Dominican Sister of Peace Carmelite Zibilich, OP, died at Mohun Health Care Center, Columbus, OH, on June 28, 2015. She was born in 1937 in New Orleans, LA, and in 1956 entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Mary’s, New Orleans, now the Dominican Sisters of Peace. She earned a BA degree in English/Education from St. Mary’s Dominican College, New Orleans, a MA degree in English from the University of North Carolina and a MA in Counseling Psychology from Loyola University in Chicago. She was a Licensed Professional Counselor and Spiritual Director. She taught high school and college in New Orleans. She ministered as a counselor and spiritual director in Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana. She was also involved in Formation ministry for the congregation.
Sr. Carmelite was preceded in death by her parents Matthew Zibilich and Anna Erzegovich Zibilich and her niece Cherise van Merrienboer. She is survived by her sister, Marie Carmelite Zibilich; and her niece, Patrice Rousel; and a nephew, Raymond van Merrienboer.
During the celebration of her life at the Columbus Motherhouse, her good friend Sr. Therese Leckert, OP, reflected on Sr. Carmelite’s life:
When I talked with Carmelite about her funeral plans, she was very alert and wanted to hear all of the readings before making her selections. And we also had a discussion about the songs she wanted. Then she said to me, ” Now if you say anything about me, I don’t want to be remembered for my ministries. I’d like people to remember me as a good friend.” Carmelite was a good friend to me for most of my religious life and she was a good friend to many others. She was close to her family, especially her sister Carmelite and her nieces and nephews and cousins. I believe that she was a faithful friend of God and now is finally seeing God face to face.
The readings and songs Carmelite chose are each a preaching on the meaning of friendship with God. The first reading from Lamentations speaks about God’s faithfulness to us. Every morning, God’s love and mercy are renewed. We will have times of suffering when we feel deprived of peace, but as the author of Lamentations tells us, the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, they are renewed each morning, sometimes in surprising ways.
Carmelite certainly had more than her share of suffering in her life, especially living for more than 45 years with the auto-immune disease of Lupus. But she accepted her suffering without complaining and lived a full life, not centered on herself. Carmelite loved life. She loved being a vowed Dominican Sister for 57 years. She loved community, prayer, study and her ministries. She had lots of friends and kept up with all of them over many years. During these last few months, sometimes she could not talk on the phone, but she would ask me to call her friends to let them know she was thinking about them.
The verse from Lamentations which most reminds me of Carmelite is the one about waiting for God. “Good is the Lord to the one who waits for him.” Carmelite did a lot of waiting over the past few months. Confined to her recliner, she was unable to stand or move without assistance. She waited for nursing staff to assist her with personal care. She waited for visitors and phone calls from friends and family. But most of all, Carmelite was waiting for God to take her home to heaven. She often said that she was ready to go to heaven and asked for prayers that God would take her there soon.
Carmelite loved life, but she loved God even more. No matter how much we love life, how much we accomplish in life, how close we are to family, friends and congregation, in the end it is our relationship with God that goes beyond death and ushers us into eternal life. Our friendship with Jesus brings with it the promise of life after death, resurrection life. Carmelite knew that and treasured her friendship with Jesus.
In today’s Gospel Jesus assures us that he is going to prepare a place for us so that where he is now, we also will be. Carmelite now resides in the dwelling place especially prepared for her by her friend Jesus. In recent weeks, she shared with me that her prayer was dry and Jesus seemed distant. Now there is no more distance between Carmelite and Jesus.
Go now in peace, Carmelite, faithful friend of God, as you take our love into Paradise. Thank you for being our friend and sister and know that we count on your help from heaven as we continue our journey of faith here on Earth.
Funeral Services were held at the Columbus Motherhouse on June 30 and July 1 with burial at St. Joseph Cemetery. Memorial gifts in Sr. Carmelite’s memory may be submitted securely online or mailed to Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr, Columbus, OH 43219.