Entering Mount Providence chapel to begin the long walk to the altar, Oblate Sister of Providence Mary Alice Chineworth appeared as radiant as any young bride one has ever witnessed. Supported on the arms of her nephew and grandnephew, Sister Alice walked slowly, taking in the beautiful music, the smiling faces of the assembled and the scent of the lush floral arrangements sent by dear friends as a special tribute. At just 94 years young, this was the moment she and the Oblates had been planning for many months, celebrating Sister Alice’s jubilant 75 years of religious life.
As we watched Sister Alice acknowledge friends and family while making her way to a special seat at the altar, we were filled with joy and pride. Our daughter, Nia, helped Sister Alice select the beautiful white suit she was wearing. We spent time visiting hotels so Sister Alice could select one special enough to host her extended family and friends, who would travel to Baltimore for the occasion. Our 4-year-old granddaughter helped Sister Alice master the new iPhone she used to record the addresses and phone numbers of her guests. We were “into it,” so to speak, and thrilled as the day approached.
What really struck us, however, was that we were watching a walk 75 years in the making and that there was such an array of people there to give witness to it. We thought about the path Sister Alice had taken to this time and place and the many lives she has touched along the way. We wondered what other guests were thinking about the role Sister Alice had played in their lives; what was it about her that made so many generations travel from places distant and near?
Sister Alice perhaps offered an answer to this question when she expressed her and the group’s thoughts and gratitude at the end of the ceremony for the five jubilarians being honored. After receiving a standing ovation in response to her statement that “at 94 years of age I can say anything I want,” Sister Alice shared that in her 75 years as a member of the Oblate Sisters of Providence she was blessed to experience six generations of love. She graciously conveyed deep thanks for the support she’s received and undiminished love for her community of Oblates.
While we sometimes think of her as “our” Sister Alice, on this day we realized we share her with many others. Here then are the thoughts and deeds of a few of the persons who make up six generations Sister Alice has impacted.
Sylvia Gentile, from Orlando, Fla., is one generation younger than Sister Alice. She shared that Sister Alice is one of her best friends. She bakes her cakes and cookies, mailing them here in time to be enjoyed on special occasions. For jubilee day, Sylvia brought a special loaf of bread, that required 10 days to prepare and a promise of prompt delivery to Sister Alice before Sylvia released it to the Mount Providence receptionist.
Dr. Kirk Gaddy, a founder of Bluford-Drew-Jamison Charter School, shared that as he watched Sister Alice walk in to the chapel, he was struck by her exuberance, strength and perseverance. He recalled the years they worked together and marveled how intelligent she is. He suggested we all take a page out of Sister Alice’s book and work now to better ourselves to assure our own longevity.
Nia Moore, 25, reflected on Sister Alice’s unassuming nature, which draws you in, then gives the gift of a deep sense of history and culture. She expressed awe at Sister Alice’s wisdom and life experiences. “She is Dr. Chineworth,” Nia reminds us!
As she so often does, our 4-year-old granddaughter, Sylena, said it best. When we told her that Sister Alice was celebrating 75 years as an Oblate Sister, she squealed “Oooh wheee! Tell her I said happy birthday, Sister Alice!” So, Sister Alice, happy birthday means happy jubilee. If only you could give us six more generations filled with love of God, community, family and friends and your wisdom; the world could use them.
Dana and Ralph E. Moore Jr. are parishioners of St. Ann, Baltimore.