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Sister Sharon Sullivan (formerly Sister Barbara Mary)

Sullivan_Sharon“Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Matthew 11:29-30

“What a welcome [Sister Sharon Sullivan’s entrance to eternal life] must have been for one who had been ‘gentle and humble of heart’ during her 63 years as a Sister of Providence,” said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Sharon who died Dec. 21, 2012.

“Sharon was the type of person who quietly affected lives, yet, when I asked other sisters about her, even band members who have known her for 63 years were hard pressed to name this distinguishing characteristic or that notable achievement. Rather, she was remembered as one who was very generous, prayerful and willing to help in whatever way she could. Her response when asked to do something was an immediate ‘yes.’ She seemed happiest when she could work behind-the-scenes and was never one to draw attention to herself. As one band member put it, ‘Her demeanor was joyful, but not boisterous; pleasant, but not saccharine; friendly, but never gushy,’” Sister Ann continued.

Sister Sharon was born Aug. 27, 1931, in Evansville, Ind., to John and Marie Faust Sullivan. She was baptized Sharon Lee in Sacred Heart Church in Evansville. She had three sisters and three brothers, all of which preceded her in death.

After graduation from Reitz Memorial High School in Evansville, Sharon entered the Sisters of Providence on July 22, 1949. Her reception, first and final profession all occurred on Jan. 23, in 1950, 1952 and 1957, respectively. She was given the religious name Sister Barbara Mary, but later returned to her baptismal name. Sharon received her bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and her master’s in education from Indiana State University.

Sister Sharon ministered in education beginning in Chicago for four years in the 1950s before moving to St. Joseph’s in Hawthorne, Calif. teaching grades 5 and 8. She then ministered at St. John’s in Newburgh, Ind. for six years where she served as both teacher and principal. She next taught in Whiting, Hammond, Indianapolis and Evansville in Indiana, “probably the most challenging of which was as coordinating principal for the Westside Catholic Consolidated Schools in Evansville, a venture involving five schools which still exists today due to the firm foundation laid in those early years,” Sister Ann said.

After 34 years in education, Sister Sharon was asked to assist at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in the Central Business Office, where she remained for five years. She then took gerontology and theology classes at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and began a series of ministries in service to the motherhouse and health-care communities. These included pastoral care where she ministered closely with and became good friends of Sister Mary Eleanor Galvin, who, interestingly enough, died a few hours after Sharon did on Dec. 21. She also served as director of Activities, coordinated the many details related to funeral arrangements and served as Owens sacristan.

“In reminiscing about those assorted ministries not too long ago, Sister Sharon smiled that quick smile and confided to her listener, ‘And I loved every minute of it!’” Sister Ann said.

Sharon also loved every minute of being with her family and enjoyed family trips and outings with her siblings and nieces and nephews at Lake Barkley in Kentucky and at West Baden. She particularly enjoyed the week-long family celebration of her Golden Jubilee in 1999. Her other ‘love’ was of reading and she could easily become devoured by a good book.

From 1994 to 1999 she ministered at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Peru, Ind., as pastoral associate, a position she greatly loved. Sister Donna Butler recalls that Sharon seemed most comfortable ministering to those who were elderly and who had some physical limitations. With the homebound, she enjoyed doing simple household tasks they could not do for themselves. They appreciated her extreme kindness and thoughtfulness. Even after she left there, she stayed in contact with several parishioners.

“Her last ministry — for a span of 11 years — was in Archives where she was a quiet, steady and very conscientious presence who preferred routine tasks. The IT department probably remembers Sister Sharon as the only staff member who ever requested that they take back the new computer they had installed for her use, as she just could not get the hang of it!” Sister Ann continued.

“In these latter years, she struggled with her own physical limitations – loss of hearing and serious open heart surgery in 2002. After surgery, she was admirable in following her diet and exercise routines. A definite benefit of that ordeal was that she was told to drink a beer every day, no sacrifice at all for her! Her brother Jim’s illness and death, her last living sibling, was a cause of deep sorrow to her and she never seemed to be the same after his death in 2008. She experienced a great deal of anxiety as she lived this past year and a half in Mother Theodore Hall; nothing seemed to ease her concerns and fears, as sister-friends and family spent time with her and tried to reassure her that everything would be all right.

And now, as promised, everything is indeed ‘all right’ and the yoke she carried has proven to be easy and light, especially as viewed from her new vantage point in eternity.”

The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Sharon Sullivan was celebrated Jan. 4 at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, with the Rev. Daniel Hopcus presiding.

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