Sr. Mary Sheila Burson, OP

Dominican Sister of Peace Mary Sheila Burson died at Mohun Health Care Center, Columbus, OH, on Saturday, August 8, 2015. She was preceded in death by her parents David Burson and Augusta Morey Burson; sisters Mary V. Gury and Olive Shaw; and brothers, Bartlett and Joseph Burson. She taught for many years at St. Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans and was a Liturgical Music Teacher at Rosaryville in Ponchatoula, LA. She earned a degree in Music Education from Southeastern Louisiana University.

Her dear friend, Sr. Mary Daniel, OP, offered the following reflection on Sr. Sheila’s life:

Sheila grew up in a small river community of Reserve, LA. She had a wonderful career as an organist, choir director and piano teacher. Sheila entered St. Mary’s Dominican Congregation on September 7, 1 958, at age 38. She was the last of the seven Sisters who evacuated here in 2008 after hurricane Gustave.

The Gospel passage chosen for today’s Mass is the scene when Jesus tells the disciples that he is going to prepare a dwelling place for them and he will return to bring them to this dwelling place. What a consolation! Jesus himself will prepare a dwelling place for each one of the disciples – that applies to us also. Jesus awaits us with a place prepared for us by him.

I have thought about this often. What will that dwelling place be? Will it be different from others? How will we be united if we each have a dwelling place?

While I know this is just an image, something to help us anticipate what awaits us as we enter eternal life, I still like to think about it. How about you? What will your dwelling place look like? (Mine will be Mardi Gras).

I have thought about what Sheila’s dwelling would look like. Sheila was a masterful Gregorian Chant musician. That was her life for at least 20 years. For a number of those years Sheila taught the chant to postulants, novices and young professed in Rosaryville. She was a wonderful teacher who was even able to make choir practice enjoyable for non-singers, like yours truly.

So there will be Gregorian chant in the background of Sheila’s heavenly dwelling. It will include music from the Graduale – remember that hymnal? There will also be a group of angels who Sheila will lead and direct in the chant for heavenly events. Directing singers in the art of Gregorian chant fed Sheila’s soul. That was heaven on earth for her.

For several years, many of you saw Sheila sitting in the room with the birds. She loved to watch them and to listen to them. There will be birds in or near Sheila’s dwelling place. Finally, there will be a special place for Sheila to spend time with her God.

Years ago when Centering Prayer came to the fore, Sheila felt called to pray that way. The two of us used to talk about prayer. I was bowled over when Sheila talked about her experience in prayer. I still stand in awe when I remember those conversations. I also remember how humble she was in relating her experience.

I can only imagine what it was like when Sheila met God face to face. Sheila was my novitiate companion and I will miss her so much but I know that I and all of us have a faithful friend in heaven.

Funeral services were held Tuesday and Wednesday, August 11 and 12 at the Columbus Motherhouse Chapel followed by burial at St. Joseph Cemetery. Memorial gifts in Sr. Mary Sheila’s memory may be submitted securely online or mailed to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, Office of Mission Advancement, 2320 Airport Dr, Columbus, OH 43219.

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