The Youngest Nun: Fire and Light

Lynn Mousel

by CHM Sister Lynn Mousel
The "Youngest Nun" 

My phone rang--out of the blue it was my mother’s cousin Marilyn from Colorado. “I have something for you that survived the fire,” she said. This fire happened when my grandfather was in high school. His mother, my great-grandmother, was washing clothes with gasoline. He and his siblings survived, but their mother died. Just months before the phone call, I had sat around a table with my family discussing this tragic family history; even seeing the telegrams telling of the news. It is hard to imagine how my grandfather dealt with this throughout his lifetime.

Marilyn and her husband Allan came to visit me in Great Falls not long after the phone call. They presented me with a liturgical candle holder which belonged to my great-great grandmother, the mother of the great-grandmother who died as a result of the fire. It turned out that she was not only Catholic, but from France. 

I couldn’t help thinking about the roots of the Sisters of the Humility - who originally came from France over 150 years ago. A strong parallel in my family history and my community history is the story of a fire. You may have already heard about the Ottumwa Heights fire in 1957 that destroyed our convent and college.
This picture was taken by putting
a battery operated candle behind
my great great grandmother's

liturgical candle holder.
So what to make of all of this? When I first came to know the Sisters of Humility and their history, I was struck by their ability to pick up and move on after such loss. I have heard many stories of them living at an old airbase after the fire, and the rebuilding afterwards. As for my grandfather, he went on to live with his older brother and sister-in-law, Marilyn’s parents. He later joined the army and served in World War II. And, of course, if he hadn’t met my grandmother, I wouldn’t be here!

What an amazing gift I have been given, both in terms of the physical gift of the candle holder and the reminder of the strength and courage within both my “families.” Fire can have devastating and tragic consequences, but it can also symbolize the light of Christ. That is the Light that strengthens and heals, and shines through the darkness, through all eternity.

Sister Lynn Mousel is a vowed member of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. At 42 she is the youngest sister in the CHM community. You can find more posts from The Youngest Nun
in A Nun's Pocket archives.