The following is from an account by Sisters Phyllis D’Anna and Susan Olson, describing the experience of their trip to Washington for Sister Barbara Geib’s Funeral Mass in Monroe, WA, then back to California for her burial at Holy Cross Cemetery and a Memorial Mass at the Province Center in Belmont.
What an honor it was to be able to participate in these events with the good people of Monroe, especially Father Phillip Bloom and the parishioners of St. Mary of the Valley, where Sr. Barbara worked..
We arrived in Monroe on Wednesday, in time for the vigil. Sisters Liz Tiernan, Mavourneen McGinty and Margaret Lederer were also in attendance to share with the community of Monroe the life and legend of Sr. Barbara Geib.
THE EVENING VIGIL
At the evening vigil the Mayor, Police Chaplains, Deputy Chief of the Police, Fire Commissioner, parishioners and even her water aerobics teacher gave testimony to her many works of mercy and kindness during her forty-one years living and working in Monroe. At the vigil the Hispanic Choir, the Anglo Choir and bagpipes played by one of the police officers were interspersed with amazing testimonies and the rosary led by Fr. Bloom and loving parishioners.
Sr. Barbara’s body, in her simple but beautiful coffin with the words, “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Have Mercy On Us” lay in state for the entire night with various groups taking turns staying with her, police officers, fire men and women, Knights of Columbus, choirs and staff of St Mary’s. They never left her
There were three honor guards opening the liturgy. The Knights of Columbus, the Monroe Police and Fire Department were all in attendance. Police and firefighters were the pallbearers. Fr. Bloom offered the liturgy in both Spanish and English and both choirs participated. Sr. Margaret played the piano and sang the offertory, “Shelter Me O God” and the communion, “The Lord is My Shepherd” (with the community joining in) and “Holy Is God’s Name.”
Towards the end of the liturgy Sr. Phil thanked the people of Monroe for all the love and care they gave Sr. Barbara over all these years and recounted how much Sr. Barbara loved them. She introduced Sr. Liz who gave a wonderful eulogy, helping the community to see the connections between how Sr. Barbara lived her life and our charism of St. Julie. Liz ended with a plug for the “Eagles” winning the Super Bowl (we had sung “Fly like an Eagle” at the end of the liturgy.) [Editor’s Note: Her prayer was obviously answered at Super Bowl LII!] After the liturgy we found an amazing spread of food prepared by the women of the parish set up in the church hall for everyone.
When we arrived in Monroe on Wednesday we had given the van to the policeman who had come to fetch it. The police wanted to make sure it was clean and set up to move the casket into the van with ease. At 3:00 on Thursday after the funeral and reception, an honor guard of police standing at attention lined the driveway outside the church alongside the line up of vehicles for the motorcade that would be the procession honoring Sr. Barbara as we left the town. There was a police car with the Deputy Chief of Police in front of the van and two motorcycle policemen in front of the police car. We were followed by two fire trucks behind the van.
Children from the Hispanic community dressed in their first communion clothes processed out of the church with flowers to put on the casket and, as is their custom, the community released doves from baskets before the casket was put in the van.
The bagpipes began playing and the police gave a slow motion salute as the casket was placed in the van. The police and fire trucks escorted us through Monroe and to the freeway. All traffic stopped and one officer going the other direction got out of his car and stood with his hand over his heart.
We cannot say enough kind words about Fr. Phillip Bloom. He was a true friend to Sr.
Barbara and such an example of a person who can unite a diverse community. Sr. Barbara had a “heart as wide as the world” and it was matched by Fr. Bloom’s heart of gold.
The long ride home was anticlimactic but we kept Sr. Barbara’s body safe as we moved through three states to the Belmont Mortuary, while she kept us safe on the journey!
Thank you Sr. Barbara, for the gift you have been to us and to so many!