By Barb Arland-Fye
After returning home from an enjoyable reunion with my parents, brothers and our individual families, I learned a longtime colleague had died. Her funeral Mass reinforced for me the preciousness of family during our short stay on this earth.
Sallyann McCarthy began working for the Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton in 1987, the year I gave birth to my first son, Colin. I interacted with Sallyann on a regular basis in her role as communications director for the Sisters and as a fellow parishioner at St. Patrick Parish in Clinton. The relationship continued after I moved from the Quad-City Times’ Clinton bureau to the Times’ Davenport office and later to The Catholic Messenger.
Immediately after her funeral Mass, Sallyann’s two youngest children, Laura and Kevin, reflected on their mother’s life and the great example she set for them and their three older siblings. Laura recalled how she and Kevin, as children, had helped fold 1,000 paper cranes about 20 years ago for one of the many peace and justice projects Sallyann was involved in with the Clinton Franciscans.
In the receiving line prior to Mass, Sallyann’s husband, Bob, shook my hand and held it tightly as I shared with him my appreciation for his wife of almost 47 years (their anniversary date is Sept. 3).
What a bittersweet family reunion: Bob and his children and their families brought together to send off their wife, mother and grandmother on her journey to eternal life with Christ. They’ll miss her terribly, but I hope they’ll feel deep comfort in their faith and in the memories of Sallyann that live on.
During our family’s reunion, 18 of us crowded into Mom and Dad’s hotel room to watch a video about my dad, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year. My brothers’ production included snippets of film footage from our parents’ wedding day in June 1957. At times, I haven’t felt especially close to my siblings, separated as we are by distance and interests. But at this reunion we genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.
In the same week that news of Sallyann’s death arrived, I received a letter from a faithful reader whose 59-year-old son died a month earlier. Pat Reagan wrote to express appreciation for articles The Catholic Messenger has been publishing about Jean Vanier who started L’Arche, an international federation of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life together.
Pat’s son, Bill, had been president and CEO of the Arc of Southeast Iowa in Iowa City for seven years before his death. That organization serves individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families. In her letter, Pat shared stories of Bill’s acts of kindness and commitment toward others, especially those in need. She included notes from friends and colleagues who spoke of her son as a loving husband, father and business leader.
In his first encyclical, Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis observes that “The first setting in which faith enlightens the human city is the family.” And, in a message to Brazilian Catholics celebrating Family Week, the Holy Father charged married couples and their children with the task of recognizing they must be “the most convincing heralds” of the beauty and grace of Christian marriage (Catholic News Service, Aug.12).
I thank God for my parents, who lighted the way for me and my siblings in their modeling of family, and I pray we’ll pass that light on to the next generation.