MARY ANN SCOFIELD TRIBUTES
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Reflections for Mary Ann’s Funeral Liturgy
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus promising: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you?...Where I am you also will be.” What a powerful promise--and Mary Ann believed it intensely (well, let’s be candid, she did everything intensely!). God was her rock, her refuge, her Beloved, her dwelling place; that’s where she always longed to be: in God.
Mary Ann lived a full, fruitful life and was many things to many people all over the world: a sibling, an aunt, a great-aunt, a dancer, a Sr of Mercy, a teacher from kindergarten through college, a pioneering woman theologian, a rather exacting formation director, one of the first women to lead Ignatian retreats, a graced spiritual director, a keen trainer and supervisor of spiritual directors, foundress of a global organization for spiritual directors, a dear and faithful friend to me and to so many in this chapel. Her gifts pulled her to give talks and lead workshops in countries around the globe. But above all, beneath all, surrounding all, motivating all, she was a woman grounded in God who helped the rest of us to waken to our true selves in God.
The announcement several months ago that Mary Ann was terminally ill with brain tumors has no doubt eliminated the US Postal Service operating deficit, as she received hundreds and hundreds of notes from people whose lives she had impacted. I sat down the other day to read them, but could only make it through the first few, which I excerpt here:
From a Jesuit formation director: “I remember arriving at your office to spend the hour talking with you. You were always there waiting for me and sometimes even at the door looking out for my arrival. Our great and grace-filled conversations continue to enrich my life. I can hear you ask, ‘Who is this God?’ Indeed, who is this amazing God?”
From a longtime friend: “At the recent SDI conference a friend from the Philippines spoke eloquently and with such gratitude about your outreach to the world community. I write this on Mother’s Day, dear friend, because you are one who has mothered my soul.”
From a directee: “You taught me about prayer and God, beauty and joy, spiritual practices and the unfolding life of a spiritual director. I vividly recall when you said, “Prayer is conscious relationship with God.” So much came together for me in that moment…”
From a co-worker: “When I think about you these days, Mary Ann, I find myself remembering the many experiences we shared in San Francisco, Lithuania, and other ports of call… I flipped through my photo albums the other night and laughed out loud at the shows we did to end every training session at Mercy Ctr. Where did you get those awful outfits we wore and how did you ever convince us to RAP with you? Mostly what I remember is the way you cared for me and always made me feel like I had something significant to contribute. Thank you for that. It has helped to shape the person I have become.”
From a Jesuit colleague: “I’m told that Jesus is inviting you home to be with him soon in his beautiful garden. I am full of gratitude for every minute we have had together, working or playing, dining Chinese, or praying, in Burlingame or Seoul or Singapore. I love you deeply. Save me a seat. Goodbye for now.”
For the past few years, Mary Ann’s favorite spiritual reading was a small book by Iain Matthew called THE IMPACT OF GOD. It explores the spirituality of John of the Cross, a mystic madly in love with God. The book spoke to Mary Ann’s longing for God and her constant desire to forget self and make room for welcoming God. In the words of the author: “God, you show yourself first and you go out to meet those who desire you….The one thing needed now is some space, so that what is coming can come…. God is an approaching God, and our main job will be not to construct but to receive; the key word will be not so much ‘achievement’ as ‘space.’ The one thing needed now is some space. Making room for God, the way God was making room for her. Where I am you also will be. Mary Ann was incredibly outgoing and hospitable; perhaps that’s why she chose today’s gospel: John 14, “I am going to prepare a dwelling place for you….”
When Mary Ann was teaching 1st grade in San Francisco as a young nun and Christmas was approaching, she arranged for her class to act out the Nativity story. All the students wanted to be Mary or Joseph; no one wanted to be the innkeeper who would have to turn them away. Finally one boy reluctantly agreed and took his place at the front of the class near the doorway. Mary and Joseph exited into the hallway via the back door, walked up the hallway, and knocked loudly on the front door. The innkeeper opened the door. Joseph asked, “Do you have room for us?” The 6-yr old innkeeper shook his head, “No, but you can come in for a drink.”
Inviting people in was something Mary Ann did so well. Alas, she lived for over 20 years in a local community comprised of herself and two introverts. Phyllis and I would come home and want nothing more than to bury ourselves in a book or a crossword puzzle; Mary Ann, on the other hand, wanted to invite people over, form another prayer group, or go out to an event. She was eager to learn new things and meet new people (she had a fear of being boring, if you can believe that). She loved her extended family and delighted in staying in touch with all of them. Many an evening, while Phyllis and I watched Jeopardy, she’d be at the kitchen table writing a dozen letters--that is, when she wasn’t on the phone! At the risk of understatement, we can all agree that Mary Ann was relentlessly relational.
