Sister Frances Watson, OSB

August 5, 1928 - April 23, 2012

Sister Frances WatsonSister Frances WatsonSister Frances Watson, OSB, 83, a Benedictine Sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kans., died on April 23, 2012, at the monastery after a brief illness. The vigil service will be at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, in the monastery chapel and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there on Friday, April 27, at 10:30 a.m.

Sister Frances was born Mary Jane Watson, only child of the late Gordon and Frances Hill Watson of Wichita, Kans. She entered the Benedictine monastery of Mount St. Scholastica in 1951 and would have celebrated sixty years of monastic profession this year. She spent her life as an educator, teaching briefly in Kansas elementary schools and at Lillis High School in Kansas City, Mo., and LeBlond High School in St. Joseph, Mo., before advanced studies. She earned a master's degree in sociology from Marquette University and a doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Kansas, and taught at Mount St. Scholastica College/Benedictine College for 26 years. 

She had a great interest in other cultures, especially Native American, and an intense passion for social justice. She participated in Pax Christi and Benedictines for Peace nationally and locally, and belonged to other organizations that advocate for non-violence and social concerns. She was also active in the American Benedictine Academy, an organization of monastic scholars. Although she had no living relatives, many of her colleagues and students became a loving family for her, in addition to the sisters of her monastic community. 
 

Memorial Card for Sister Frances:

Blessed are the peacemakers for 
they shall be called children of God. 

Mt. 5:9

Sister Frances Watson's last communal act was to walk in procession with her sisters and celebrate the Easter Vigil service on Holy Saturday. She probably had no idea that she would soon begin her own journey through the mystery of death and new life. 

Mary Jane Watson was the only child of Gordon and Frances Hill Watson of Wichita, Kansas. She entered the monastery of Mount St. Scholastica in 1951 and would have celebrated sixty years of monastic profession this year. She spent her life as an educator, primarily in the field of sociology. With a doctorate in cultural anthropology, she taught at Mount St. Scholastica College/Benedictine College for 26 years. 

She had a great interest in other cultures, especially Native American, and an intense passion for social justice. She participated in Benedictines for Peace since its inception and was also active for decades in the American Benedictine Academy and Pax Christi. Hers was a life of enthusiastic hospitality, always open to life and accepting of everyone. She spent her life praying, longing, and working for a more peaceful world. Let us remember her gratefully in our prayers.

 

Reflection given at the Funeral Vigil

by Sister Mary Collins

Scripture readings: Rev 9:1, 5-9; Colossians 3: 12-17; Matthew 5: 1-12

Poor in spirit and in truth. Meek and merciful - but capable of righteous indignation when others were demeaned or in any way mistreated. Hungering, thirsting and always working for justice. Mourning in the face of any and every injustice. Pure in heart; a woman without guile. A peace maker yet occasionally reviled because of her zealous commitment to nonviolence. This seems to capture the heart of our Sister Frances as we pray and praise God tonight to mark the completion of her journey into the heart of God.

We will miss her greatly, because Frances has been friend, mentor, colleague, teacher, companion and wise counselor, prayer partner, gadfly - and a faithful sister to each of us who are her monastic community. Her classmates in monastic life for the past sixty years knew her well and embraced her in all her humanity, and we offer our condolences to them: Sisters Mary John, Rosemary and Mary Rae; Agnes, Mary Benedict and Bernelda; Joan and Lucille. We also express our condolences as a community to all Frances’s friends, some friends of more than forty years - the Brauns, the Janzens, the Pulfords, the Druarts, the Bowers. These families adopted her and she adopted them, unto the second and even third generations. They have come great distances tonight to bid her farewell. Other long-time friends from across the country are with us in spirit. We are blessed by your presence.

We have all been blessed by Frances’s life spent among us here at the Mount. Yes, Frances was weak and vulnerable like the rest of us. But she was unafraid to pour out her life’s blood for others as the Word of God came to dwell more and more in her heart. When we complete our prayer here, we look forward to sharing our many “Frances stories.”

But the Beatitudes and all the scriptures read here tonight are not simply meant to be an encomium, words in praise of Frances. The Word proclaimed in our midst is spoken to us, the living. It is we, gathered in this chapel, who are being exhorted by Jesus and by Paul to clothe ourselves with compassion and kindness, meekness and patience. We are being asked to love one another without guile. We are being summoned again to forgive one another every complaint, whether legitimate or not, that we have against one another. We are being asked to let the peace of Christ dwell in our hearts - not because we turn a blind eye to the world’s meanness and injustice, for we cannot and must not do that. But beneath whatever turmoil we endure Frances is our witness that joy is still possible.

Our sister Frances was joyful, but not because she was naive. She was joyful despite pain everywhere around her, and despite the deep pain she carried in her own heart all her life. She was joyful because she trusted that God was with her and with the whole world. She was joyful because she knew and believed in the love of God that she experienced in her own life, because of the great love she received from her mother and father, and because of the love so many others showered on her, the love which she in turn freely and generously passed on.

Frances is gone from this life. But listen for a moment now! Attune your inner ear. You can surely hear Frances - for she has just joined her booming voice, “like a mighty thunderbolt,” to the multitudes of those gathered around God and the Lamb, those who continually cry out day and night: Hallelujah! For the Lord our God reigns! Let us rejoice and give God the glory! A Benedictine woman to the end, our Sister Frances Watson never doubted that whatever good was in her was to be credited not to herself but to God (Rule of Benedict 4: 42). And she was grateful.