“To Labor is to Pray"As I struggled to put my thoughts about Sister Andrea down on paper, with pen in hand, two things came readily to mind: First - Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, Our Lord. Once upon a time would be the other way to begin this ordinary - as well as extraordinary story of our sister, Andrea.
Born Josephine Kallus, the 4th of twelve children of Robert and Cecilia Kallus in a story book hamlet called Hostyn, Texas. Josephine lived an idyllic childhood as a farmer/rancher's daughter helping out at home and with her brother's and sisters. Out of this inner rhythm and harmony of a close family came the "extraordinary call" for Josephine and 4 of her sisters, to become Benedictines here at Sacred Heart.
Sister Andrea came to live with us at the age of 19 in April of 1936 after hearing about the Benedictine Sisters, their ministries and their commitment to hospitality, from two priests who traveled to her home parish from St. Procopius College.
From her gentle beginning in that small town overlooking the Colorado River, Sister Andrea brought her talents for care and comfort to St. Procopius College, St Joseph Orphanage, St. Joan of Arc, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Benedict's Home for the Aged in Niles and Holy Mount in Cicero.
For thirty years, until her retirement from St. Joan of Arc Parish, Sister Andrea shared her quiet elegance and gifts in the culinary arts with her family in Christ. One can't help but envision her performing duties with much grace as sacristan for the church where she moved almost silently cleaning the sanctuary, taking care of the altar and providing clean church linens, setting the table of the Lord with skill and determination. From God's earth to His table Sister Andrea provided the sisters, priests and staff of the parish with delicious meals and baked creations. Each weekend she brought mouth watering houska and kolachky to the priests and sisters. After her retirement, Sister took up the stewardship of the land and worked to make the world a better place with her recycling efforts.
A gentlewoman with a quiet, unassuming manner, Sister Andrea accomplished much in a loving and giving way. Living according to the Rules of St. Benedict Sister Andrea showed great concern and care "...in the reception of the poor and of pilgrims" where she showed "the greatest care and solicitude because it is especially in them that Christ is received..." Sharing her ministry even more, Sister managed to be an active participant in the Ministry to the Homebound, using her free time to share her rare gift of comfort with those parishioners who needed a listening ear.
Finding grace in daily living depends on how much we participate in finding it. Sister Andrea was always engaged, sought out God's presence, and found grace in the process - along with a surge of energy, as well. When I think of Sister Andrea, I think of her hands; they were much like my mother's hands and just looking at them brought comfort and wonderful memories. With her hands Sister Andrea put her heart, spirit, thought and love of the Lord into action. I've always looked at the table as a sacred space for everyone in community to give thanks and to come together, both as individuals and as community. I will never look at a well dressed table without thinking of Sister's Andrea's gifts and talents.
Sisters table was the extension of the Eucharistic Table. In the Eucharist we are fed. At the Monastic table we are both spiritually and physically fed. Especially when the bread is hearty and good, the meal enables us to taste and see that the Lord is with us.
Sister Andrea brought hearty bread and plates ripe with the Lord's bounty to the table. She said of herself, "My special joy is cooking and has been my main ministry throughout my religious life."
When word came to me that Sister had died I said a heartfelt prayer and went in search of my copy of Shel Silverstein's “The Giving Tree.” When I think of the tree in the story it reminds me of Sister Andrea. It always has. How she gave and gave and gave, asked nothing in return and then gave some more - and how in the end she was happy.
Some time ago, Sister was anointed and she told the nurse she was happy - and would be busy; that she was going far away and that she would be very busy. The nurse questioned her, "Where are you going, Sister Andrea?" "I'm going to heaven." Sister answered. But we all know that Sister was too busy to go. The energizer bunny just would not quit and she kept going. That is how I want to remember her - always going……now gone to heaven with so many things to do when she arrived.
There are but a handful of people who come into our world, and touch our lives in a dramatic fashion. Some are just flickers of light during a long life, while others are consistent and glow for years. Sister Andrea was a constant shinning star. Her way of giving, of comforting, and her zest for life along with her quiet peacefulness are an example to all. Sister Andrea was born from God's circle of light. She lived her entire life as a spark from that Great Light. She has now returned to the Great Light.
But the Lord will be your everlasting light, And your God will be your glory. "Isaiah 60.19
Bless you Sister Andrea and all who are here today. May the light of the Lord and the spark that is Sister Andrea shine in all of you.