Sister Miriam Carol White, MM
Born: July 29, 1917
Entered: October 5, 1946
Died: July 21, 1998
We gather this morning to celebrate the life of our Sister Miriam Carol White, who passed away suddenly and unexpectedly Tuesday, July 21, 1998 at Watch Hill, Rhode Island at the age of eighty. Sister had gone to Watch Hill to spend two weeks as cook, a form of service that she thoroughly enjoyed each year.
Sister Miriam Carol herself wrote the letter that follows and left it for us in her file.
“To each is given a set of rules
A shapeless mass and a kit of tools
To form for oneself ere life has flown
A stumbling block or a stepping stone”
How blessed I have been in my life to have been given so much!
The Set of Rules — the Love of God encompassed in the Commandments, enhanced by Faith, Love, Family, Friends, Neighbors, Service.
The shapeless mass which my parents in their love gave to me! To be forever shaped in God’s Image!
The kit of tools which contained my wonderful sisters — Angie, Theresa, Mary, Florence, Lorene, and brothers, Lawrence, and last but not least my partner in mischief, and always there for me — Joe. Their wives, husbands, children, and children’s children which I always counted as God’s special presents to me. All 200+ plus of them! And last but by far not the least, my cousin, Corrine, who was like another sister in the family.
Life was fun. It was great being the youngest girl and second youngest in the family. So I followed along in my older siblings footsteps. Each summer we cut apricots, picked prunes, picked walnuts, and then when work permits allowed, spent our summers in our little neighborhood cannery, where apricots, peaches, and pears were processed for overseas markets — where others would enjoy the fruits of our land. Perhaps that had something to do with the spark of my mission vocation — those faraway places. But always my parents were there for us with their own special brand of compensation — vacation days at the ocean, little trips which a big family and a limited budget allowed, and other wonderful little perks. We worked but there was always the promise of good days to come. So life was worth living in this delicate balance of work and play.
I was born Carolyn Eugenia White in San Jose, CA on July 29, 1917. My dad was Joseph White, who for most of his life worked as a laborer, a farmer, a man of the soil. My mother, Philomena, was a mother, always in our home for us. Both of my parents were born in San Mateo County, CA. My four grandparents were born in the Azores. My Grandpa White had his whaling ship, and after crossing the Atlantic, the ship landed in the Boston area but my grandfather left a couple of relatives to settle there, and then proceeded around Cape Horn to settle in the San Francisco Bay area.
I went to our little public grammar school tucked between Oak Hill Cemetery and Southern Pacific Railroad tracks which those days was the main transport route between San Francisco and Los Angeles, so our school days held much more than just academic attention — the several-times-a-day rumble of the trains and the periodic fascination of looking in the other direction to see the other point of life’s travel — into eternity. Our catechism classes were held off-school-property in the rear of a little gas station which belonged to a lovely non-Catholic family. The Holy Family Sisters came regularly to broaden our knowledge from the Baltimore Catechism and our reward was a long peppermint stick candy. Later on in my Maryknoll years I heard of the Rice Christians. I then became convinced that I had become a Peppermint Stick Catholic, but I hope my mother didn’t realize that until she was well through Heaven’s Gate.
I then attended Notre Dame High School where I studied in the commercial department during my last two years. I had a remote plan to become a Sister someday but two things pushed it to the back of my mind — I had made a decision that, being the youngest daughter, I would make sure that my parents would always have their own home until they died, and I would be there for them as they had always been there for us. The second reason was that I didn’t know what kind of a nun I wanted to be.
After graduation I had several interesting accounting positions which enhanced my broad view and appreciation of business — Remington Rand being a certain measure of excellence which has inspired me in my accounting work through the years. When I was twenty-one, the Lord took my mother when she was just two weeks short of her sixty-first birthday. Though not a sick man, my father’s grief only allowed him to survive a little more than two years.
I had heard mission talks in church given by Maryknoll Fathers and had exposure to the Maryknoll Magazine so my appetite for mission was whetted. In 1945, I made a weekend retreat with the Maryknoll Sisters at Mountain View, CA and made my decision.
