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Sister Mary Arlene Scott

I do not know what my destiny will be
But one thing I do know
The only ones among us
Who will be really happy
Are those who have sought
And found how to serve God
By serving others.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, President of Barry University in Miami, Florida, found this little quote attributed to Albert Schweitzer in Sister Arlene’s office. She said, “It epitomizes for me Sister Arlene’s giving heart and generous life.”

Sister Arlene was the daughter of Robert Clement and Mary Luisa (Smith) Scott. She was born on December 2, 1953, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and was the oldest of their four children. Twins Patrick and Gregory, and a sister Julianne followed her into the family. She wrote, “I was raised in a middle class family where I wanted for nothing. As the first grandchild on both sides of the family, I was everyone’s darling.”

Robert Scott came from an Irish heritage. He was an attorney. In 1980 he was appointed to the circuit court in Broward County, and became a judge. Mary Luisa Smith’s parents were from Cuba. Arlene often visited her mother’s parents, who lived nearby, and became close to her grandmother, who suffered from arthritis and was in a wheelchair. She often heard stories about the family in Cuba, and about her mother as a young woman. Arlene loved and admired both her parents. She wrote, “Whenever someone was in need of help my mother would be there to offer her time and effort.” Arlene herself, however, in her younger years was rather shy, and found it hard to allow anyone to get very close to her. She wrote, “Some painful experiences confirmed my desire to protect myself.”

When it was time for school, Arlene attended St. Anthony Elementary School with the Adrian Dominicans. She spent her secondary years at Cardinal Gibbons High School, from which she graduated in 1971. For a time she worked part-time in her grandfather’s drug store and took summer courses at Broward Community College, then attended the University of Florida in Gainesville. In 1975 she was awarded a bachelor’s degree with a major in early childhood education. She then returned home and substituted in several parochial schools.

In 1976 she found a full-time position as a teacher in the lower grades at St. Clement School in Fort Lauderdale. She traveled to London and Paris during the summer of 1977, and spent the following summer with a friend, visiting Aspen, Colorado. They were so impressed by the beauty of the mountains that they decided to move to Denver, and applied for Colorado teaching certificates. Sister Arlene taught for another year at St. Clement School, then moved to Denver. After substitute teaching for a year, she became involved in activities at Precious Blood Parish and found a full-time position teaching second grade at Precious Blood School.

Although she had spent twelve years in Catholic schools and was knowledgeable about Catholic doctrine, religion had not meant a great deal to her. At Precious Blood Parish she was invited to join a parish renewal process. She worked with the children’s liturgy, coordinated a summer Bible school, was a lector and Eucharistic minister, taught in the religious education program, and served on a liturgy advisory commission. She also became closely involved with a small group of parishioners who prayed and discussed Scripture together. “We became like an extended family. I was drawn by their openness and touched by their commitment.” She wrote:

I am basically a reflective sort of person so I enjoy opportunities for silence and journaling. Journaling, working with a spiritual companion, and spiritual reading have all helped me to find God within myself and others. . . . As much as I enjoy being with God in stillness, I feel closest to God when there is life around me. A well celebrated liturgy fills me with energy and has occasionally moved me to tears.

She also joined the Denver Junior League. In this organization, she researched grant possibilities for a tissue bank and volunteered as an aide in the pediatric section of a hospital, learning new skills.

She began a master’s program in religious education at St. Thomas Theological Seminary in Denver. When she moved to Chicago, she finished the degree at Loyola University, completing it in 1987. She worked in a gift shop and volunteered at a parish where she met Sister Joan Weithman, an Adrian Dominican Sister. This sparked her interest in the Adrian Congregation. She wrote:

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a nun because they wore neat clothes and kept boxes of shiny foil stars in their desks. By the time I was in high school I had decided that, although it had a romantic lure, becoming a sister meant giving up what I thought I wanted. But, as time went on, the idea of devoting my life to ministry and service never left me.

In 1988 she accepted a teaching position at St. Mary of the Lake Elementary School. She continued her contact with the Adrian Dominicans, and felt that the time had come to make a decision. She became a candidate on September 8, 1989, three months before her thirty-sixth birthday. “This past year in Adrian has affirmed my conviction that my decision for religious life is the right one for me.” After serving as a teacher aide at St. Joseph Academy during her candidacy, she was sent to the common novitiate in Manchester, Missouri, on September 14, 1990, for a year. She spent the 1991-92 year at Loyola University in Chicago, and the year culminated in her reception of a second master’s degree, this time in pastoral studies. On August 8, 1992, she professed her first vows.

Her first ministry was to Our Lady of the Westside School in Chicago for a year, and she taught kindergarten for the next four years at St. Eulalia School in Maywood, Illinois. In 1997 she returned to Florida, and taught for two years at St. Jude School in St. Petersburg.

In 1999 Sister Arlene became Director of Mission and Ministry at Barry University in Miami. At the wake Sister Anne Liam Lees said:

She delighted in sharing the College and High School Preaching Conferences. Sister Arlene was a familiar sight in Cor Jesu Chapel where she often preached at daily Mass and participated in other liturgical celebrations.

