For Sister Suzanne, prayer is life
Sister Suzanne Buthod sits in a recliner in front of her third floor window. Blanket tucked around her and walker nearby, this is one of her favorite places to communicate with God. She watches the sun rise over rooftops and the golden-touched autumn trees. She prays her morning offering and the Liturgy of the Hours. After, she contemplates her day and spends time just listening, in companionable silence with her God.
At 88 years old, Sister Suzanne has less energy than she once did. She finds walking difficult and gets around with the help of a walker. Because of this, in the past year she knew it was time to step away from her other volunteer ministries and enter more fully into a ministry of prayer.
Prayer is at the heart of her life. Her prayer connects her not only to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but also to the world, she says.
“Prayer enables me to have a worldview of life instead of just being centered on my life. And I think that is important, especially in these years of retirement when I can’t be active to get out there and do,” she said.
“But hopefully all of my ministry was prayer ministry,” she says, looking back. Sister Suzanne was the youngest of four children. Born in Texas, her family moved to Evansville, Indiana, when she was 10 years old. That same year she became Catholic. She met the Sisters of Providence when she attended Reitz Memorial High School there. She entered the Congregation the February of her first year at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1949.
She received the name Sister Mary Judith and began her ministry as a teacher. She spent many years teaching middle grades. At one point in Greenfield, Indiana, she taught grades 6, 7 and 8 all in one room. At another time she was school principal, had her own classroom and was house superior all at the same time. Those were busy years, she said, but it was common at that time in the 1960s.
After getting her master’s degree in religion, she spent some time as director of novices, as a high school religion teacher, in parish ministry, at a marriage tribunal and doing outreach mission work in Alabama. At age 70, she chose to slow down and enter into volunteer ministry, mostly serving people with economic struggles. At age 87 she slowed down further entering her current ministry of prayer.
“I’ve been happy wherever I’ve been. I’ve had a number of assignments and I have felt at home in each one,” Sister Suzanne said.
Today she feels at home in her ministry of prayer. Her prayer style has moved toward more contemplative, personal prayer as she has aged, she says. But that in no way diminishes her love for daily Mass.
“The Eucharist is important to me. And it certainly is a form of bonding. Not only with God but with my sisters and whoever else is there at Eucharist. It’s not only the presence of Jesus, it’s the presence with the worshipping body,” she said.
Every weekday afternoon she meets with a group of sisters on a nearby sun porch for communal prayer. “And I treasure that. That’s important to me,” she says. Friday mornings she spends an hour in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel praying before the Eucharist.
How much time does she spend each day in prayer?
“Well, the morning offering includes everything: prayers, works, joys and sufferings,” she says. In that sense, her whole day becomes prayer.
“Prayer is all-permeating, inclusive. Prayer is ingrained in me.”
For Sister Suzanne, prayer has become life.
“Each day is a gift,” she says.
(Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of HOPE magazine.)
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