Sr. Mona Lewandowski

Sr. M. Majella

Born::  Bethany, Manitoba, 6/2/1936
Postulancy::Regina, Saskatchewan, 8/9/1961
Novitiate:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 25/7/1962
1st Profession:: Regina, Saskatchewan, 26/7/1964
Final Vows::Brandon, Manitoba, 4/9/1971
Died:: Brandon, Manitoba, 24/9/2012

Born in a small Manitoba community, into a family that would grow to seven children, Mona Lewandowski began her working life at age 15, as a waitress in Neepawa, MB.   Mona regularly spoke of how she liked waitressing, but an attack of rheumatic fever at 17 left her with some physical difficulties and as a young woman, she knew she could not continue.  She decided to further her education, in hopes of becoming a telephone operator, where she could sit rather than stand all the time.  So at age 21, Mona began grade nine at St. Michael's Academy in Brandon, operated the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, where she completed high school.  It was at St. Michael’s that new possibilities opened for Mona.  She had a sense of God calling her to religious life, and applied to become a Sister.  In the autumn of 1961 Mona entered the RNDM novitiate, making first vows in 1964.  

After first profession, Mona furthered her education at both the University of Regina and Brandon University, completing Teacher training and a B.A. degree.  She taught at St. Augustine's and Sacred Heart schools in Brandon from 1967-1971.  In 1971, Mona made her perpetual vows as a Sister of Our Lady of the Missions at St. Augustine's parish in Brandon, and was subsequently missioned to be the Religious Education Coordinator for St. Augustine's, a work she wholeheartedly took on for the next eight years.  After a Sabbatical year in Rome, she returned to serve as Religious Education Coordinator for the Dauphin Deanery from 1980-1988.  In 1989 she returned to Brandon, and took on Leadership and administrative responsibilities for the RNDMs at St. Michael's Academy, until the Academy closed in September, 2005.

Throughout her life, Mona was active in various social justice initiatives: with Chilean and Nicaraguan refugees; with Development and Peace; and with the Westman Association for Terminal Care in Hospice.  She also involved herself in 12 step groups, and was much appreciated among those recovering from addictions and their families.  Mona had a gift for relationships.  With simplicity, honesty and straight-forwardness, she met people and accepted them as they were with respect and a wholesome curiosity.  She genuinely cared for people she encountered, and sustained these connections with a phone call, a card, a message, a greeting - sent directly through snail mail [no email for Mona] or through a human messenger.

Mona was a reader, and her choice of reading material was eclectic and wide-ranging.  She was often on the forefront of contemporary thought, and would share what she was reading with anyone who showed an interest, thus helping her friends and associates stay abreast of current reading as well.

An explorer at heart, Mona lived her life with a pervasive sense of wonder, curiosity and humour.  She loved nature and the vast variety of creation's expressions captured her curiosity, intrigued her conscious thought, and fueled her prayer.  

God was very real to Mona and the qualities that marked her relationships with family and friends marked her relationship with God.  Mona loved God, fought with God, marveled in God, tried to ignore God, and always centered around God.  In a message written to her RNDM Sisters, family and friends on September 27 1993, (which took on a particular luminosity after her death) Mona wrote: "If I should leave this earth without a formal good-bye, know that I love our God and you passionately.  I have put much energy into being playful in my life.  I have fought fiercely with my God and with some of you.  I go with no regrets about God's plan during this life."

Mona lived with severe rheumatoid arthritis for many years, and in February of 2010, she fell and sustained a hip fracture from which she never fully recovered.  It was after a lengthy sojourn in hospital that she moved to Rideau Park Personal Care Home.  There too Mona lived her missionary life in reaching out to residents and staff.  Denise Logeot, a social worker at Rideau Park, said to us many times how she observed the ways Mona made God more real and accessible to many of the staff and residents, through her own kindness and acceptance of them.  After Mona's death, Logeot wrote to us: "It has been an amazing and wondrous experience for all of us to work with Mona and to get to know all of you. Words cannot express how much Mona meant to many staff members and residents."

One of Mona's favourite songs was "All My Life's a Circle" by Harry Chapin.  While somewhat vocally challenged, Mona would sing out the words to this song with gusto.  Looking back on her life through this metaphor, the full circle of her life comes into focus.  Like the good waitress of her youth, she was consistently ready to help people and serve in whatever ways she could.  Like the good telephone operator of her aspirations, she made initial and ongoing connections with people, valued them, and helped people stay connected to her and to one another.  Like the good missionary she became, Mona continued in mission through diminishment and death.

The Mass of Christian Burial for Mona was held at St. Augustine's church, where so many other significant moments of her life had been marked.  From there, surrounded by family and friends, Mona was laid to rest in the arms of Mother earth, in the company of so many RNDMs who have preceded her.  At her graveside, after singing the "Salve Regina", we sang "All My Life's a Circle", knowing that Mona had circled her way into the fullness of life.

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