Sister Phyllis (Mary Prague) Dye, O.S.B.
March 28, 1931 - October 8, 2009
Sister Phyllis (Mary Prague) Dye, OSB, 78, a Benedictine Sister of Atchison, Kans., died October 8th at the monastery. The vigil service will be in the monastery chapel at 7 p.m., Sunday, October 11, and the Mass of Resurrection will be offered there at 10:30 a.m., Monday, October 12, followed by burial in the monastic cemetery.
Sister Phyllis, born in St. Joseph, MO, March 28, 1931, was the daughter of Homer A. and Bess L. Wilson Dye, Jr. She attended the Mount Academy and Donnelly College, Kansas City, Kans., and earned the BS in education with minors in English and history at Mount St. Scholastica College, Atchison. She became a Catholic and was baptized in 1949. Two years later she entered the Mount St. Scholastica community and made monastic profession in 1952.
Teacher and librarian in elementary schools for 32 years, Sister Phyllis served at Christ the King School and St. John the Evangelist in Kansas City, Kans.; St. Pius School, Mission; St. Joseph, Shawnee; ACES in Atchison, Kans. and St. John’s, Hanover; at Co-Cathedral in St. Joseph, Mo., and the Antonito, Colo. public school. Between 1984 and 1996 she was in charge of the monastery garden and the preparation of food for the monastery refectory. Recently, she has been in retirement in the Mount community’s Dooley Center care facility.
She is survived by cousins and by her monastic community. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica.
Let us remember her gratefully in our prayers.
S. Phyllis's memorial card
“God numbers the stars, and calls each one by name”
Our journey to God is simple and direct, becoming complicated only if we make it so. Such seemed to be the life philosophy of Sister Phyllis. In a sense, she lived her own psalm, recognizing in all creation the presence of a loving God – in stars and sky, flowers, fishing, friends, all that exists (including cats). She once wrote that Emily Dickinson “very cleverly gets us to see that … we need to laugh at ourselves for failing to live life in its fullest measure.” The daughter of Homer and Bess L. Wilson Dye, Jr., she attended the Mount Academy and Donnelly College, where she became aware of the simplicity and inclusiveness of Benedictine ideals. Sister Phyllis became a Catholic when she was 18, and entered the Mount community in 1951. She made monastic profession the following year. At Mount St. Scholastica College she earned the BA in education with minors in English and history. Sister Phyllis shared her love of reading with hundreds of eager children. A caring, appreciative, abrupt, and compassionate character, her sometimes wry comments indicated that she was not interested in making of the simple a convoluted problem. She enjoyed crocheting, fishing and photography, and was happy in her duties in the community garden and the canning house. Recently, she was resident at Dooley Center. Let us remember her in grateful prayer.
Reflection given at the Vigil Service
by Bridget Dickason, OSB
The readings tonight offer us a trilogy of salvation history. I have selected three phrases from each reading. Each highlights elements of our communal salvation history and the salvation history revealed in Phyllis’ life. Phyllis loved history and would approve, I think.
The Book of Sirach is my favorite Old Testament book. It is the story of a teacher wanting his students to learn wisdom. For Sirach, who lived in a Hellenistic culture, salvation history was lived through a covenant relationship with wisdom. Our passage tonight focuses on three lessons: love of learning, love of life, and ministry to the Holy Ones. Three very Benedictine values that Phyllis lived well.
The first reading opens with “Wisdom teaches her children.” Phyllis was a child of God who loved learning. She was well read and passed on her love of reading to her students and fellow sisters. Many of us gathered here tonight have read books suggested to us by Phyllis. She wanted to share her wisdom and knowledge with those around her.
This leads to the second lesson of Sirach - love of life. Sirach teaches, “Whoever loves her (wisdom) loves life.” Phyllis helped me learn how to balance monastic life: prayer, work, and leisure. She was faithful to the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist. However, if the fish were biting and it was time for vespers, we prayed with extended arms. Our poles raised high in supplication for a “keeper.” Food, family and friends made up her leisure. Her beautiful skin, clear blue eyes, and wonderful smile sparkled as she relished those times together.
Phyllis always rewarded a job well done, which leads to Sirach’s third lesson. “Those who serve her (wisdom) minister to the Holy Ones.” The “Holy Ones” were Ebony, the cat, and us. She was dutiful in doing her work, whether it be in the classroom, library, garden, or the canning house. She supervised hundreds of students in the classroom, reviewed thousands of books, prepared literally tons of food in the canning house and added to the beauty of the monastery with her fresh- cut flowers. It wasn’t glamorous work, but she ministered to us faithfully.
In the second reading, St. Paul’s letter to the Romans focuses on the Mystical Body of Christ. The body has many members and “not all the members have the same function.” Phyllis was a character with her own unique gifts to offer the Kingdom of God here on earth. Three gifts mentioned by St. Paul speak especially of Phyllis: “the giver, in generosity,” the “patient in suffering,” and “extending hospitality to the stranger.” Phyllis was a generous giver. She was generous with her time and talents. After a particularly hot day in the garden, we would cool off with a soda at Reynold’s drugstore. She appreciated anything done for her. Many of us have one of her afghans or one of her beautiful photographs. She had an eye for the simple beauty in nature, and people, and cats. During the last few years of her life she was “patient in suffering.” Arthritis had invaded her body ending her crocheting, but it never stopped her beautiful smile for those who visited with her. She extended hospitality to those who entered her life, especially the four-legged kind. Whether it be the Amino brothers, Mr. Herring, Brother Anthony, Mary Winder or her cousins, she always welcomed them and invited them to a meal.
The gospel tonight is short and to the point, much like Sister Phyllis was. For all the many words she read, she appreciated brevity of speech. Don’t worry Phyllis, I’m trying to keep this short. However, three lines from this gospel help sum up the paschal mystery of her life. Speaking to God Jesus says, “my disciples are your gift to me,” “I wish that where I am they also may be with me,” and “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” Like this Sunday’s gospel, Phyllis’ discipleship was a great sacrifice. Homer, her father, had lost his wife and son and appeared to be losing his daughter when she joined the Catholic Church and the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica. Although he would visit her, she felt his pain and loneliness and was very grateful when Vatican II allowed her to visit him at the Little Sisters of the Poor home in Kansas City. Phyllis’ death was a fulfillment of the second line “I wish that where I am they also may be with me.” The last few days of her life she looked longingly for the Kingdom of Heaven. She searched for the faces of Homer and Bess and the brother she never knew. Death is the price we pay to be reunited with those who have gone before us in the light of faith. This journey is made so “that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.” Phyllis knows the love of Christ, that beatific vision which encompasses all those she loved in this life and is partying with in the next.
In her resurrection I see Phyllis enjoying the heavenly banquet that she did not have to help prepare. I see her walking through weedless gardens and taking pictures that she will want to share with us when we join her. And I hope she is checking out all the fishing spots so that she can share the best ones with me when I finish life’s journey. Fare thee well good and faithful servant. Your journey is complete.