Sister Lorna Mary Swisher, CSC

(March 7, 1923 - January 31, 2014)

Word has been received of the death of Sister Lorna Mary Swisher, who died at 6:55 a.m. on Friday, January 31, 2014, in Saint Mary’s Convent, Notre Dame, Indiana.

Sister Lorna was very energetic and intense about everything she did. She did not believe in half measures for herself and urged others to the same striving. Even as a youngster growing up on the family ranch in Boise, Idaho, she proclaimed herself a tomboy and enjoyed the competitiveness that was typical of that label. She enjoyed sports of all kinds, and having three brothers provided many opportunities to test her skills.

Although her two older brothers, Dennis and Sam, attended public school, Lorna and her twin, Larry, upon reaching school age, were sent to St. Theresa’s Academy, which was staffed by the Sisters of the Holy Cross. The twins attended St. Theresa’s from the first to the 11th grade. Then, to Lorna’s regret, the family moved to Elko, Nevada, where their high school education was completed in the local public school. Lorna afterward lamented that her high school diploma did not bear the seal of St. Theresa’s Academy. She missed what she described as the “dedication and special spirit of the Catholic Schools.”

Upon graduation Lorna worked as a secretary for two years when the appeal of the “dedication and special spirit” she had experienced with the sisters at St. Theresa’s prompted her to enter the congregation in 1943. The sisters in Boise were delighted when she asked them to help her with the preparations to enter the novitiate.

It was in Lorna’s scholasticate year that the first pain of loss would devastate her. She received word in 1944 that Larry had been killed in the line of duty in the battle of Leyte when General Douglas MacArthur and his troops recaptured the Philippine Archipelago in World War II. This blow pierced her to the heart because her twin was so dear to her. In 1948, when Sister Lorna went for her home visit after final profession, she again grieved the loss when Larry’s remains were shipped home for burial. Sister Lorna had amazing moral strength as she endured multiple losses. Over the next years she lost her mother, her father and her two brothers, all of whom died unexpectedly. These tragedies turned her to God and deepened her reliance on the Lord’s help and grace.

Sister Lorna also found consolation in her success as a junior high school teacher. Though teenagers at this level can be challenging, she had great rapport with them. Her own spiritual growth gave credence to the moral lessons she taught and exemplified. Sister Joy O’Grady entered the congregation under Sister Lorna’s guidance and influence when Lorna was teaching in Ventura, California. For 30 years she continued to serve as a teacher and sometimes principal in the elementary schools of the West.

In 1975 Sister Lorna began a new phase of ministry, serving in various positions in schools and parishes in whatever capacity she was needed. She was a welcoming receptionist, a very organized librarian, and a teacher of Scripture in an adult education program. However, her energy was best tapped when she began the special parish ministry of visiting homebound and elderly parishioners. She provided them with mundane services such as shopping trips and taking them to doctors’ appointments, but the gem of her service was the emotional and spiritual support she offered.

Sister Lorna’s own spiritual depth and strength came from her great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and her faithful practice of centering prayer. It was this daily interior turning to God that kept her in touch with her source of religious vitality and love. As she turned to God on Friday, she found her joy and true center. She now rests in peace.


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