Sister Catherine Livers (formerly Sister Agatha)
Sister Catherine Livers lived the love we heard described in the reading today, said Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara in her commentary for Sister Catherine, who died Oct. 20, 2013 at the age of 92.
Some of the strongest testimonies to Sister Catherine’s loving heart come from persons she has companioned over the years in spiritual direction. They write:
“It was an experience of unconditional love. Once she loved you, she did not let you go, no matter what you said or did.”
“She made you believe in yourself even when you did not. She was kindness without bounds.”
“To converse with Catherine was to see the face of God.”
“She has given God’s footprint into my life. She always expressed her love for me and encouraged me to be brave and to serve God wherever God calls.”
“She is so wonderful, holy, gentle and non-stop working sister… Every day, in small but essential ways, she made the world a better place. She did what she could to lift spirits, and she put others first. She is the one who only knows one way of giving—with both hands, with all their heart, without a second thought.”
A student of Catherine’s from a deacon ordination class in Ogdensburg, NY writes: “What a breath of fresh air she was. Due to her non-judgmental, yet strong-in-faith way, she was frequently consulted by our deacons and our wives when matters of spiritual ambiguity presented themselves and wise counsel was needed.”
Catherine reflected on her experience of spiritual direction in a HOPE magazine article: “It is humbling to walk with someone on a spiritual journey. It keeps you on your knees.”
When she was asked how she has affected lives of those with whom she ministered she replied: “From what they tell me, I have helped them in spiritual and difficult times. In turn, I have been affected by their efforts and goodness. Their faithfulness helps me to remain faithful.”
Catherine Rose Livers was born May 23, 1921 to Harry and Ethel Norris Livers in Loogootee, Indiana. She is preceded in death by her sister Eileen and four brothers: Donald, Joseph, Carl and Glenn.
She entered the Sisters of Providence at age 16 in June, 1937 and took the name Sister Agatha; she professed vows Jan. 23, 1940. Catherine received a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and two master’s degrees — one in education from Indiana State University and one in ministry from Seattle University. She participated in an internship in clinical pastoral education and in various other developmental programs throughout her life.
In her 76 remarkable years as a Sister of Providence, Sister Catherine ministered in many ways. For nearly 30 years she ministered in elementary education in Indiana at St. Augustine, Fort Wayne; Precious Blood in Jasper; St. John in Vincennes and St. Patrick in Indianapolis. In Illinois she taught at Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Mel in Chicago and St. Mary Carmelite in Joliet. She also taught at Holy Redeemer in College Park, Md. and at St. Ann in Fayetteville, N.C. She then went on to serve as a pastoral associate, a chaplain, a consultant, vicar for religious, retreat director and spiritual director in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and New York.
Catherine’s love came in many forms. She had a great love for people who were poor. In her application for vicar she listed as one of her qualities: great empathy for the needy and suffering.
One sister told the story that when she lived with Sister Catherine she was looking for her spring coat and noticed it on a woman at church going to communion. Catherine thought it had not been worn in a while and had given it away.
A man writes he thought Catherine was the neatest nun when he met her in the 1970s on the picket line in the Chavez lettuce boycott.
Sister Catherine stayed in touch with I think every person she had ever met. She was loyal to friends and always focused on relationships, Sister Ann Margaret continued.
One time we were both flying to California and the plane had a layover in Dallas. This was pre-cellphone days, so Catherine hopped off the plane to call a friend in Dallas. She used her creative talents in original greeting cards to stay in touch. She sent more cards to my mother than I did.
She was creative in her candy making and would pursue anyone or event who might be in need of truffles. Sister Theresa Nguyen said that heaven must now be full of truffles.
She was very creative in liturgical movement and prayer services. She was committed to healthy living and exercise. The first day I lived with her I did a double-take when passing her room; she was standing on her head.
Catherine was simple in her own clothing but was helpful to others. During the days when we were transitioning into contemporary dress she had a roving common fund of clothing in her car. She would distribute to some and pick up from others. She once gave me a dress I had given her a few years before.
After Vatican II during her ministry as personnel consultant, she aided many sisters in their personal and ministry transitions. She provided programs for a new reality and self-knowledge such as Myers-Briggs. She used her patient persuasive love as she sought out programs for people and then stayed in an ever supportive role.
Catherine, you have shown us by your life that there is no limit to love’s faith, hope and endurance. Truly, love will never come to an end, Sister Ann Margaret concluded.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Catherine Livers was Oct. 25, 2013 in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She had lived 76 years as a Sister of Providence.
We invite you to share your memories of Sister Catherine in the comments section below.
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