SISTER MICHAEL OF CHRIST THE KING (Ada Marie Fox)
Reno – The mercies of the Lord I will sing forever Ps.89 March 10, 1928-January 2, 2020
“Long, long have I walked
On Thursday afternoon, January 2nd Sr. Michael’s ‘long, long desert walk’ transitioned to eternity.
Our website begins: “On August 12, 1954, four nuns holding one-way tickets for Reno, Nevada, left the Carmelite Monastery in Indianapolis….” Sister Michael came on a later train (1956) but was a pivotal figure in what evolved as the Carmel of Reno. Under her leadership, which was a model of wisdom, deep holiness and a refreshing sense of humor, we transitioned from a traditional cloistered community into the Carmel of Reno you know today. Her early years in the monastery coincided with the Second Vatican Council and guided by its principles she lifted its spirituality into the 20th century.
In the Carmel of the 1950’s and 60’s it was a novel experiment to have a work that supported the monastery. Sister Michael created our early Printshop and led the effort to consolidate our other works of the time (stuffing envelopes, vestments, Communion Hosts) into this single work of printing. This led the conversion of the monastery basement as a viable working space with Offset Presses, an industrial Cutter and Darkroom. Concurrent with this project, she oversaw the 1970 renovation of the then Monastery Chapel into a more inclusive space where people outside the monastery might join us for worship. It was also novel at that time to emphasize education, but Michael created our library and over a 20 year period had the vision to bring endless scholars from all over the world from the USF Summer School of Theology to the monastery for lectures.
Sister Michael was essentially an artist and remained active through her life designing cards, silk- screening originals and in later life crafting vases. Two of our best selling cards MC-101-“In moments of joy…all of us wish we possessed…a tail we could wag!” and MC-589 “If I should pass the Tomb of Jonah/I think I would stop there and sit for awhile/because I was swallowed once deep in the dark and came out.. ALIVE AFTER ALL…..are her designs.
The list of her achievements pales beside the spirit of kindness she breathed into the monastery which became a way of life for us all.
Sister Michael is survived by her loving sisters of Reno Carmel, her brothers Dick, Kenny and Larry.
The Sisters wish to thank Kathy Fox and Amery Fitch (Sister Michael’s niece and nephew-in-law) for their many visits over the past few years which greatly enriched her life.
A Prayer Service remembering Sister Michael’s life will take place at the Monastery, 1950 La Fond Drive, on Thursday evening, January 9 at 7pm, and the Mass of Resurrection will be celebrated on Friday at 10 am. In view of the limited space in our Chapel, in lieu of flowers, you might consider a memorial for Sister Michael’s Grave marker.
Published in Reno Gazette-Journal from Jan. 6 to Jan. 7, 2020.
Funeral Mass for Sr. Michael Fox OCD
Homily by Bishop Randolph Calvo
January 10, 2020
Carmel of Reno
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah began with these words: “The desert and the wilderness exult! They will bloom with abundant flowers…” Sr. Michael came to Reno in 1956, here to the high desert and through the years through her faithfulness, dedication, talents, resourcefulness and contemplation, helped to make this piece of desert bloom into an oasis that we call Carmel of Reno, both figuratively and literally. Literally, because Sr. Michael loved to be outdoors and she loved to garden.
Gardens and monasteries go together; they help us connect with God through the simplicity of contemplation amid God’s creation. The primal image of a garden, of course, is Eden in the Book of Genesis, where God walks amid the garden—God’s creation—in the cool of the evening. Perhaps this is the intuition for many monasteries of different spiritual traditions. Christian and Buddhist monasteries, for example, have gardens for contemplation—places of peace, where in the silence and stillness of nature we can hear God walking in our midst.
Jesus likes to use images from nature—from farming and gardening—to teach about the reign of God. In the Gospel we heard from Matthew, he speaks of a gardener planting a small mustard seed in a garden. He likens this to the kingdom of God and in doing so really challenges our imagination: the kingdom is like a tiny mustard seed that is planted and grows into a big shrub where birds find a place to perch? What is Jesus talking about? Who would imagine this for a kingdom? But the image invites to look deeply, contemplatively, and pay attention to what is almost imperceptible—God’s action in our lives.
A gardener such as Sr. Michael certainly learns that gardening involves hard work and dedication and also lots of patience and humility. Planting a garden can sow seeds of contemplation in our interior life. There’s hard work but also waiting and watching, attention to the cycle of the seasons and reliance on forces beyond our control: sun, soil, rain, snow, and God. If we see God’s kingdom through the lens of planting a garden, then we know how to enter into and be one with the creative power of that kingdom.
Along with a garden, what we also find in many monasteries is a library. Sr. Michael established the library here at Carmel and was its librarian for many years. When I first saw the library here I was so impressed. There’s a depth that comes from exploring the rich treasure of our faith found in books, articles and letters written through the centuries. I’ve been impressed by how the sisters here at Carmel are so well-informed. Sr. Michael was instrumental in this culture of education. The depth that learning provides our minds goes hand in hand with the depth of nourishment contemplation gives our souls.
It is this openness and desire to learn and go deep in prayer that I believe formed the vision Sr. Michael had for this monastery. She was the prioress of Carmel at a significant moment in the Church’s recent history: the Second Vatican Council. She paid attention, took to heart what Vatican II said, and discerned how the Holy Spirit was calling Carmel to respond. Many of the sisters here look upon Sr. Michael’s leadership at that time as pivotal to what the community is today. Her wisdom and guidance, kindness and holiness, her subtle sense of humor, gently moved the community forward in ways faithful to the Church.
Some people may think that monasteries are only places you go to run and hide from the world, cutoff behind an enclosure from the rest of humanity. But that has never been the tradition of monastic life in the Church. Monasteries have always been part of the lifeblood of a Christian community. They’re not cut off from the People of God but have a distinct role of service. Vatican II said this: “While safeguarding [their proper identity], let monasteries be renewed in their ancient and beneficial traditions, and so adapt them to the modern needs of souls that monasteries will be seedbeds of growth for the Christian people” (PC 9). Sr. Michael took this call for renewal to heart and planted this vision in the life of Carmel of Reno. In the hearts of many, Carmel continues to be a “seedbed of growth” in faith for people here in our community.
Sr. Michael lived a life of contemplation. The ultimate vision of all contemplation is our oneness with God and each other. Our faith in God, who brought Sr. Michael to Reno 63 years ago, assures us that she now walks with God in the garden redeemed for us by Christ’s death and resurrection.