Her life was not easy, evidenced by the deeply-lined face of a person who has had more than her share of sorrow as well as joy. Years ago one of her nieces, age 4 at the time, walked up to Mary Ann at a family gathering and asked, “Why is your face all cracked?” Then she asked her, “Does it hurt?” Pain and loss etched Mary Ann’s heart as well as her face over the years. At the same time, there was an undeniable attractiveness that radiated from that face. She never understood it herself. She told me that at a conference once a man she didn’t know kept staring at her. She finally turned to him and said, “Can I help you?” “No,” he answered, “I just like looking at your face.”
Her ministry of spiritual direction was of course entirely private. She carried more secrets in her heart than the Cure of Ars. She really kept confidences, and NEVER told anyone who her directees were. When the phone rang at our house, it was almost always for her. If a directee phoned the house to change an appointment, the caller would usually say, “This is so-and-so, I am one of Mary Ann’s directees; may I speak to her?” Then Mary Ann would pick up the phone and say: “Hello, THERE.” We teased her about knowing so many people named “there.”
Most of all, Mary Ann loved to invite people over for dinner. Her special thing was setting the table for guests. An apt metaphor, I believe, for the way she made room for people in her heart. In her home. In God’s house. Today we are at Eucharist, where God has invited us in and set the table for us. We’re giving thanks to God for putting Mary Ann in our lives. We’re giving thanks to Mary Ann for teaching us how to make room for God in our hearts. We’re giving thanks for this amazing mystery that holds us all, the merciful embrace of God.
Mary Ann knew God in her very bones. Over these past few difficult months she already was living in the place God had prepared for her, utterly in love with the God who had snatched her away as a 22-yr old from her boyfriend at West Point, from her voice lessons in NY, from all the plans she’d made for her own future back in 1947….. I can just hear this God luring her to Burlingame 65 years ago: “Mary Ann, I’ve prepared a better place for you.”
Tucked into her Office Book I found a poem by Mary Oliver entitled “Thirst.” It reads, in part: “Love for the earth and love for you, O God, are having such a long conversation in my heart. Who knows what will finally happen or where I will be sent, yet already I have given a great many things away, expecting to be told to pack nothing, except the prayers which, with this thirst, I am slowly learning.” Over these past few months, Mary Ann did give many things away. She who loved to dance could no longer walk without assistance. She who spoke so eloquently of God could no longer cobble together a coherent sentence. She who was always there for others had to let others be there for her. But she never gave away her thirst for God, or the radiance of God’s presence within her.
Leonora, one of the caregivers who tended Mary Ann so lovingly at Marian Oaks, shared this grace with me a few days before Mary Ann died: “I was massaging her swollen arm with lotion. At that point, she could not really talk any more. But as I was leaving, Mary Ann leaned forward, grabbed both my hands in her hands, and said absolutely clearly: “I want to bless you!”
You have indeed blessed us, Mary Ann. All of us, each in the way we needed. [And by the way, thank you for having Matt Cain pitch a perfect game for the San Francisco Giants last night; that was such a nice touch.]
450 years ago John of the Cross wrote: “God passed through these groves in haste and left them, by a glance alone, clothed in beauty.” Mary Ann, you passed through our lives, too. Not in haste, but with lots of eye contact, and lots of deep listening; lots of warm welcoming, lots of intense relating and with no small measure of angst mixed in, too; and you left us, by your presence and laughter and fierce love of life, more beautiful, more graced, more in touch with the God of our hearts. We are forever grateful as we celebrate your life in this Eucharist.
Surely God has prepared a table for the eternal banquet. Don’t forget to save us a seat.
Marilyn Lacey, RSM
Mary Ann was a person of many loves... she had three great loves. She loved God, people, and her ministry. God had a firm hold on Mary Ann. God, that Mysterious presecne, brought her into religious life over 65 years ago, nourished her extroverted spirit, and gave to her a prophetic vision of the ministry of Spiritual Direction. This vision of spiritual direction impelled May Ann to travel all over the world, to Thailand, Kenya, Lithuania, Ireland, Alaska, Hawaii and all over the United States.
Mary Ann not only 'studied' God, earning a doctoral degree in theology, but her whole life as a spiritual director was about listening for God and teaching other people how to listen for God.
I was one of her students. Mary Ann taught me mainly through encouragement. I can still hear her speak those words: "Live your gifts." Or, I would receive a note or a phone call of affirmation and gratitude after doing a retreat or a day of teaching with her. Howeer, one of my most tender memories of Mary Ann was going to her office before I would give a presentation for one of our programs at Mercy Center, and Mary Ann would lay her hands on my head and pray for me. Those prayers still echo in my heart. Yes, Mary Ann loved, encouraged, affirmed and prayed. Yes, she did this for me and for thousands.
