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 CNS Story:

OBIT-HOBDAY Apr-14-2009 (710 words) xxxn

Franciscan nun who was Seneca elder and popular lecturer dies at 80

By Catholic News Service

TUCSON, Ariz. (CNS) -- Franciscan Sister Jose Hobday, who was a Seneca tribal elder and a popular author, storyteller and lecturer on prayer and spirituality, died April 5 at the Casa de la Luz Hospice in Tucson at age 80. No cause of death was released.

A memorial Mass was celebrated April 8 at Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha Church in Tucson. Another memorial Mass was to be celebrated April 15 at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Tucson.

Sister Jose donated her body to the University of Arizona for scientific research. Afterward, her remains will be cremated and the ashes taken to her Franciscan motherhouse in St. Francis, Wis.

She was born in Texas; her mother was Seneca-Iroquois and her father Southern Baptist. She entered the Franciscans in 1952 and took her final vows in 1955. She taught high school in Milwaukee before moving to Arizona.

She described herself as a "student of life" and a "missionary-at-large," and traveled thousands of miles a year to give lectures and lead workshops on prayer and spirituality.

She held a number of master's degrees, including degrees in theology, literature and architecture.

Sister Jose was the author of several books, among them "Simple Living," "Stories of Awe & Abundance" and "The Spiritual Power of Storytelling." She also contributed to a series of books titled "Parabola: Myth and the Quest for Meaning."

In her books and recordings, she drew from her experience of growing up as a Native American Catholic in the Southwest and related her relationship with and commitment to God, family, community and the earth.

In a message to friends of the Tekakwitha Conference, based in Great Falls, Mont., Sister Kateri Mitchell, a Sister of St. Anne who is executive director, said Sister Jose had called the conference a couple of weeks before her death to report that she was just completing a book a publisher had asked her to write.

"She will be remembered as a woman who captivated her audience through her many keynotes, workshops and books that she authored over her many years of ministry," Sister Kateri said.

The Tekakwitha Conference is named for Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American to be beatified.

Franciscan Sister Florence Deacon called Sister Jose "a very charismatic, warm woman, both down-to-earth but also fanciful."

"She was holistic long before it was in vogue, encouraging us to have a zest for living and to experience the spiritual life with all our senses," Sister Deacon said in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter.

"I can still see her purposeful stride, rhythmic and strong, beneath the skirts of her flowing religious habit," she told the newspaper. "She led us on a five-mile walk to a park so we would discover that we, too, had much more strength and endurance than we realized."

One of Sister Jose's recurring themes in her addresses and presentations was the need for simplicity.

"A simple lifestyle gives a person greater freedom for loving," she said during a workshop she led years ago. "It is the means to an end and that end is love, joy and more opportunities to serve God and neighbor."

She said each person or family must decide on "a level of living that is valid and Christian for them, and then live within those self imposed limits, sharing possessions with others and donating surplus goods to the poor.

"People mistakenly believe that because a lifestyle is called simple, it is easy," she continued. "It is very hard not to accumulate possessions. ... But when you have little, you discover how much God has to offer you in terms of joy, serenity and love for yourself and others."

Sister Jose also often told her audiences they could learn much from the spiritual gifts of Native Americans, whom she said have a great capacity to hear "in silence."

"When we give ourselves the space to hear, everything speaks. The floor will talk, the dog will talk, the earth will talk. It will say, 'Become holy.'"

Native Americans are in touch with "the beat of the earth," she said, and only when non-Indians get in touch with that beat will they act gently and nonviolently.

"Indians can teach white people how to seek unity, understanding and peace," she said.


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