Sr. Monica Loughlin led a life of grace and she opened her heart to hearing God’s calling. I am not surprised that God chose her. I am not surprised because I saw God’s work through her life. I saw her loving care with Julia (her birth sister), with her SBS sisters, and with her Xavier family. I saw her lead and affect change when others cowered. I saw her rejoice when others embraced God’s grace. I stood next to her during Mass as she (loudly and lovingly) sang out in praise and worship to our Lord and Savior; and I heard her be still to hear God’s plan in sickness and in health.
Days before her death, in her last precious moments of human clarity, Sr. Monica said “On March 1st…send my letter to the world…explaining the core values…of Xavier.” She spoke of those values for another few minutes and then she said, “Okay, read it back to me.” Gulp. It was 2 a.m. and I was not writing as she spoke. And then I laughed when she said “if you’re not taking this seriously, come back at 5 a.m.” – ever my Dean, ever completing her to-do lists, ever accommodating but directed to get it right.
It was days later, after talking with Sr. Donna Gould, that I understood, even in her last days, Sr. Monica’s life was her letter to the world that focused on her love for Xavier University of Louisiana.
In the early days of mourning, I spent quiet time reflecting on the measure of this good woman – be prepared, be quietly righteous, and be joyous. She was a complicated woman with very basic needs. She prepared for every meeting with thoroughness and purpose, regardless of the stature of attendees: she pre-read supporting documents, considered objectives, prepared a checklist on pink or blue lined paper, sat straight with left arm behind back, and then she was ready to “do [my] work.”
She debriefed after every meeting by considering what could have been done better, without regrets, yet with laughter for what went right and for what could have gone wrong. Not the type to proselytize, once after discussing the Catholic Mass, Sr. Monica bought me a Magnificat subscription – no drama, just intending to fill a need. We all have similar stories about her gracious nature. She shared her best with us, especially in relation to Xavier. She loved Xavier! She loved St. Katharine Drexel’s mission of social justice. She loved every mention of the good deeds of Xavier students and her fellow alumni. She loved doing her part to make a better world.
She was SBS, teacher, Dean, assistant to everyone for nearly everything, and a proud Xavierite. Whether baking Christmas cookies, sharing split pea soup, staying at her favorite hotel with the rubber ducks in the bathroom, or cheering New Orleans Saints touchdowns; she opened her heart and joys to us all. She was our blue-eyed Sistah who disliked collard greens, who preferred boneless fried chicken, and who always thanked the family member who made the potato salad and the pound cake.
Now, as our sadness turns to a celebration of her life, we remember how she invited all to join her with joy. We praise God for her twinkling blue eyes, her super wide smile, her heartfelt laughter; and when we were lucky, for her warm hugs. We were blessed by being her friend and by knowing her goodness for 75 years. Some of us will miss her guidance in our lives but all of us will miss her smile and her shock of white hair in the crowd scenes of every Xavier graduation picture. In her last year, she was looking forward to returning to Xavier for her jubilee celebration with Dr. Norman C. Francis and her many friends from her graduating class; however, God called her home. God wrote Sr. Monica’s name in our hearts.
We have been blessed that her story is interwoven with our stories: Her love persists forever through us. God is with us.