Maria and Effie grew up in a loving Catholic family. In her twenties, Maria, the eldest sister, was engaged to be married, but it didn’t work out. Effie rarely dated, and as the years went on, the sisters continued to live in their family home. Both were popular with friends and colleagues. Their outgoing personalities, love of fun, and willingness to help others brought them many invitations to parties and sporting activities. Maria was a teacher and Effie a social worker; both volunteered at their local parish. They continued their active lifestyle into their sixties, until Maria noticed that something was wrong with Effie. This became apparent with the beginning of early stage dementia. With that, their lives changed.
Attendance at social functions, volunteer activity, and outings with friends and neighbors all but ceased. Maria committed herself to care for Effie. Friends and neighbors expressed admiration at Maria’s generosity with her time. She lovingly spent most waking hours caring for her sister. Reflecting the spirit of Christ, she did it without complaint, accepting the personal sacrifice required to keep Effie safe, fed, and clothed. A friend described Maria’s response to this difficult situation with the words, “There is no greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friend.”
Maria’s love of Effie deeply influenced those around her. When performing the simplest daily chores to help her sister, Maria reflected Pope Francis’ description of living the call of Christian discipleship coming from Baptism. This happens whenever we reach out to the least of our brothers and sisters.
A priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a Professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology at the Athenaeum of Ohio, Father Bob Hater is also Professor Emeritus at the University of Dayton. Order Fr. Hater’s new book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future.