sister lillian newbore


November 26, 1915 - February 19, 2011

Joyfully exuberant, generous of spirit

For all of her 95 years, Sister Lillian Newbore was very active, always upbeat and joyfully exuberant. Her many gifts included skilled musicianship, an outgoing, welcoming personality, faithfulness to prayer and generosity of spirit. She embodied what it means to be a Sister of St. Joseph.

Elizabeth Newbore was born in Chicago November 26, 1915. She entered the community in September 1936 and received the habit and name S. Mary Arthur on March 19, 1937. She made her final profession in 1942. She tells this funny story about the application form she filled out upon entrance. She wrote that she had played in a band, believing it inappropriate to say it was a jazz ensemble. To her surprise, in 1941 she was named band director at St. Mary's in Hannibal. She thought there was a misunderstanding and told the provincial she had never been in a full band, only an ensemble, but to no avail. She spent many evenings learning how to play the different instruments!

The first part of her active life (1939-1977), S. Lillian was a music teacher in many grade and high schools across the province. She engaged students in countless choral performances and Broadway shows, her last being one of the best, "Oklahoma" at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis. Throughout all of her teaching years she inspired students who loved her because she was a good teacher and listened to them. No putting on airs for her-she was always just herself.

Her instrument was the piano. It sang under her touch. In community settings, sisters loved suggesting songs and then having S. Lillian play with gusto and verve as they sang. Sister Jean Magdalene Wyatt tells this story of piano playing: S. Lillian had accompanied S. Jean to the funeral of her sister. Afterwards, when they had gathered at S. Jean's brother's home, S. Lillian noticed S. Jean's brother about to haul away a piano from the garage. Right away S. Lillian began improvising songs and cheered everyone with her playing. S. Jean says her brother fell in love with "that nun."

However beautiful or enjoyable it was, her musicianship was not her only gift. S. Lillian had a great capacity for meeting people. That's probably why she was determined to serve actively for so many years. With her clear mind and willing heart, she enveloped everyone with her kindness and interest, especially in these last years when she lived and ministered in Kansas City. Indeed, at social gatherings she came alive because she loved people. She had the gift of making folks feel special by greeting each one and giving many hugs. Volunteers and staff at the Center for Women in Transition in St. Louis especially loved her. All the love she gave came back to her, when at her funeral at St. James in Kansas City, so many from all over the city came to participate. In just a relatively short time, she had endeared herself to many.

Most of all, S. Lillian is remembered as a person of prayer and as one who loved the community. Each day she spent one hour with God before she moved out to the rest of the world. Held in her heart were the needs of the dear neighbor close and far. And while others might be caught up in school activities, her role was to call all gently and consistently to prayer and community. She took seriously her responsibility when living at the candidate house in St. Louis, sharing her heart and telling Georgia Walker, then a candidate, about the saint of the day as the two of them drove to their ministries. She was open to God's Spirit and inspired her sisters to share who God was for them.

"Woe to the Faint of Heart," "We, though many, are one body,""As God loves me, so I love you." These scripture passages S. Lillian chose for her funeral mass. They came from God to her, were spoken to and through her all her life. She now gives them to us. May we take them to heart and emulate her joyful and welcoming spirit, May she rest in peace.

S. Rita Louise Huebner

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