by Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., Provincial Director
Lorraine Ramos was a force of nature. We often call weather events—tornadoes or hurricanes—forces of nature. But the image that has kept time on my mind since learning of Lorraine’s death was that she was a force of nature—Hurricane Lorraine. But unlike a hurricane that leaves behind destruction, what Hurricane Lorraine leaves behind is a legacy of love and compassion that will live on for years to come.
For 85 years in this corner of God’s good earth, Appanoose County and Centerville, Iowa, Hurricane Lorraine swept away the debris of lethargy and inactivity and called us to action on behalf of the poor, the sick, the homebound, the indigent, the elderly, the lonely, the physically and mentally challenged. She was a hurricane of hope and healing, of group homes and long term care centers, community betterment and home health care. And all of us here at St. Mary’s Parish—certainly any priest who served here—knew Lorraine’s faith would move her to speak up and reach out and lend a hand—often a directing hand—to make the gospel of Jesus a living reality in our time.
Whether it was a free lunch on Saturday afternoons to help those in the area who needed to stretch their budget—but even more needed some company to curb their loneliness—or knitting prayer shawls for those grieving, or coordinating the social action committee, or holding an anointing service and lunch for the elderly, or serving on the parish council, when something needed to be done or there was someone in need, there was no better advocate than Lorraine.
Eye of the Hurricane
They say that in the eye of a hurricane there is a patch of blue sky where birds sing and all is calm and peaceful. The eye of Hurricane Lorraine was always on the lookout for the next one who needed help. From her spiritual center of peace and prayer, nourished here at the table of daily Eucharist, Lorraine would go forth to the courthouse or the capital or the chancery or the rectory to unleash a torrent of change.
I don’t know what politicians felt when Hurricane Lorraine swept into their office or city or county council meeting, but as a priest I know what I felt when she came to the rectory with the latest idea about was needed in the parish. When I arrived in Centerville as a newly-ordained priest in 1982, I knew almost immediately upon meeting Lorraine that I was dealing with a force of nature. Lorraine always told me what she thought, whether I agreed with her or not. And as all of you who loved her and all of you who worked with her on committees either in the parish, city, county, or diocese know, Hurricane Lorraine was not shy about raising her voice or offering her opinion. Could she be pushy? You bet! But her heart was with those on the margins and she taught me so much about social justice and action on behalf of the poor and abandoned.
Spending time with Lorraine and her beloved husband of 60 years, Adrian, I experienced that “eye of the hurricane”—that peaceful calm of care, concern, and unconditional love. I always felt so at home with them as they would kid each other back and forth, egg each other on. I felt like part of their remarkable family. Of course, there was always food to feast on at their table and always room for one more.
Lorraine was a woman of great energy that never really waned until the stroke stopped her in her tracks a few years ago. Then we saw even more clearly that unconditional love of Adrian and Lorraine that reveals the ancient truth: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Every time I saw her after the stroke, her face would brighten and her smile was so warm and welcoming and as she embraced me I was captured once again the in eye of Hurricane Lorraine, and felt at home.
Family of Faith
There are at least three families of faith that were so important to Lorraine. Of course, the family she and Adrian created and cultivated for more than 60 years was most important to her. What a team Adrian and Lorraine made together. What a legacy of love and service to others they have passed on to Doug and Tammy, Rita, Richard and Barb, and their beloved grandchildren, Luke and Marissa. How proud Lorraine was of all of you.
I can’t tell you how many times over the past 32 years I stretched out on the couch in Adrian and Lorraine’s family room, Lorraine knitting and talking and not missing a stitch; Adrian nodding, now and then snoring, then suddenly asking, “Father, how about another beer?” It was always so real, so genuine. No need to put on airs or pretend to be someone you’re not. You’re welcome here. Have another bite to eat. The family feasts were legendary.
St. Mary’s Parish was her faith family to which she gave so much time and energy. And the third family was the Precious Blood community. She was one of the first to make Covenant as a Precious Blood Companion and for more than twenty years she renewed her covenant and served on various committees for the province, including the justice and peace committee. I will hold close to my heart the memory of Lorraine making her final covenant with the community here at St. Mary’s last year when we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Precious Blood missionaries coming to serve St. Mary’s.
In these three families of faith, Lorraine fulfilled the three requirements the prophet Micah says that God desires of each of us. She acted justly, often speaking loudly on behalf of the poor, the outcast, and the abandoned. She loved tenderly, but also tenaciously and passionately. She certainly wasn’t afraid of showing tough love. And she walked humbly but also confidently with our God, because she knew that when we walk in faith, we walk with confidence for that is what the word means, “with faith.”
Citizen of Heaven
For 85 years, Hurricane Lorraine was a force for good for these three families of faith and for the local community. In 1976, she was named Citizen of the Year by the Iowegian and the description of the award captures well why Lorraine made such a difference in our lives. “The award is given to a citizen, who over a period of time has made an outstanding contribution to the community, lived unselfishly thereby creating a better place in which to live, work, worship, and raise a family.”
And now Hurricane Lorraine has arrived at Heaven’s Gate and I can’t wait to learn how heaven will never be the same. As St. Paul, another force of nature, reminds us, we hold on to “this hope that will not leave us disappointed because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Lorraine knew we are saved not by our good deeds but by the blood of Christ “through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
So now that Hurricane Lorraine has gone out across the sea, the words of Jesus, intimate and inviting resounds in our silence, our grief, our gratitude: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light.” Find rest, dear Lorraine, for your work here is finished. The yoke of these last few years following the stroke is broken, and the burdens of life are lifted from your shoulders.
But I am sure of this: today hurricane warnings are sounding in heaven. Lorraine is on the way and heaven will never be the same.
This is Fr. Joe’s Funeral Homily, given November 3, 2014 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Centerville, Iowa.