Sister Alice Smitherman, OSB

March 7, 1934 -- November 5, 2015

Sister Alice SmithermanSister Alice Smitherman, OSB, 81, a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kan., died November 5, 2015, at the monastery. The vigil service will be at 7 p.m. Monday, November 9, in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, November 10.

Sister Alice Smitherman was born in Dayton, Ohio, on March 7, 1934, to Herbert and Anna Mendenhall Leyland.  She earned her B.S. in food and nutrition and pursued graduate studies at the University of Arizona. She was director of nutrition and food service and later regional supervising dietitian for ARA Services, an international service corporation in Washington, D.C. She was president of the American Dietetic Association from 1985-87 and received the Medallion Award from that association for her distinguished service in the field. Previous to entering the Mount community in 1991, she had been married and had two sons. After her call to monastic life and completing clinical pastoral education, she served in various pastoral care settings. From 1993 to 2006, she was director of pastoral care and health care chaplain at Visitation Church in Kansas City, Mo. She was also a member of the Diaconate Selection Committee for the Diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph and chair of the Diocesan Pastoral Care Coordinating Committee. She was a generous member of her religious community, serving on various committees and faithful to prayer and monastic life. 

Sister Alice was preceded in death by her parents and her sister Nancy Leyland Gale. She is survived by her sons Stephen, Kansas City, Kan., and Paul (Diane) Smitherman, Orono, Me., grandchildren Nicholas, Jillian, Joel and Lucia Smitherman, cousins Gretchen Martin, Chatsworth, Calif., and Maryann Cochran, Dayton, Ohio, and her monastic family. Arensberg-Pruett Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online.

Reflection for the Vigil for Sister Alice Smitherman, OSB

November 9, 2015

By Sister Genevieve Robinson, OSB

Readings:  Sirach 14:20-15:1; Romans 12:4-13; John 6:37-40

Tonight we gather to pray for and reflect on the life of Sister Alice Smitherman.  First, we extend our sympathy to those here who mourn her death: sons Stephen and Paul Edward, for whom she had great love; granddaughter, Jillian, of whom she was so proud; and friends and former colleagues and all those whose lives intersected with Alice’s. 

Alice came to Mount St. Scholastica more than 20 years ago as she felt called to the monastic way of life in this Benedictine house.  She arrived as a mature woman with many chapters in her life: from the early years in Ohio, her place of birth; to Arizona, for education and life as wife and mother; to Virginia, where she became a regional supervising dietitian and eventually president of the 53,000 nutrition professionals of The American Dietetics Association; and finally to Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, where she trained and served as a chaplain and pastoral care director.  In the latter two roles, Alice felt privileged to minister to those who were experiencing illness, facing death, or dealing with the loss of a loved one.  She was also greatly honored to be a member of the Diaconate Selection Committee for the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.  

As a convert to the Catholic Church she always remembered her roots as a member of the Episcopal Church. While visiting her cousin in California and attending the parish church, the bishop often invited her to participate as a lector at Mass.  

Alice was a woman filled with grace and charm; she was a lover of the arts and the sea and sailing.  In her younger days, she also raced her Mercedes Benz.  She had a great sense of humor.  She was a lover of nature who was a bird watcher and a planter of flowers.  She was a conversationalist and always enjoyed a good joke.  She was a superb cook and baker who took care in setting an elegant meal before all who would partake.  She cared deeply for others; she was a faithful friend. 

Our readings tonight reflect much of Alice’s life.  The first reading from Sirach, the teacher, is a discourse on the pursuit of happiness.  According to the writer happiness will be found if one “meditates on wisdom and reasons intelligently”.  One must pursue wisdom like a hunter.  Once it is found, the seeker must be obedient to the commandments and law of God.  As an adult Alice pursued happiness and she found it in many places.  Her final place of seeking was Mount St. Scholastica where she absorbed Benedictine life. Throughout the last 20 years, she was faithful to the Rule and her commitment to this monastery.

A passage from Romans states, “not all the members have the same function,” or gifts, but we are all members of one another.  Alice had many gifts “according to the grace given to” her.  She was a teacher, not in the traditional sense, but as she worked with other dietitians, as she shared her knowledge of chaplaincy, and as she worked in pastoral ministry.  Her love for the various positions was evident by the care that she gave while engaged in each.  For more than a decade, she ministered to the people of Visitation parish in a loving and respectful manner.  

Alice’s life further exemplified Paul’s exhortation in his letter to the Romans by her compassion and generosity.   Whenever others needed help, she ministered to them; she offered assistance without hesitation.  Words of consolation seemed to come easily for her.  She gave of herself unconditionally; she always had a generous spirit.  

The gospel chosen for this evening is the one used for the feast of All Souls.  Even though Alice died five days after that feast day, it seems appropriate to have this particular reading from John at her vigil.  In the gospel, John wrote that God sent his only Son to earth so that we might have salvation—unending life, a life after physical death.  Alice was a person filled with hope in the resurrection.  She believed that in spite of our sinfulness, that God would not forsake us, that eternal life would be hers, and that she would be raised from death on the last day.

Alice was a cheerful person who relished a good joke and a great story.  Her laughter was full-bodied.  During the last week of her life she acknowledged that her physical life and mental ability had waned greatly; she wished for death—a death that would allow her to enter into the fullness of God’s love and to be reunited with those members of her family who preceded her in death.

As we bid our farewell to Alice, let our prayer be that she will enjoy unending life and happiness and that we will be reunited with her as she and we are raised up on that last day.