Sister Lillian (Mary William) Harrington, OSB

March 28, 1918 - April 1, 2014

Sister Lillian (Mary William) Harrington, OSB, 96, a Benedictine Sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kans., died April 1, 2014, at the monastery. The vigil service will be on Friday, April 4, at 7 pm in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be offered there Saturday, April 5, at 10:30 am.

S. Lillian Harrington%2C OSB

 She was born to James and Mamie O’Brien Harrington in rural Blaine, Kansas, made monastic profession on Jan. 1, 1936, and celebrated her 75th anniversary of profession in 2011. She received a B.A. in history from Mount St. Scholastica College and an M.A. in speech and drama from the Catholic University of America. She earned graduate credits from several universities and from the St. John University program in Israel. Her teaching career spanned 52 years. Among other places, she taught at Lillis High School in Kansas City, Mo., and St. Joseph High School, Shawnee, Ks., and was a speech instructor at Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, Mo., for 17 years.

Sister Lillian truly made the Gospel message hers, so much so that her storytelling became a part of her "pilgrim ministry" often requested by church groups and retreatants. She developed diocesan and parish workshops, and her students learned to proclaim the Word. She had a gift for celebrating life and creating beauty wherever she went. Her presence lit up the room, and she was able to draw out the talents of others. Her spirit lives on in the lives of those she touched.

   Sister Lillian was preceded in death by her parents; her brothers, James and William; and her sisters, Lillian Harrington, Loretta Mills and Mary Cummings. She is survived by nieces and nephews and by her monastic family.

Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online at the Mount’s web site (www.mountosb.org).


Sister Lillian's memorial card

As a deer craves the running streams
so do I thirst for you, my God. Ps. 42:1

Sister Lillian (Mary William) Harrington truly made the Gospel message hers, so much so that her storytelling became a part of her "pilgrim ministry" often requested by church groups and retreatants. She developed diocesan and parish workshops, and her students learned to proclaim the Word. Born to James and Mamie O’Brien Harrington in rural Blaine, Kansas, she made monastic profession on Jan. 1, 1936, and celebrated her 75th anniversary of profession in 2011. She received a B.A. in history from Mount St. Scholastica College and an M.A. in speech and drama from the Catholic University of America. She earned graduate credits from several universities and from the St. John University program in Israel. Her teaching career spanned 52 years in numerous schools, including Lillis High School in Kansas City, Mo., and St. Joseph High School, Shawnee, Ks., and Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, Mo. She had a gift for celebrating life and creating beauty wherever she went. Her presence lit up the room, and she was able to draw out the talents of others. Her spirit lives on in the lives of those she touched. Let us remember her gratefully in prayer. 


Reflection Given at the Vigil Service for Sister Lillian Harrington
by Barbara Mayer, OSB  
April 4, 2014

This gospel of Martha and Mary was one of the favorite dramatizations that Sister Lillian performed during her “pilgrim ministry” days. Impersonating Martha, she would put a maroon shawl around her head, don an apron, and take a broom to sweep the house in preparation for the dinner with Jesus. She would ask her audience what they could bring for the dinner. Some offered bread, others a roast, another wine, and someone once offered to bring ice cream. She welcomed each contribution and made a fuss preparing the meal in her kitchen. Then donning a blue shawl, she would become Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus filled with awe and wonder.

Sister Lillian was able to combine the two roles in her own life. When she was preparing for a party or feast, she decorated the table with flowers and tablecloths, prepared special foods, and had delightful surprises for the guests. She was also able to offer spontaneous prayers and proclaim gospel stories with her own original renditions. She was a unique blend of Martha and Mary.

Sister Lillian was a teacher par excellence. In a teaching career that spanned 52 years, she served at Lillis High School; St. Joseph High School in Shawnee, Kan., and Penn Valley Community College in Kansas City. She was especially effective in teaching students how to speak clearly and dramatically, and loved directing plays and skits. One of her most famous productions was the play of “Daniel” performed by our sisters and several monks for our 125th anniversary. 

She was a quintessential performer. She remembers when she was only three or four, her father would take her to a café or bar and put her up on a table and she would begin entertaining with stories. She doesn’t know where they came from—they just seemed to pour out of her. In her pilgrim ministry her storytelling kept her audiences spellbound and made the scriptures come alive. For more than 15 years she conducted workshops for liturgical ministers, especially those who serve as lectors, Eucharistic ministers and ministers of hospitality. She also directed retreats for parish and school groups, and even served as substitute pastor in Perry, Kansas, when Father Francis Hund was away. 

She would have made a successful interior decorator and party planner. She could take an ordinary space and turn it into a place of exquisite beauty with a few cloths, art pieces and candles. She loved giving parties and when I lived with her in Kansas City we had Halloween, Epiphany, St. Patrick’s Day, St. Scholastica’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and several birthday parties every year. Nothing was too much for her to make people feel welcome and special.

Sister Lillian had many gifts, yet her rural roots and family were primary in her life. She loved her brothers, Jamie and Banker, and her sisters Mary and Loretta, and was devoted to her nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews. She made many trips to the farm in Blaine, Kansas, and often cooked meals and cleaned house for Banker. Even in her last days she looked forward to her nephew Bill’s phone calls every night. And on her birthday last week her room was filled with flowers, cards, and gifts from family and her many friends. 

Sister Lillian truly had the wisdom of both Martha and Mary. She was the epitomy of hospitality and graciousness, yet cherished solitude and prayer. She characterizes the reading from Sirach: “Happy is the person who meditates on wisdom and reasons intelligently, who reflects in the heart on her ways and ponders her secrets…” And she could say with Paul: “I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.” 

May her spirit live on in us who cherish her memory. As we celebrate her life here I’m sure she is entertaining all the angels and saints and even God with her stories.