I entered at Maryknoll, NY in October 1946, one of 105 Postulants. I received the religious name of Sister Miriam Carol. We had a grand and glorious Novitiate — but perhaps only for us as now all but one of our several Novitiate Superiors has gone on to their well-earned rewards.
My First Profession of Vows was in 1949 at Maryknoll and Final Profession in 1952 at Valley Park, MO. In October 1949, six months after First Profession, I went to our Novitiate at Valley Park to be the bookkeeper for the next five years. Though I groaned at such an inglorious assignment (it wasn’t China), Missouri soon charmed me.
In April 1955, our integrated hospital, Queen of the World, opened at Kansas City, MO and I spent my next ten years there — the entire life of The Queen. It was a wonderful time and though there were many sleepless nights worrying about meeting the payroll, etc., I met and loved many who have stayed in my life even after I moved on.
In 1966, I was assigned to the Maryknoll Fathers Treasury Department. It was another wonderful experience and the kindness and enabling by these men has been a good part of my opportunity to effect fiscal changes in my own community.
In 1970, I was appointed Treasurer of the Maryknoll Sisters. Because of the vision of the President, Barbara Hendricks, and her love and encouragement as well as that of Cardinal Cooke and the Maryknoll Fathers, we were able to do good things. These again were happy years which sometimes took me from my desk to Latin America, the Orient, etc. My faithful co-worker and friend, Sister Michael Damien, was always at hand to keep the financial wheels turning while I passed through many airports, customs, immigration, etc.
In 1979, I became the Coordinator of our Senior Region, which, among other things included about thirty Sisters living in several states and situations across the U.S. — far north, far south, far east, far west — so I became a domestic traveler. I took up residence at Monrovia, CA where a goodly number of Senior Sisters lived. In 1982, with the changing structure of the Senior Region and the need for a Coordinator at Monrovia, it was possible to combine the two jobs. Health and circumstances had caused the widely-scattered Sisters in the outside areas of the U.S. to move to the Center or Monrovia. Again at this job I dusted off my passport and was a representative at our Inter-Assemblies at both Hong Kong in 1981 and Guatemala City in 1987. I was also a delegate to the 1974, 1978, 1984 and 1990 General Assemblies.
Over the years my life has been a learning process — how to love God more and how to do things better for Him –and try to maximize the potentials of those within my sphere of influence. I have had innumerable opportunities for spiritual life workshops, exposure to movement and changes in the Church, especially my twelve years of membership in the Leadership Conference of Women Religious. I have pursued intermediate, advanced and hospital accounting; investments, economics, employee relationships, banking, insurance, data processing, Social Security involvement, plus basic college courses. But like Harry Truman, I never got a college degree. The Perpetual Student!
In 1991, I finished my checkered terms and opted for two years of small-group living and ministry in the Central Pacific Region. This time we lived in Hilo and worked out in the sugar cane areas along the Hamakua Coast. Again, this was a memorable time in my life but it was hard to leave these wonderful people, as the plantations closed down after lifelong employment, housing and health for some. However, a wonderful change was taking place here. The Church belongs to the laity and so they are taking on more and more responsibility for their parish, its programs. So, in spite of the material hardships which these people are undergoing, there is a very vibrant spirit and it is very evident in the new church which is being built by them in spite of the odds. Their local leadership and willingness to build Church — physical building and spiritual life — are very much in their favor.
So I again turn with my diminishment — age and talents — to give at The Center until I have run my course.
It has been a wonderful life — my family, my Maryknoll and all my friends and the love each has enhanced my days with. Thanks to all who have touched my life in so many ways. I was blessed for having known you and consider all of you part of the Stepping Stone I feel I have fashioned. I ask your pardon for any wrongs or hurts I have caused you!
Let us welcome our Maryknoll brother, Father Stephen DeMott, who will preside at this Liturgy of Christian Burial. Most of all, let us lovingly remember and give thanks for the “wonderful” life of this remarkable woman, our Sister,our friend, Miriam Carol.