Mary Ann had a little phrase that she would often utter: "On, on to the eschaton." Now she dwells fully in the presence of what "eschaton" celebrates.
Life in God forever.
Lorita Moffatt, RSM
Sister Mary Ann Scofield, RSM, returned gently to God, Sunday, June 3, at about 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time in Burlingame, California, USA. She was surrounded by family, her beloved Mercy community, and the prayers of many. Being Sunday morning, perhaps she knew it was time for Mass and slipped away.
A beloved teacher, spiritual companion, mentor, and friend, Mary Ann was a founding member of Spiritual Directors International and served as the organization’s first executive coordinator in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Her deep passion for spiritual direction nurtured SDI from its humble beginnings, in her bottom desk drawer, to a global movement. Today, the global learning community of Spiritual Directors International includes more than six thousand members in six continents.
Mary Ann’s influence was global, and her impact, deeply personal. As a spiritual director, she trusted the movement of the spirit to help people claim and share their distinctive gifts with the world. In her own words: “I do believe there is a unique image of the Divine that is placed in each of us and all the activity of the Divine in us is to bring us to that true self.”
The global learning community of SDI holds, together, this time of memory and mourning. Sandra Lommasson, former chair of the SDI Coordinating Council shares: “[Mary Ann] once told me that the hardest thing of all is to truly take in how deeply, fully, unreservedly loved we are by God because it changes everything. I trust that she now soaks in that Love as a fully alive, liberated spirit dancing with her God.”
Liz Budd Ellmann, MDiv
I just heard that Mary Ann Scofield RSM died earlier this week and my initial thought was that a great light has left us. I first met Mary Ann at the Spiritual Directors International Conference & Symposium in Atchison, KS when she was the Executive Coordinator of the network of spiritual directors that she helped pray into being.
Little did I know then — after I was selected as SDI's first Executive Director — that she and I would become colleagues and friends over the next 18 years. I last saw Mary Ann on her birthday a few months ago — March 6 — she had moved into the Marian Center and though aware that her memory wasn't what it once was, she was her gracious, welcoming and hospitable self.
When I think of Mary Ann, and our years together with SDI, I am aware that at her core she was an encourager. She believed in people, encouraging them to see the Holy residing within. This was always her posture with me and I know it was her stance with others. Her quick mind allowed her to be clear with whatever she was discerning and her huge heart keep her open to hear and see what previously she may have missed. She was a visionary, a dreamer, and, as the Rev. Donald Schell put it: 'a blesser of vision' … otherwise SDI would never have come into being nor would various spiritual direction training programs around the globe.
Mary Ann will be missed and I, for one, count it a blessing to have been able to know and work; laugh and vision with her as we practiced this works so core to her soul — tending the holy in ourselves, in one another and in all creation.
For the gift of God known as Mary Ann Scofield — I give God heartfelt thanks.
The Rev. Jeffrey Steven Gaines
I’ve known Mary Ann Schofield for over 40 years, and during all those years she was a beacon of warmth, compassion, knowledge, and genuine understanding. Mary Ann represented the very best of the human condition—never judgmental, never constrained by antiquated dogma and always joyously acknowledging and celebrating the wonders of our lives. She was also always an inspiration for the fullness and the sharpness of her intellect. There are very few who pass this way who truly leave behind the fullness of a spirit and a presence that continues unbridled into the future. Mary Ann is one of those few.
She will be greatly missed, but always remembered. She leaves a legacy to be admired and to be an inspiration for those who follow.
Michael Roy, Tiburon, California
I was fortunate to work with Sr. Mary Ann at Mercy Center in the 1990's and have loved her ever since. Here are some words from my heart that capture her essence.
Carriage - Sr. Mary Ann carried herself tall, self-assured, and with dignity of purpose.
Focus - Whether it was her swimming routine or her committment to compassionate listening, Sr.Mary Ann stayed on course.
Grace - Sr. Mary Ann, as a Sister of Mercy, graciously let Christ's light shine through her ministries.
Dignity - As in living, so in dying, Sr. Mary Ann chose a gentle, prayerful and true-to-herself transtion into the next life.
With much love and gratitude for knowing Sr. Mary Ann,
Linda Chandler Smith
MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP FUND
In loving memory of Sister Mary Ann, The Sister Mary Ann Scofield, RSM Scholarship Fund was established by the Sisters of Mercy West-Midwest Community to help ensure accessibility to all for programs and services at Mercy Center. Contributions to the fund can be mailed to:
Sister Mary Ann Scofield, RSM Scholarship Fund