On March 28, 1968, Sister Suzanne Guillemin, D.C., our Mother General, was called home to God suddenly. What a tremendous shock it was. Why does this matter? Who was Sister Suzanne to us? Who was she to Daughters of Charity? Who was she to me?
Sister Suzanne’s impact can be best understood in view of an era–the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, rock music, social unrest, an exciting time of new ideas. Pope John XIII inspired Vatican II and the whole church to listen to “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of people of this age.”
Sister Suzanne, a lay auditor at the council, became a Daughter’s prophetic voice, calling us to live fully our vocation in response to the needs of humanity. Leading the Daughters to set aside the historic habit for one more suited for the times, she called us to ground ourselves in the contemplation of Jesus within us and within the poor persons whom we served. She urged adaptation of our service to the current and emerging needs. She reminded us that, “true charity, in our century, consists less of giving relief than in understanding and sustaining the effort for liberation which is agitating the classes and the minority groups.” Mother Guillemin urged us to be the first women of God, grounded in Spirit, to become what we claim to be. She showed us how to be unafraid, humble, simple, and loving. Her spirit and words live on today.
What is Sister Suzanne saying to us today as women of the Church? As Daughters of Charity? As discerners? Let her example speak to your heart today. Pray to her for courage to have a prophetic voice for all those who are poor.
Written by Sister Suzanne Baumgartner, D.C.