Sr. Carmen Gonzalez, OP, died December 23, 2014, at McLaren Hospital in Pontiac, MI. She is survived by her brother, Juan Carlos of Connecticut and a nephew, Carlos of DeVilla, CA.
Sr. Carolyn Krebs, OP, prepared a eulogy:
It is most appropriate that our celebration of Sr. Carmen Gonzalez’s Liturgy of Resurrection should open with the hymn “Be Not Afraid.” For as she chose today’s readings and sung prayer, she gave us a testament of her life and her message to us today.
On July 16, 1957, Carmen and I with three other young women were welcomed into the congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine de’ Ricci, Elkins Park, PA. Three left quickly, leaving Carmen, (then Sr. Imelda) and I (then Sr. Mary Alexandria). For the ensuing years, every time our paths crossed, Carmen would greet me enthusiastically with “My Group!” My life and many others have been enriched by this dynamic and dedicated woman.
Carmen was born in Cienfuegos, Cuba, July 16, 1936. Although she had not attended our Dominican School in Cienfuegos, she knew our Sisters well because they worked with Catholic Action, a lay group of women who served the needs of the poor and prayed for blessing on their world. Carmen was the second member of Catholic Action to enter our congregation; Sr. Rose Garcia preceded her and Sr. Carmen Aragon, followed her soon after.
Arriving some weeks ahead of her official entrance date with no English, knowing no one at Elkins Park and placing hundreds of miles between herself and her family, Carmen quickly adapted to community life and was ever alert to make sure that the rest of her “group” stayed in line! She would later be instrumental in bringing her mother and brother to the United States from Castro’s Cuba, and assisting them in establishing a home here.
Carmen ministered primarily in our retreat houses. She quickly drew people through her big smile, gentle ways and care for others. Many retreatants through her years of ministry were drawn to confide in her. Even during her time in care at Lourdes, her correspondence was frequent from those who had found in her a willing prayer companion. And she responded to everyone, with the help of her caregivers throughout her life. No one was beyond her interest and energy.
Did she find life difficult? Many times! I believe that is why the quotation from Isaiah was a favorite with her. I am sure she asked God “what have I accomplished?” And God’s response: “I have a greater task for you – I will make you a light to the nations.” What light has Carmen brought through her suffering, especially these past eight years? Whom has she blessed by her prayer, patience and presence – Sisters, retreatants, medical staff, friends, family – only God knows!
Yet she herself might have thought, like Isaiah, that she accomplished nothing. Maybe that is why Isaiah 49 spoke to her. Her trust that God saw much more in her life than she did. Isn’t that the trust that we all need in our God – as source of our strength, strength to keep working and trusting that God sees more than we do.
Carmen was a great reader as long as she was able. Her meditation on God’s nearness taught her that the Spirit would guide her even through the slow, painful loss of physical functions. But she also knew the joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness and humility of the Spirit that were mentioned in the reading from Galatians today. I can hear God say to her: “Carmen, you are my servant; because of you, people will praise Me.” It was her indomitable will that gave her the strength to go on where many of us would have given up. Carmen knew that Christ went before her and there was no hesitation to follow.
Let us be grateful for the many times she was uplifted by the words of the Communion song she chose for today:
- “I will come to you in the silence” – after her vocal cords were damaged.
- “I will lift you from all your fears” – as the Parkinson-like disease claimed her body movements, one after the other.
- “You will hear my voice” – in the long silence of her inactive confinement.
- “I claim you as my choice” – her strong will to live each day in love and union with her Lord whom she had chosen.
Truly, today our God has said to Carmen “You are Mine.”
Carmen’s life wasn’t what she planned at all times, but in her energetic, focused determination from the days in Catholic Action in Cuba through more than 56 years of religious consecration in the United States, God did make her a light to us all. “Keep your eyes on Christ” was her task and her message.
We come full circle today in this celebration of her life with the hymn “Pescador de Hombres,” a prayer in her first language and a prayer for her people she first ministered to in Cuba. I can hear her saying: “O Lord with your eyes set upon me, gently smiling, You have spoken my name. All I longed for I have found by the waters, at Your side I now seek other shores.”
Funeral services were held on Friday, December 26,and Saturday, December 27, at the Oxford Motherhouse Chapel. Burial of the cremains will take place at a later date.
Memorial gifts in Sr. Carmen’s memory may be submitted securely online or sent to Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr, Columbus, OH 43219-2098.