March 16, 1914 — March 10, 2012
We can imagine Sister Francis Lucille Bisciotti’s response when God called her on Saturday, March 10: a resounding “Pronto!” Four days short of her 98th birthday, after so many labors, Francis was indeed ready to rest in the Lord she had served so vigorously and well.
“Pronto” was, in a very real sense, her mantra. Throughout her life, Francis was always “ready” – for whatever was asked of her:
- ready to leave family and friends in Ohio for Ilchester, Maryland, where she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1937
- ready to stand in front of a class and teach, or serve our Notre Dame mission in other ways
- ready to call either the USA or Italy “home”
- ready to serve working-class families at Paciotti or SNDs from around the world at successive Notre Dame Generalates
- ready to open doors, answer phones, take messages, exchange visitors’ foreign currencies for lire, supply guests with stamps for their postcards , and find us overnight accommodations anywhere in Europe, using her little black book of convents, hostels and “safe and inexpensive” hotels.
If it took a brave and generous heart for her to leave the USA for postwar Rome in 1946 as a young SND, Francis showed even greater courage in her 80th year as she pulled up roots to come home to the States. She loved all things Italian. The language had become second nature to her. She reveled in being at the crossroads of the congregation. The way of life at Paciotti, however demanding, was ingrained in her; the lives of her Sisters’ lives were tightly intertwined with her own. But it was “time.” And she was “ready.”
In 1993, with characteristic eagerness, she took her turn as portress at Villa Julie in Maryland. The transition was not without its challenges. Now and again, a greeting, direction or question just “popped out” in her customary Italian as a puzzled delivery man stood at the door. She never quite made her peace with American white bread. Even if the wrapper said “Italian,” in her strong opinion it hardly deserved the name, compared with Paciotti’s pane integrale or a bona fide panettone! Spaghetti, USA style, meant another big adjustment. As for those restaurants we call “Italian,” she wanted proof!
Ties with her Sisters at Paciotti, her family and her friends remained strong, thanks in part to the small portable typewriter Francis kept in her room. Letter-writing was one of her special gifts. At a deeper level, she carried all of us in her heart. If we asked her to pray for us, for a relative or a friend, each name was duly recorded in a special little notebook, and remembered ever after. Prayer was a sacred part of each day. She especially loved The Liturgy of the Hours, and let it be known in no uncertain terms that doctors’ visits were to be scheduled around Mass – never in conflict with it!
With the passage of still more years, Francis remained “ready” for whatever God asked. In 2002, she accepted a transfer to assisted living at Emmitsburg, Maryland, where SNDs and Daughters of Charity enjoyed a temporary but mutually beneficial partnership. Shortly after graduating to skilled care there, she moved to Mount Notre Dame in her native Ohio in 2009.
Sister Francis Lucille was truly a “valiant woman” -- a woman of strength, dignity, laughter, wisdom, kindly counsel, practical foresight, generous service, proven worth (and, yes, strong opinions!). Though she spent much of her life an ocean away from her family, she loved each one with a full heart, as Vincent, her last surviving sibling can well attest. Once home in the USA, she treasured his Sunday afternoon phone calls and delighted in his surprise visits. As for her Notre Dame family, how can we not “rise up and praise her”? What a blessing to know that she is with our good God, enjoying “the reward of her labors,” her lamp eternally “undimmed.” (Proverbs 31: 10-31)
Born Lucille Frances Bisciotti, March 16, 1914
Baptized the same day, St. Peter’s, Chillicothe, OH
Educated at St. Peter’s, Chillicothe, and St. Aloysius, Columbus, OH
Graduated from West High School, Columbus, OH
Entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur January 31, 1937, Ilchester, MD
Received the habit August 1, 1937
First profession: July 30, 1939
Final profession: July 30, 1945
Our Lady of Peace, Fords, NJ (teaching)
St. Martin, Gaithersburg, MD (teaching)
St. Catherine of Genoa, Brooklyn, NY (teaching)
Maryvale, Brooklandville, MD (support staff)
Provincial House, Ilchester, MD (support staff)
Notre Dame Generalate support staff, Rome, Italy (Frascati and Via delle Guistiniana)
Scuola Giulia Billiart support staff, Via Francesco Paciotti, Rome (twice)
Villa Julie, Stevenson, MD
St. Julie Hall, Emmitsburg, MD
Mount Notre Dame, Cincinnati, OH