for the parish, but recounts the fateful turn of events:

“!!!! “Yea. I’ll be right there.”

It might almost have passed for the opening of a comedy routine: I yelling her name down the clothes chute (our old rectory still has one) and she answering from her laundry room ‘office’ in the basement. How many times a day I would call on her for something, I can’t say. She was needed for just about every task I can think of.

This past Monday evening our faithful, indispensably helpful housekeeper, Germaine Wisniewski, was struck down with a violent and fatal blow on Gratiot Avenue from a speeding car manned by an unlicensed driver while she attempted to cross the street. I, with Frs. Bustamante and White, had just gone out the rectory side door when we saw traffic backed up on Gratiot and heard someone say that somebody had been struck down in an accident. Only a second later a voice blurted out, “I think it’s Germaine!” I bolted towards the scene of the accident, in front of the convent, to find there...I can hardly even write about it now without tears...our Germaine, motionless, lying on the blacktop beside a small pool of blood. Fr. John ran to the sacristy to get the holy oils for the sick. I knelt down beside her calling her name, pronouncing the words of absolution. I could scarcely believe the witness of my eyes. She had left the rectory only minutes before, having done the usual Monday laundry. Now she was here, flung on the street like some stray animal hit by a passing car. When the oils were handed to me I said the form for the anointing and imparted the Church’s final gift to the dying–the plenary indulgence that remits all punishments due to sin. Meanwhile, police had traffic halted and held the handcuffed driver in custody. An EMS vehicle finally arrived and took her body away. I was to learn later that, despite appearances, she had still been alive until a short time after she arrived at the hospital. Fr. John and Phyllis Bausano went to the hospital where they met Germaine’s sister and nephew. I stayed behind, walking about dazed for a while, and then entered the church to pray in silence. I couldn’t get into my emotional system what my mind told me had happened. Our Germaine was dead.

I can’t adequately put into words, especially in this small space, all that Germaine meant to us and all that she did for us. I’m going to give it a feeble try anyway. Here’s a short list: she did the laundry and the ironing; she washed cassocks, albs, purificators and hand towels for Mass; she laundered servers’ vestments and gloves; did housecleaning of the three-storied rectory (basement and attic included), scouring toilets and showers, and scrubbing floors on her hands and knees; she set the table, washed and put away the dishes, washed rectory windows and curtains; watered, weeded and fed the garden, and planted flowers; mended vestments and our clothes; cooked on occasion; purchased things for the rectory; many other things I can’t think of? She was only 82 years old.

Germaine, you see, had been hired on to work only from 9:00 until 2:00. The truth was that she hardly ever left the rectory until closer to 8:00 p.m., as on the day she died. I suppose this was more her home than the one she slept in. This was not just her work; it was her life. And in doing it she always aimed to please. She was never one to pity herself. She never wanted to be babied and never let on if she was feeling sick. She worked here everyday except Sunday.

Some of you may remember seeing her in a cameo appearance a couple years back as Mother Teresa in a skit put on for the parish’s 175th Jubilee. She was amazingly convincing in that role. Germaine had a wonderful sense of humor and would instantly spring into song at the least hint of a pop tune. She knew them all (the old ‘standards’ of popular music). I imagine that in her time she once could dance up a frenzied polka, though by the time she had come to us her dancing years were long past.

Needless to add, Germaine was a regular at Mass, often coming to the 7:30 a.m. daily Mass, after which she sprang right to work, emptying baskets and filling humidifiers in the wintertime before settling down to her by then cold piece of toast and tepid cup of coffee. Her holy cards next to the iron in the basement told the story of the many little prayers she must have said quietly everyday.

With all that she did, it would take a good four persons to replace her, not that this is the reason we are mourning her death. She was simply part of the rectory family, someone whom I imagined would always be there. Not only was she helpful, but she had a cheerful, dynamic personality. I especially liked those stock phrases and slogans that she frequently used, to which I would often make responses of similar kind of my own. If I would express some preference for her to do something or other, she might snap back, “You drive a hard bargain.” Or, if someone of the rectory staff happened to come in the door, she would pipe up with, “Look who the wind blew in.” She had many other such one-liners that only she could get away with because we all knew she meant no harm. She was without doubt a tough willed person. How else could she have driven her aging body to such superhuman lengths of endurance? She was simply one of a kind.

We will all miss Germaine. I doubt we’ll ever find another like her. But it’s not just her utility that we will miss. We will miss her. Our rectory life will not be the same without her.

I hope that she will soon be enjoying a much deserved rest from all her labors, rest in that place we all hope one day to enjoy. “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I can’t thing of anyone for whom those words seem more appropriate than for Germaine Wisniewski.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church; it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!