Remembrance of the Life of Lucy Donovan Walsh CoL
April 27, 1938 – Feb. 4, 2017
Lucy Donovan Walsh of Kirkwood, Mo., composed a thorough autobiography, at the time of her application for Co-membership in the Loretto Community in 1989:
“One must start with being born of wonderful parents, Judge Jack A. Walsh and Lucy Ann Hogan Walsh. [I was] born the second child of what would be five, the first of two girls, all born within six-and-a-half years. From the beginning of our lives, our parents fostered a family spirit that blessedly continues into the next generations of nieces and nephews.
“With some sacrifice all five of us were sent to St. Peter’s Grade School [in Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb], four of us to Catholic high schools and four to Catholic colleges/universities. Our parents also showed us, by example, that we had a responsibility to be involved outside of family, be it with Church, civic, or in our choice of a giving occupation.
“I had become interested in religious life in high school but had no interest in the Ursulines that had been my teachers for 12 years. Because our most frequent baby sitter as I was growing up had entered Loretto, I wrote to Sister Deborah [Pearson}, or Helen as I most often think of her, asking for advice. Her response was the suggestion that I consider attending Webster College for a year or two which would give me the opportunity to meet and get to know at least a few others in the order. At that point I discovered that [another neighbor], Maureen McCormack, would soon be making her vows at Loretto and that gave me two family friends [in Loretto.]
“I attended my year at Webster and applied for admission to the postulancy, arriving at the Motherhouse in September of 1957. … Just over two years at the Motherhouse it began to be clear to me that the religious life was not where God wanted me and I made the decision to leave.“I can say of [my time at Loretto that] it was a gift from God to me, because spiritually it built on the foundation of 19 years of family and parish that I came with, and it gave me an impetus that is still bearing fruit, although [within] an adult, single, lay life rather than religious life. A week after I returned home, I was asked to teach second grade until June, which I accepted and enjoyed but felt that I was not a good teacher. I got a job as a secretary … but that was not what I wanted, so when I happened upon an article in Extension Magazine about their volunteer program, I applied. I was assigned to teach Kindergarten and do parish work in Alamosa, Colo. [in the diocese of Bishop Charles Buswell].
“I encountered a way of life very alien to the one I grew up with … two-room homes with dirt floors, no indoor water … wood burning stoves. …I had children in my class who did not know how to turn pages because they had no books, magazines or newspapers in their homes to see it done. I suppose that was the beginning of my understanding that I could not be comfortable with having many ‘things,’ particularly luxurious things, when others were in need of basics. …[After two years] I returned home and found a job at St. Louis County Juvenile Court Detention Center.”
Lucy worked for more than 25 years at the detention center, mostly covering the overnight shift — helping youngsters through the intake process and making sure things were safe and sound while they slept. Of that time, Lucy had written, “I should write a bit about how I re-found Loretto in 1985. Kathy Wright has been a friend for many years, even before she joined Loretto. Kathy told me about the 1985 reunion Assembly in Estes Park and said that I would be welcome. … I walked in and found myself welcomed and very interested in much of what I heard and saw. In 1986, the Assembly being at home in St. Louis, and Sister Maureen McCormack, whom I’ve known all my life, begin installed as President, I decided to attend once again. During that Assembly I began to really hear about Co-membership and became aware that I had never lost a feeling of being connected with Loretto. …I then attended the Assembly in Kentucky in 1987 and felt even more ‘at home’ with being there, particularly after a retreat before the Assembly with other women searching their minds and souls for answers to what direction the Lord was calling us.
“I have some questions of where God’s sense of humor is in all of this because … I am probably the most conservative person my friends know, and Loretto is probably the most progressive or liberal religious order in the USA. So why am I serious about becoming a part of this liberalness? Possibly because many of the things I’ve heard and those people I’ve met are honestly and very sincerely following what they hear in their soul and, although what they hear is very different from what I hear, I admire their response to their call and know God calls each of us as He wills.”
Members of Lucy’s Community Group valued her participation in their gatherings. Comments included the following: “She brought the right and most honest questions to our discussions. She truly wanted to understand. She was a questioning, critical-thinking person, a true daughter of her father, Judge Walsh.”
A remembrance shared by Barbara Ann Barbato SL reveals Lucy’s enjoyment in the presence of her Loretto friends: “Lucy and I used to end up being side by each at a lot of meals at 590 [Loretto Center], and we always found it an opportunity to indulge in chit-chat about our common passion, opera. We were both faithful listeners to Saturday afternoon opera on the radio.”
Lucy was described by many Loretto members as “very committed,” to Loretto, to her parish and to her family. Rita Bruegenhagen SL recalled, “She loved St. Peter’s Parish and was an active member of our community group and the St. Louis Loretto Community. She said she never wanted to miss Holy Thursday at Loretto Center and Kathy and Claudia’s semi-annual parties. In fact, she looked forward to them. Unfortunately, she was not able to attend them this past year.”
Lucy Walsh died at her home after a prolonged illness, in the 30th year of her life with Loretto.
– By Eleanor Craig SL
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