Sister Alice Hemans
“For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy 4:6)
“This reading from Timothy was proclaimed during the Liturgy of Sister Alice’s profession of perpetual vows on Aug. 15, 1998. How unaware all of us were at that time of how exactly Sister Alice’s self would be poured out as a libation; what shape her fight and race would take,” said Sister Denise Wilkinson in her commentary for Sister Alice Hemans, who died June 26.
Alice Hemans was born July 17, 1946, in Orlando, Fla., to the late John and Margaret (Cutter) Hemans. One of four children, Alice attended Mount Calvary Grade School, Forrestville, Md., and high school at Le Reine, Suitland, Md., and Satellite, Satellite Beach, Md. Prior to entering the Congregation, Alice earned a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Mary’s Dominican College, New Orleans, and a master’s degree in private school administration from the University of San Francisco. She entered the Congregation Aug. 16, 1991, and professed first and perpetual vows June 26, 1994, and Aug. 15, 1998, respectively.
“Sister Alice came to know the Sisters of Providence when she was hired by Sister Kay Manley as a junior high teacher at St. Anthony School in Gardena, Calif.,” said Sister Denise. Sister Alice loved the sisters at St. Anthony and entered a discernment process culminating in her entrance in 1991. She experienced life as a postulant at the formation house in Indianapolis; made her canonical novitiate here at the Woods; and then returned to Indianapolis to live at St. Joan of Arc Convent and teach at Ritter Junior/Senior High School.”
Sister Alice taught at Ritter until 1998 when she accepted a position at St. Mary Star of the Sea School in Beverly, Mass.
“While she taught seventh graders, Sister Alice lived with our sisters at St. Rose Convent in Chelsea, Mass. However, when she served as principal, Sister Alice moved to the school’s convent and lived with Sisters of Notre Dame. She grew to love these sisters, especially Sister Marie Pero, her secretary and administrative assistant. Sister Marie related that she and Sister Alice shared many a Dunkin’ Donut and cup of coffee — ‘usually on those challenging kinds of days,’” continued Sister Denise.
“To say Sister Alice loved the students, faculty, staff members and parents of St. Mary’s would be an understatement. Sister Alice’s enthusiasm for her ministry there knew no bounds, and she often reflected on how fortunate she was to have found her niche in this school-home community. The wonderful people of St. Mary Star of the Sea literally and figuratively saved Sister Alice’s life at the first onset of her illness. They remained in close contact with her during her illness, sending her love and encouragement these past two years,” said Sister Denise.
“Friends’ descriptions of Sister Alice share an amazing consistency — gentle, steady, simple, profound, kind, down-to-Earth, unassuming, courageous, lack of pretence, candid, open to new ideas, positive attitude, lover of natural beauty, courageous in standing up for her values, easy-going, fun and funny. Anyone who knew Sister Alice knew she ‘unabashedly spoke from her heart,’ as one friend commented.
“Of course there was also another side of Sister Alice — described in words like ‘Sister Alice had one speed.’ Getting Sister Alice moving was like ‘pushing a rope.’ By way of apology and explanation, Sister Alice once told a health-care staff member, ‘Don’t worry. I’ve always been slow. It has nothing to do with my illness.’ And she could be quietly but effectively stubborn or ‘determined’ as she described it,” continued Sister Denise.
“Sister Alice’s way of living with an aggressive cancer showed us a Sister Alice we had only glimpsed before. Once diagnosed, Sister Alice was determined to live each day with gratitude. Told she’d die within a year of her first surgery, she told the surgeon not to be so sure about that. From that day on, she did everything in the medical and spiritual realms possible to live with dignity and purpose.
“From the moment Sister Alice came home to the Woods to live in Health Care, she entered into its beauty and life. She came to know and love the residents on the second floor of Lourdes and later the sisters in Mother Theodore Hall. During May and June, the cancer took a deeper hold on Sister Alice, and she could not communicate with us verbally or non-verbally. Even so, Sister Alice’s presence spoke volumes to us as she moved closer and closer to the deepest union with our Provident God. How wonderful that so many of her sisters from all across the United States and from Taiwan had the chance to say, ‘Goodbye; I love you, Sister Alice.’ She must have loved it.
“You have indeed finished the race, Sister Alice — admittedly at your own slow and steady pace. Help us to be as you were — accepting of what life brings; attentive to the true joys and gifts of life; deeply appreciative of each day. We say goodbye to you as you often said goodbye to us: ‘Sun’s out. Surf’s up. Have fun!’” concluded Sister Denise.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Alice was celebrated June 30 with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding. She is survived by her mother Margaret Hemans of California; her sister Kathryn Mescall, Foster City, Calif.; and a brother James of Mukilteo, Wash.
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