She assumed the responsibility of Assistant Vice President for Mission and Ministry in 2001, and in 2006 she was a candidate for Florida Chapter Prioress. Diagnosed with cancer, she returned to the Dominican Life Center/Maria in January 2009 where death came to her on April 2 at the age of fifty-five.

Sister Arlene’s wake-remembrance service was held in St. Catherine Chapel on April 5. Present were her parents, her twin brothers Patrick and Greg, her sister Julianne Cleary, many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sister Anne Liam Lees, Prioress of the Florida Mission Chapter, opened the service, welcomed all those attending, and summarized Sister Arlene’s life and ministry.

Several emails were received this week from sisters who were recipients of Sister Arlene’s gift of hospitality. Sister Joanne O’Shanahan wrote, “I and so many, many other sisters in CODAL (Conference of Dominicans of Latin America) and DSI (Dominican Sisters International) remember her tenderness, smile, hospitality, faithfulness, and love for the Barry mission. She helped many Dominican sisters who lived in South America who came to Barry for a course. She received me several times at the airport and brought me back, and all Dominicans of South America love her.

Sister Linda Bevilacqua, President of Barry University, said in part:

For the last ten years Sister Arlene served primarily in our Campus Ministry department, but she was also responsible for University-wide mission-related events and activities. Her titles and responsibilities changed, but three things remained constant in terms of her interest and fervor: a passion for preaching and for leading students . . . to a deeper understanding of their baptismal call to live and speak the Word of God; an enthusiasm for sharing the Adrian Dominican history, mission and vision; and a zeal for peace and justice through the coordination of activities that engaged all sectors of the University community. . . . Even though we will not have her leadership and vibrant presence to guide and shape future mission-related activities, we will honor her memory with great love and abundant gratitude.

Sister Jean Keeley remembered:

I lived with her at Lombard House for the second year of her novitiate. She had a contemplative manner, and enjoyed doing needlepoint. Her needlepoint was a thing of beauty. She had an eye for beauty and loved flowers. We needed a space for flowers on our front lawn, and she designed a flower bed. It was such a joy to put the flowers in each year.

She loved communal prayer and liturgy, but relished times of quiet meditation. She also loved fun and celebrations, and was a night owl, as am I. . . . Many of us have known her to be loyal, dependable, and willing, to a fault, to help her friends with just about any task. . . . In her years in education, we knew Sister Arlene as a gifted and creative teacher. She easily related with her students and provided individual attention as needed.

Sister Mary Soher also remembered:

I lived with Sister Arlene in Florida from 1999-2005. My mother died a couple of years ago, and she was there to help me. She gave a blessing at my mother’s wake. She knew just what to say, and the words just came out. She always had the right words. She was probably the best member of any group, whether it was a few of us or her family. We’re better people for having her in our lives.

Patrick Scott, Sister Arlene’s brother shared memories:

We, the Scotts, are really appreciative of your opening your home to us.

Arlene was the firstborn in our family. When Greg and I came along ten months later, she became our boss and was the bossiest of bosses until we became larger than her. After that she became more meek, since she had two brothers and a little sister who was getting lots of attention.

She was a very private person. She went through some stages—the Girl Scout state, dance lesson phase, chubby stage, movie fan stage. She had a huge collection of memorabilia. When she was about eleven years old, I remember her coming back from summer camp. The camp was somewhere in the North Carolina mountains, and she came back with a Southern accent.

When she went to college, Mom found a book on religious life in her room. I never realized that she had that interest. I think she was always searching. . . . She was really very quiet and a teacher.

I remember a graduation Mass from some years ago. There was a song that was very popular at the time in the spirit of the new lively Masses that were fashionable then. The song that was sung at that Mass was “Morning Has Broken.”

He asked his son to come up and assist him in singing “Morning Has Broken” in Sister Arlene’s memory. Patrick played the piano, and his son sang the song. Both sang the last verse.

Sister Arlene’s funeral liturgy was held on April 6. Reverend David Caron, OP, of the Southern Provincial Office in New Orleans was the presider. There were two concelebrants: Reverend Robert Lucas, a Vincentian and hospital chaplain from Chicago; and Reverend Scott O’Brien, OP, chaplain at Barry University. Sister Nery Sori, who had lived with Sister Arlene for several years, performed a beautiful liturgical dance.

Sister Sara Fairbanks, who had shared a home with Sisters Arlene, Mary, and Nery, was the homilist. She said in part:

Heaven, our home in God, is not a place. It is a relationship, a loving communion with God, with each other, and with all of creation that begins here on earth. . . . Sister Arlene responded to Christ’s call to love. We can each name and celebrate the ways she made a home for us. She was generous and hospitable to everyone. She spent years working with little children, teaching them about God and preparing them to make their home in this world. At Barry she made Campus Ministry a real home for college students, where they gathered for prayer, community, and social outreach in our community for those most in need. She lived our vision: Seek Truth, Make Peace, Reverence Life.

At last Sister Arlene has reached her true home, her home in God. Let us rejoice with her!

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