Friday, December 19, 2014

ARCWP Priest Mary Sue Barnett Shares Tribute to Her Aunt, Sister Jeannie Effinger

My name is Mary Sue and I am a niece. 
I am one of many nieces and nephews.
We grew up calling our aunt "Sr Jeannie."
Together we make up a formidable Effinger tribe. 
Sister Jeannie Effinger

For many years, our grandparents' house on 3rd Street was a significant gathering place for Sr Jeannie, our parents, cousins, cousins' spouses and great grandchildren. 
It was a shotgun house framed by a large shade tree---
a front porch lined with 4 o'clock flowers---
a backyard flourishing with climbing roses, moss rose, spirea, daisies, sunflowers and peonies---
and a front sidewalk that hosted hopscotch, jump rope and was a direct pathway to Holy Name Catholic Church and school nearby.

Inside the house every room was filled with noisy, active children--
the dining room table was the focal point of the robust voices of our aunts--- 
and the kitchen was a fog of cigar smoke and comical, political debates among the uncles. 

It was in this house that my cousin Tom Tom recalls Sr Jeannie's distinctive laugh that resonated through every room as well as Sr Jeannie's loud and proud playing of the front room piano that had not been tuned since 1945.

My cousin Michele remembers that if grand kids wanted any Koolaid or butter bread sprinkled with sugar, you had to first go through Sr Jeannie by giving her a big kiss.
Sr Jeannie was known for planting enormous smooches on little Effinger faces.

My cousins Doug and Chuck remember Sr Jeannie's occasional scolding, particularly when misbehaving at skating parties in the Holy Name gym. 

My cousin Steve remembers one of our childhood trips to the family farm in Chaplin KY when some nice juicy ground chuck burgers were being cooked on the grill.  
When no one was looking... Sister Jeannie grabbed one of those burgers off the grill and next thing you knew...  
her beloved Shadarack was a happy puppy with a full belly. 

My cousin Ann's son, Scott, recalls Sr Jeannie often sitting on the front porch of the 3rd Street house late at night talking compassionately with homeless people and offering guidance to troubled folks.

At our grandparents' house on 3rd Street--
at Holy Name Church and school--
and at the family farm---
these were places where we knew and experienced Sr Jeannie in the wild and wonderful chaos of a large and loud family. 

And there is more.

The beauty of the shade tree and the blossoms that enclosed the household during our childhood hints at a deep, underlying beauty of this family. 

Beneath the years of laughter, scolding, piano-playing, kissing, noisy children and shared meals, there lies a deeper stream of life that has flowed and continues to flow for this family.

It is a stream of love that is sacred, colorful, resilient and kind and it surfaces as a face of God in our midst. 
I witnessed Effinger family love in recent days in the care that aunts, uncles and cousins showed Sr Jeannie in her dying. 
It is far more than having the local parish church located a stone's throw from the house.

It is being Christ at the bedside.
This family knows how to be Christ at beside.

There is sacred mystery that undergirds this family and makes us strong.
I'm sure Sr Jeannie felt the gift of this in her last days. 

My own favorite memory of Sr Jeannie is when I was 4 years old.
She held my hand and walked me along my neighborhood street on a warm morning. 
She stopped and drew my attention to the sound of the birds. 
She wanted me to listen to the sound of the bobwhite and taught me that its song is identical to its name. 

At this time of Advent when Sr Jeannie is graced with entering eternal life, may this Effinger family hear the sacred songs being sung to us from the tress, the blossoms and the skies above telling us that love connects us, one to the other, that it is a power that transcends death and that we are connected on earth and in heaven right now.

Sr Jeannie's Funeral
Mary Sue
December 17, 2014

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