My latest concern: honoring the memory of the late Sarita Kenedy East whose family fortune helps those in need. An effort has been started to have "Sarita" beatified. She is already called by a number of those who know of her as "Saintly Sarita."
According to the Handbook of Texas, Sarita Kenedy East was born on September 19, 1889. She died on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11, 1961, of cancer in a New York City hospital. She was buried at the Kenedy family home at La Parra outside Sarita, Texas. (See entry at Sarita Kenedy East.)
Sarita Kenedy East, on January 22, 1960, created the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation in memory of her parents. She then went on a tour of South America to witness the poverty there. While visiting with the poor throughout South America, she determined to aid the very poor. Sarita wrote a codicil to her will directing the control of the foundation be placed in the hands of Trappist Brother Leo (Christopher) Gregory and Peter Grace, a devout Catholic from New York. (His father was W.R. Grace.) Near the end of her South American tour the following year, Sarita became gravely ill. She was flown from South America directly to a New York hospital. Profoundly affected by what she had seen of the extreme poverty in Latin America, before she died Sarita asked Brother Leo and Peter Grace to promise that they would see to it that her wealth would be used by the foundation to help the poorest of the poor.
Litigation followed probate of Sarita's Last Will and Testament [suits over control of the foundation and Sarita's wealth lasted a decade]. Finally, in the early 1970s, litigation was finally settled. Sarita's codicil was rejected and with it Brother Leo's role as Sarita's chosen director. Peter Grace, the other director appointed in the codicil, settled for $10 million for a charitable trust in Sarita's name in New York, and the original directors named in Sarita's will took control of more than $150 million for use for the Catholic Church of Texas.
Over the years since Sarita's death and the control and operation of the John G. and Marie Stella Kenedy Memorial Foundation by members and officers of the foundation's board of directors, many millions of dollars have been spent for the benefit of the Catholic Church of Texas and various other causes. The foundation underwent a reorganization several years ago to correct certain "difficulties" in its conduct. Simply put, "bygones should be forgotten."
So I am suggesting to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church that Sarita should be considered a "holy woman." Those who determine such matters should memorialize Sarita among the saints as a remarkable woman.
In brief, let me suggest why I think Sarita was "ahead of her time." She became concerned about the "hemisphere" rather than a small part of it. She was "beyond Texas." Sarita's "charity" took in all the people of the Americas, especially the very poorest of the poor. Given more time, undoubtedly, her concern would have embraced the people of the globe. In fact, beyond the grave, so it seemed to this author, Sarita did become a "mother" to all the children of the world.
In her time, Sarita's concern for the poor addressed the issue of poverty in Latin America. Today, that concern would embrace the people of Mexico, a land she knew through her family's roots.
I am suggesting that Sarita is, indeed, very much concerned about the current circumstances in Mexico and in Latin America and throughout the whole of the Western Hemisphere, seated as she now is, at the feet of the Queen of Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, known to the People of God of the Americas as the Virgen de Guadalupe.
This matter transcends Sarita's foundation and the Catholic Church of Texas. It concerns the universal work of the Roman Catholic Church: the evangelization of the Peoples of the Americas and, ultimately, of the world. It involves the maternal concerns of the Blessed Virgin for all peoples.
Holy Mother of God (and saintly Sarita): pray for us and for all the peoples of the Americas. Pray that we all may be worthy of the promises of Christ.
O Lord! Grant success to the cause of recognition of the sanctity of the holy woman, Sarita Kenedy East. Let the people of this time see in her compassion for the people enduring poverty in South America and elsewhere in her day a reflection of the love of the Blessed Mother. We ask this in the Name of Jesus. Amen.
written by Brother Tony Hearn
on December 12, 2009
Virgin of Guadalupe Day
On Monday, December 14: Reflecting upon what I have already written based upon my meditations about the life of Sarita, I have had additional thoughts.
Meditating upon her life, I come up with the thought that Sarita must be particularly "miffed," I would say, that she has become known in San Antonio circles, if not more widely known, for the Sarita Kenedy East Law Library at Saint Mary's University here in San Santonio.
"Alas!" I seem to hear her sighing. "That among the first things the directors of my foundation, after they got clear control of the wealth I left behind, was to fund the building of a thing about law. And I asked Brother Leo and Peter Grace to use my money for a thing about love – about maternal love. Just like a bunch of lawyers and bankers!"
"Would that the directors of the foundation had endowed a work of love, or of schooling, or of health, or even of religion. But a library for law?"
"Oh, well, such is the way of men!"
"So this is why I am trying to communicate, through you, to the current directors of the foundation, and to others, that people should turn their thoughts away from law and turn toward loving one another – of ways to nurture one another. This is what I have learned from sitting at the feet of the Blessed Mother here in heaven."
"I appreciate what you are trying to do, Brother Tony. I tried to communicate my heart's desire to Brother Leo and to Peter Grace. Frankly, it was just too much for the then directors of my foundation to grasp. Would that they would meditate upon Christ, upon the Blessed Virgin, and change from thinking about a library full of books on law and begin to conceive of lessons about love – the love of Christ – the love of the Blessed Virgin – and love of others – and, ultimately, love of self in the truest sense."
Perhaps Sarita will speak more in subsequent days to my spirit. As the days go on, I have learned to bear no ill will toward the directors of Sarita's foundation. I am putting my energy to prayer for them that they may pray for growth in the spirit and love for others – throughout the hemisphere and around the world.
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© 2011 by Brother Tony Hearn
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