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Bridges, October 23, 2020

A ‘COMPANION’ LEAVES US

The lives of some of our “companions in mission” intersect with ours only briefly.  This is true of Betsy Kennedy, whose name no one would recognize as a former ‘companion,’ but whose contribution is familiar to many of us.

I met Betsy in the 1990’s, when we conceived the idea of commissioning a graphic that could beautifully display the words of Article 3 of our Constitutions, words that we believed came close to touching the heart of our charism.  Betsy, an artist specializing in calligraphy, met me and Sr. Janet Stolba in a cramped space, offered us a chair, and settled herself on the floor.  “OK,” she said, “just talk to me about Claudine.”

As to what I said, I have no recollection.  But as the story went on, Betsy began saying, “I’m getting it, I’m getting it.” Then – “I think I’ve got it!”

Many of us were sure she had “gotten it” when we saw the finished product, with its white text against a background of dark reds and blues, and the slivers of gold emanating from the cross.  We brought copies to the November, 1988 province gathering that marked the 150th Anniversary of the approval of our Constitutions, and every community received a copy. Betsy’s work hangs in many communities, in several other provinces of the Americas, and in our Generalate in Rome.

Betsy continued working in her studio for years after, until a number of months ago, when she posted her final creation.  In her still beautiful hand, it read in part:

Dear Family, Friends, and Patrons -

(that is, anyone who has asked me to convey a heartfelt message to someone else or to the world in general),

You have all given me a great life with lots of love and meaning and purpose. 

I really haven’t worked a day in my life,

because I’ve enjoyed every minute of figuring out how to make those words convey your message.

……….

I am hanging up my pens now. (A greater) power has decided that I’ve spilled enough ink in this life.

I’ve been diagnosed with advanced ALS - so - no more commission work.

So, please keep Jack and me in your prayers, and thank you for sharing part of your life with me.

Love, Betsy

Last Saturday, her husband wrote: “Betsy passed away Saturday evening 10-17-20, quietly, peacefully,” and thanked people for their prayers.

Like many who have touched our lives in one way or another, I doubt that Betsy would consider herself a “companion in mission.”  But for any of us who have looked at what she created and come to feel more deeply what Claudine called “the greatest misfortune,” she was a source of “assurance, courage, and fresh support.”

R.I.P.

- Sr. Rosemary Mangan, RJM

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