Saints and Dragonflies in Moscow, ID
By Peggy Quesnell
Around St. Mary’s Parish School you may see the symbol of a dragonfly. It is not our mascot, our mascot is a lion, but the dragonfly is a special symbol of prayer and a remembrance of the Ursuline Sisters who founded our school.
St. Mary’s Parish/School Community, the City of Moscow, Moscow High School Bears’ sports teams and the University of Idaho Vandal athletic teams all have been very blessed to have had a “saint” live among them, touching their lives.
Sister Mary Incarnation Menager, OSU, an Ursuline Sister, lived in Moscow for over forty years, dying in 1988 at the age of 92. She had been an Ursuline for almost 70 years. When she first arrived, the Ursulines, being a cloistered contemplative order, were not allowed to leave their convent. But when the rules changed, Sr. Incarnation could be found ministering all over town in many different ways.
During her time, Sister had the ability to teach students from the primary level through high school. Her first assignment in Moscow was at the Ursuline Academy. When that closed in the late 1950’s she continued teaching at the parish school of St. Mary’s. During that time, besides teaching in the classroom, she taught music to many students. She had the ability to play any instrument.
When she retired, she became the school’s cook. Since she believed that one way to show your love for God was to be of service to others, she would take time in retirement to visit the “old folks” at the convalescent homes and lead them in sing a-longs. It didn’t matter to her that many of them were younger than she!
It was during retirement that Sr. Incarnation discovered a great love in her life—football! She attended as many games as she could, no matter the distance! She always prayed very specially for her Vandals and her Moscow Bears. She loved to call the Vandal coaches and give them advice. And the girls’ basketball team who won state in the early 80’s was especially dear to her heart.
It is fitting that Sister Incarnation was born and died in the month of May, since it is during this month that the mother of Jesus is honored. Sister had a deep devotion to Mary as witnessed in her distribution of green scapulars. If one had any special needs, they would be given a green scapular and advised to ask Mary to intercede for these intentions.. She always assured you that she would pray too. Many businesses in Moscow have green scapulars buried on their property, even to this day.
Sr. Incarnation was better known by a nickname she had received many years before, “Sr. Inky”. At her death, Moscow was sent a small “miracle” to tell us both the joy and faith that was Sr. Inky’s.
The Rosary for Sister was the night of May 13th. I arrived at the church to sing with the music group. As I reached out to grab the door handle, I noticed that there was a large dragonfly sitting right on the handle. It startled me and I yelled! As I walked into the church, I told our pastor, Father Dennis Wassmuth and David Hutton, the head of the mortuary: “Yuck, there’s a dragonfly on the door of the church!” Fr. Dennis’ response was, “Well, that’s appropriate.” Looking at him rather strangely, I proceeded upstairs to the choir loft.
The celebrant of both the Rosary and Mass was Sister Inky’s spiritual director, Fr. Jim Worsley. During the vigil service, he told the allegory about the metamorphosis of a water bug to a dragonfly!
The story goes that the water bugs had noticed that whenever their friends would float to the surface; they would suddenly disappear never to be seen again. Now they weren’t sure what was beyond that magical surface. So, they agreed among themselves that the next one to go to the surface and disappear would come back and tell the others what it was like “out there”. Well, it happened that their leader was the next to go. After the leader “woke up to the fact” that he was now a beautiful dragonfly, he was ready to go back and tell the good news to the others. But as he looked at his friends in the water, he realized that it was impossible for him to return. Further, he realized that even if he could return, they would not recognize him in his changed state!
That allegory, along with the dragonfly sitting on the door handle, truly touched everyone at church and reminded us of the mystery of resurrection. Amazingly, that dragonfly on the church’s door handle stayed the entire time that Sr. Inky’s casket remained in the church! Not only that, as we arrived at the cemetery, a dragonfly had landed on her headstone?
I truly believe that Sister sent that dragonfly then as well as the very many times she continues to send them our way to let us know that she is praying for us. I loved the dragonfly she sent me right after my son, Tony, was born in 1995. I was an old mom and a little nervous. Our school had a dragonfly sit on the back wall for a week in the spring of 2002 where the proposed new addition for the school was going to be built. On the first day of the school year after that, while our principal, Sister Margaret, was offering a prayer, a dragonfly flew over the school children. A dragonfly even visited us in our lunchroom! These are just a few instances of dragonflies in our midst! We continue to see them at special occasions for the school, when praying, as well as at random times.
Sister Inky truly loved God, her Ursuline sisters, the St. Mary’s community, the City of Moscow, and her beloved Idaho Vandals and Moscow Bears. We are glad that her presence is still felt among us. Have you seen a dragonfly lately?