Celebration as Sister Lillian Sleight turns 100
PARKERSBURG — “When our belief gets pale and weak, there comes a person out of that need who is shining and warm and everyone living who has come in contact with her reflects a little of that light.
“And so they gathered on Sunday, Oct. 15 at St. Margaret Mary Church in Parkersburg, family, relatives and friends celebrating the 100th birthday of Sister Lillian Sleight, a woman who came out of a need, who gave and continues to give light from her light, strength from her strength, and who has touched our lives with her gentle life,” said the Rev. Donald Horak, retired priest, continuing to minister in Athens, Ohio, as he describes the woman and the event.
Actually Lillian Paul was born on Oct. 13, the day the sun danced when the Blessed Mother appeared at Fatima. Yet, her father claimed this event was also to announce the happiness of her birth and she grew up immersed in these words continually spoken by her father, “You are special, the sun danced the day you were born.”
Lillian said, “A precious statement to hear.”
These 100 years of Sister Lillian are filled with this “specialness.” She was born in Rhode Island to French parents. She remains bilingual, and continues to converse in both English and French to this day.
Because it was during the “black” depression, her parents were unable to send her to Paris for her education, yet were able to provide education in Canada at the Conservatory in Montreal and on to her graduation from college. This keeping her grounded in both the French language and customs.
After her formal education, Lillian’s life always included the mantra, “what can I do to help others.” She recognizes the Call to religious life was always there.
Along her life journey came a marriage to Raymond Sleight and their son Leo. They would form successful businesses in New York in the construction of homes. While there Lillian served on the Division of Housing Committee, under Gov. Nelson Rockefeller.
Four years after the death of her husband in 1969 she continued caring for others as she served as Clerk of the Court in Ocala, Fla.
During this time “the Call came to the forefront” and she began the search for a religious order, with the desire “to benefit others and use her talents.”
After writing 24 letters to various orders, as she dropped them in the mailbox, a vow was made to say yes to the first order to write back. DeSales Heights Convent of the Visitation (V.H.M.) in Parkersburg called. Lillian came in obedience.
After eight years of formation, now Sister Lillian, retaining her vows, felt called from the monastic life to serve others in a public setting. Most Rev. Joseph H. Hodges D.D. granted a way to follow this path: as pastoral associate.
For the next 10 years, Sister Lillian served two years with the Rev. Patsy J. Iaquinta at St. Elizabeth Parish in Weston followed by eight years with the Rev. Harold Moore at St. Joseph Parish the Workers in Huntington, then and now at St. Margaret Mary Parish.
First, Sister Lillian served with the Rev. Edward Bell, as pastoral associate, which encompassed RCIA, Christ Renews His Parish, chaplain at the local hospital, and any needs that would arise.
Then her computer skills, learned over the years, came to the forefront to answer bookkeeping needs.
Now, with help of parishioner Linda Whitley doing the data input, Sister Lillian maintains the backup, also she has the respected position: in residence.