Jan. 8, 1938-May 27, 2018
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines a “pilgrim” as a person who makes a journey, often a long and difficult one, to a special place for religious reasons. On Sunday, May 27th, Lorraine Marie (Rivers) Tucker died at her home in Helena, Montana. Her pilgrimage in this life – a journey of special places, life-changing experiences and deeply rooted relationships – a journey long and difficult at times – has ended.
It began on January 8, 1938 in Anaconda, Montana. The firstborn child of Jim and Therese (Bilodeau) Rivers, Lorraine was joined in time by seven brothers and sisters: Pat Boggess, of Helena; Betty (Leroy) Sanderson of Electric City, WA; Bobbie Daily, of Anaconda, MT; Jim (Cindy), of Helena; Rosie (Bill) Everingham, of Centennial, CO; Leo, of Great Falls, MT; and Tim (Mary), of Anaconda. Lorraine’s parents preceded her in death; all seven brothers and sisters survive her, together with her uncle Luke (Dona) of Anaconda, ten cousins and twenty nieces and nephews.
The direction of Lorraine’s pilgrimage was charted early in Anaconda. Her Irish and French Canadian family backgrounds instilled in her the importance of community, and of the stories that create and flow from community. Schooled first at St. Peter’s, then at St. Paul’s, Lorraine graduated from Anaconda Central High School in 1955. In late August of that year, she boarded a train in Butte for Dubuque, Iowa, from there to enter the Dominican Sisters of the Congregation of the Most Holy Rosary at their motherhouse in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. In August 1957, Lorraine professed her first vows as Sr. Mary Claritus, OP, and her final vows three years later. Religious life would take her to several missions as a grade school teacher: first to St. Cecelia’s in Omaha, Nebraska, then to Sacred Heart in Faribault, Minnesota. Late in the summer of 1963, Lorraine was asked if she would go to Most Pure Heart of Mary High School in Mobile, Alabama.
It was at Heart of Mary, from 1963 to 1969, that Lorraine’s pilgrimage found its deepest bearings. The Second Vatican Council had affirmed that “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the [men and women] of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.” Amid sweeping changes in the world, the United States, and the Catholic Church, Sr. Mary Claritus reclaimed her baptismal name as Sr. Lorraine Rivers. In classroom teaching, diocesan ministry, community organization and civil rights protests, she would enable others to take a stand for their personal identity and human dignity, standing with them herself even in a jail cell.
In late 1969, Lorraine left Mobile to come to Washington, DC, where she would develop and orchestrate religious education and sacramental preparation ministries at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart, an inner-city parish scarred physically but not spiritually by the civil disturbances of 1968. She designed innovative programs in catechetical ministry, served in archdiocesan consultative endeavors, and taught in one of the country’s first permanent deacon formation programs.
On May 27, 1972, Sr. Lorraine met Jim Tucker, a deacon preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood the following year. Through summer youth programs, classroom teaching, and retreat work at the parish high school, they fell in love and chose to leave their respective ministries and marry. For forty-six years, they walked together: Lorraine the ever-constant pilgrim on a journey, Jim more the soldier on a mission. Son Jim and daughter Therese joined them on “the way.”
Because a pilgrimage can sometimes lead a person to places previously known and thus still familiar, Lorraine and the family moved from Washington, DC back to Anaconda in June 1978. For seven years at the Anaconda Catholic Community, she lent direction and vision to the parish’s faith formation ministries. Lorraine introduced the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) to the parish and, in some respects, to the Diocese of Helena. In June 1985, the family moved to Helena, where she became the director of religious education for the Cathedral of St. Helena parish. After retiring in 2003, Lorraine taught briefly at Carroll College as an adjunct instructor in theology, and served as a resource person for several parish and diocesan bodies.
Though earlier in life Lorraine never thought she would marry and raise a family, her pilgrimage was deeply blessed in her children and their spouses and families: son Jim and his wife Jennifer (Kudar), and their children Matthias and Amelia; and daughter Therese and her husband Justin Trafton, and his son Tannin. In them, she inspired a love of adventure (life was a “roll-y coaster,” and she loved it!), the importance of remaining faithful to the search for peace and justice in the world, and an abiding appreciation of family. Add to these a host of adults, youth and children whom she helped over the years to explore the mysteries and challenges of faith in the Catholic tradition, and you have a life well lived, a pilgrimage well made.
In the 4th century AD, according to Christian tradition, a woman named Egeria traveled to the Holy Land on a pilgrimage, visiting many sites and recounting her experiences in a journal. There she wrote: “journeys are not hard when they are the fulfillment of hopes.” If Lorraine found her journey in life difficult, she never said. Her path was encumbered throughout her adult years by health conditions which gradually sapped her physical strength but not her spirit, wisdom or insight until the very end. Sometimes we make the journey, but always the journey makes us.
“The heart of the pilgrim journey is not about being anxious and fretful. It is about putting God first and trusting in this abiding presence and providence.”
— Joyce Rupp, “Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino”