Sister Melissa Anna Letts, OSB, (64), a Benedictine sister of Mount St. Scholastica, Atchison, Kan., died Friday, Sept. 14, 2018, at the monastery. The vigil service will be Monday, Sept. 17, at 7:00 p.m. in the monastery chapel and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated there Tuesday, Sept. 18, at 10:30 a.m.
Sister Melissa Letts was born in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Feb. 19, 1954, to Charles and Shirley Letts. She is a citizen of the Muskogee Nation (Creek). She graduated from US Grant High School in Oklahoma City in 1972 and earned a BA in history from Central State University in 1984. She also held a BA in pastoral ministry from Kansas Newman and an MA in pastoral ministry from St. Thomas Aquinas College. From 1984-95, she was a member of the Air Force Reserve at Tinker AFB in Okla. Sister Melissa entered Red Plains monastery in Piedmont, Okla., in 1995, and made her lifetime vows in 2003. She served as director of religious education at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Calument, Okla., from 1997-2009. She was also a hospice chaplain in Edmond, Okla., from 1998-2003. She used her artistic talents working with gourds and clay and gave gourd retreats. After her monastery closed in 2010, she transferred her vows to Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas, where she was part of the pastoral ministry team in Dooley Center. She also continued to make beautiful art pieces out of gourds.
Sister Melissa was preceded in death by her father, Charles Letts. She is survived by her mother Shirley (Kinsey) Letts and her sister, Cheryl Vickrey, two nephews and her monastic family. Arensberg Pruett Funeral Home (http://www.arensbergpruett.com/) is in charge of arrangements. Memorials may be sent to Mount St. Scholastica or made online at the Mount’s website (www.mountosb.org).
Sr Melissa Letts, OSB
It is with a grateful heart that I reflect on the life of my friend, Sr. Melissa. Our hearts, our prayers, and our love surround Melissa’s mother, Shirley, and her sister, Cheryl. We also welcome the Oblates from Oklahoma, her AA sisters and all guests that join with us tonight. I also acknowledge our sisters who came from Piedmont, OK, Melissa’s first community.
Sister Melissa and I first met at The Benedictine Spirituality Workshop and Retreat in Beech Grove, IN. During that workshop, Melissa lead us in morning praise and I remember the ritual that she guided us through. Her Native American heritage and the way she led us through the cleansing of our soul was very emotional. She then prayed toward the four directions and asked the Spirit to enter our hearts and fill our whole body with peace, love, and compassion. This left all of us in tears. One evening later that week, Melissa asked me if I wanted to “smoke with her.” Not knowing what she meant I was surprised. Melissa was very serious so of course, I said “Yes.” That night we sat in the Indiana darkness. Melissa had in her hands a huge feather, a stick of sage and a pipe. I did not know what to think, but Melissa prayed and asked me to open my body, mind, and soul for a spiritual cleansing. She outlined my body with the sage and the feather softly blew the smoke toward my body. She then asked me to do the same thing to her. After this ritual, we both smoked the tribal pipe. I went to bed that night so peaceful and was amazed at what had just happened to me.
As the woman at the well desired living water, so Melissa’s life was one of deep desire for this living water offered by Jesus. Melissa carried the body of Christ, us, in her heart and would always be there for those who needed her. She was so grateful to be a daughter of God, a Catholic and a Benedictine Sister.
Another important aspect of her life was her commitment and faithfulness to her AA community and to the wisdom that they shared. A couple of weeks ago, Melissa shared in our living group that she was celebrating her 32nd birthday of sobriety. Her smile that night showed each of us the joy in her heart.
Melissa was faithful to the Liturgy of Hours and her personal prayer.It wasn’t enough for her to be just a hearer of the Word, she was also a doer of the Word. She spread her love of prayer with many people through her labyrinths, gourds, and pottery. Melissa was a very patient person, and when she was helping others complete their pottery pieces she would often tell them, “You are molding God’s creation.” Melissa also revealed her love of God by helping me with my ministry. About 6 years ago I came across a book called, “The Invisible String.” The story talks about how our hearts are always connected by an invisible string even when our loved ones are in heaven. On the front of the book was a heart. (show the heart) I asked Melissa if she could make me some hearts like this so when I read the story I could give each person a heart to keep. Within the week Melissa made me some hearts and since then has made me around 500.As I shared each heart with those who were grieving I told them the joy she experienced as she created them.
That invisible string will always be connecting Melissa and all of us. And all of us together are embraced in the heart of God. To Shirley and Cheryl, I want you to always be aware of the invisible string connecting you to your daughter and sister, so I would like to offer you one of Melissa’s hearts.Amen