Sister Mathilda Mattson, O.S.B.
November 18, 1924 – December 13, 2009
Sister Mathilda Mattson, OSB, 85, a Benedictine Sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kans., died December 13, 2009, at the monastery. The vigil service will be Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009, at 7 pm in the monastery chapel, and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there Wednesday, Dec. 16, at 10:30 am.
Sister Mathilda was born in Clyde, Mo., November 18, 1924, the daughter of Clifton and Mary Schieber Mattson. She attended local schools, entered Mount St. Scholastica June 14, 1948, and made monastic profession December 27, 1949. Briefly on mission in St. Joseph, Mo., and Seneca, Kans., Sister Mathilda served her community for 60 years in domestic duties. She brought her grateful presence to her tasks, notably in handwork and in care for the monastic dining room, that extension of the Eucharistic table.
Sister Mathilda was predeceased by her parents, her brother Norbert and her sister Mary Fessler. She is survived by her sisters Mathilda Perkins, Agatha Malsom, Margaret Stiens, and Lois Gockel; by her brothers Joe and Charles; by her aunt, Sister Mauricita Schieber and by her cousin, Sister Marilyn Schieber, both of the Mount community; and by nieces, nephews, cousins, and her monastic family.
Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica.
Let us remember her gratefully in our prayers.
S. Mathilda's memorial card
“The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.”
Sister Mathilda was a cheerful willing presence in community life. That attitude seemed to be her response to everything God or the community asked of her. Her presence at liturgy of the hours, at Eucharist, at recreation and special events was sign of her commitment to the monastic way. She was earnest, hardworking, and loving; and gratitude and kindness were hallmarks of her life. Her earnest attention to the least detail of her care for the community dining room became legend. Devoted to her family, Sister Mathilda looked forward to their visits to share news and to become acquainted with new members. A native of Clyde, Missouri, Sister Mathilda breathed Benedictine air from early on, entered the Mount community in 1948, and made monastic profession in 1949. She spent most of her 60 years of community life at the monastery in handwork and in attending to domestic duties which daily smooth life for others. She checked the sports pages every day, passed on news of local teams, enjoyed visiting, and always responded to a friendly greeting. Let us remember her in grateful prayer.
Reflection given at the Vigil Service
by Linda Herndon, OSB
Readings: Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; James 5:7-10; Luke 7:18b-23
“The coming of the Lord is near. Stand firm and wait for him in patience.” Late on Sunday afternoon as her Benedictine community was gathering for Evening Praise and lighting the three candles on our Advent wreath, this refrain was rewritten for Sister Mathilda. She must have heard the new words, “The coming of the Lord is here. You have stood firm and waited in patience.” And in that instant, her Advent was over. Christ had come to earth again, not to stay, but to take S. Mathilda home to shouts of triumph.
Imagine with me what that experience might have been for S. Mathilda that afternoon. Isaiah and Luke both tell us that when God comes the eyes of the blind will be opened and the deaf hear. What it must have been like for S. Mathilda to hear clearly God’s call to her: “Rejoice! Be strong, do not fear, here is your God! I have come to save you!”
What might she have heard? Surely it is shouts of joy mentioned by Isaiah, the rejoicing of the desert as it bursts into bloom, and the singing by all those who have been ransomed by the Lord. I can imagine that S. Mathilda did not just listen, but that she joined in the joyful song with all the rest. Music was an important part of S. Mathilda’s life. As she vacuumed the dining room or the halls on third floor monastery, one could hear her humming or singing over the sound of the vacuum cleaner. She was even known to hum and sing in her sleep! Now she no longer has to strain to hear and understand what is being said. No longer is there a need for hearing aids that just don’t quite work as she would like or that have batteries that wear out. Now hers is the song of everlasting joy and gladness to hear and to sing.
We are also told that another experience of the God’s coming is that weak hands are strengthened and feeble knees (and hips and legs) are made firm. For S. Mathilda this must be a wonderful experience to now have hands that can work as she wants them—without the deformity and pain of arthritis. Her legs, too, will work as they once did when she was young. The wheelchair, the walker, the labored gait are now things of her old earthly existence left behind for her new life. What a thrill it must have been for her to run to meet her God whom she had served faithfully for 85 years. As she ran to greet her parents, her brother Norbert and her sister Mary, and all our Benedictine community that has gone before us, I can imagine she really did leap like a deer.
For sixty years as a Benedictine, Sister Mathilda followed Paul’s admonition to “strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord is near.” She faithfully participated in Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist, and was faithful to personal prayer. Even in her elderly years when it became hard for her to get around and make the long walk to the chapel and it was so hard for her to hear and participate in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist, she was there. Sister Mathilda was the faithful pray-er for the sisters who live in the Guardian Living group on third floor monastery. (This had been S. Mathilda’s living group for many years before she moved to Dooley Center in 2002). S. Thomasita told me that Mathilda told her she prayed three rosaries for them each day—one first thing in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one before she went to sleep. She told Thomasita that she wasn’t sure she always finished the third one, but God knew.
For me, Sister Mathilda was a model of one who lived patiently. She faithfully, patiently cared for the dining room— meal after meal, day after day,. Certainly she exemplified St. Benedict’s admonition that the monk is to “regard all utensils and goods of the monastery as sacred vessels of the altar, aware that nothing is to be neglected” (RB 31:11). She showed by her actions that the monastic dining room is an extension of the Eucharistic table. Nothing entrusted to her care was neglected. Daily she would vacuum the entire dining room—no small job. She knew how many knives, forks, spoons, plates, cups, and glasses that we had in the serving line. How many of us learned how to “do silverware” from her? She knew the “proper” way to put the silverware into the containers after it was washed. She did not hesitate to show someone the correct way to do it or to do it herself, especially if she thought it had not been properly put away the last time. Sister Mary Ethel shared with me that S. Mathilda was put in charge of the “new” summer dining room in what is now our community room. She had the idea to have cabinets put in there along the east wall. She went and asked Mother Lucy to have this done and she was so proud that her suggestion was acted upon. No wonder she always knew where everything was in those cabinets!
One of Sister Mathilda’s favorite scripture verses is the one on her memorial card from Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” She not only like this verse—she lived it. Her needs were simple. I am told that her choice of a gift from the Guardian Angels living group for Christmas or her birthday was always a Mass for her intentions and caramel turtles (so that she could enjoy them and share them with others). When she invited me into her bedroom to show me her family picture, I was struck by the simplicity of the room. There were only the necessities there and the photos of her family of which she was so proud.
When it became obvious that it was near the time when God would come to take Sister Mathilda home, hers was not a fearful heart. She had spent years faithfully, patiently preparing for this day. She lived as the faithful monastic described by St. Benedict, “Never swerving from his instructions, then, but faithfully observing his teaching in the monastery until death, we shall through patience share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom.” (RB Prol. 50) So tonight we celebrate with Sister Mathilda as she enjoys being in the presence of the glory of the Lord, delighting as God’s love, and singing with all who have gone before us the songs of rejoicing and gladness.