Sister Sheila FitzSimons (formerly Sister Marie Sheila)
“With what gift shall I come into God’s presence
And bow down before God on high?
Shall I come with holocausts,
With calves one year old?
Will God be pleased with rams by the thousand?
With libations of oil in torrents?
This is what God asks of you:
Only this, to act justly,
To love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.”
— A reading from the Prophet Micah, 6:6-8
Sister Sheila FitzSimons was a quiet soul. Can you imagine her trying to please God with a thousand rams? Of course not! Nor would God want that. God wants only this of us, to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God, said Sister Margaret Quinlan in her commentary for Sister Sheila FitzSimons who died on Saturday, April 1, 2017, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She was 90 years old and had been a Sister of Providence for 74 years.
Sister Sheila was born in Indianapolis in 1926. She was baptized Rosemary. Her parents were Philip and Mary Agnes Basso FitzSimons. Sheila’s mother had two sisters and a niece who were Sisters of Providence, Sister Emerita Basso, Sister Agnes Basso, and Sister Joan Michael Basso.
Actually, some of the sisters I spoke with this week said they knew Sheila’s mother well. Evidently, her kitchen window looked out, over the playground, to the house where the sisters lived. Mary Agnes often drove them in those days when we couldn’t drive because our “bonnet” did not allow us to see the left or the right. Several spoke of her graciousness.
Sheila went to St. Elizabeth grade school in Van Nuys, California, and to the Marywood Juniorate in Anaheim. In January of her senior year in 1943, like the Juniorate seniors here at the Woods, she became a postulant for the beginning of her novitiate. She came to the Woods just before her first profession. She made perpetual profession in 1950. She got her degree from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1962 and her master’s degree from Loyola University in Los Angeles in 1974.
Sheila ministered in Indiana, Illinois, New Hampshire and California. She taught in grade schools and served several times as principal. In 1999, she ministered at Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries in New Albany, and in 2002, returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, where she ministered in the Transportation Office and served as a driver. She moved to Lourdes Hall in 2010 and the next year to Mother Theodore Hall. There, she took up prayer ministry for Facilities Management.
Several sisters remember the hospitality that was offered at the house where Sheila lived in Pacifica, California. She said, “We call our convent the Holiday Inn for our guests.” Actually, there were only three pictures in Sheila’s file: Two were of Sheila herself, the third picture was of the house in Pacifica, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. What a wonderful place that must have been for guests.
There was also a newspaper article, published in the late 1960s, a time of great unrest and upheaval in our country. When racial violence occurred two miles away, Sheila helped students deal with the reality of lawlessness going on around them. Later she said, “I hope that because of what these young people have experienced as children, they will become adults who are more tolerant of people of all races, creeds and colors.”
Also in her file, besides her diplomas from the Woods and from Loyola University, is a whole stack of certificates, which she earned at various times from 1962 to 1996, from such organizations as the Congress for Contemporary Spirituality, the Hispanic Ministry Institute, and Enneagram, and for adult tutor training. Obviously, Sheila was interested in learning all her life.
Yes, Sheila was a quiet soul, but we will miss her beautiful smile and her quiet ways. She knew how to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.
Funeral services for Sister Sheila took place on Wednesday, April 19, and Thursday, April 20, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
A Wake took place from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, April 19, with Vespers at 4:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial took place at 11 a.m., on Thursday, April 20.
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