When I think of Sister Regina Barrett, the first thing that comes to mind is her love of nature. She studied, then taught Biology for 15 years. During her studies, under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency, she had the opportunity to do research on the effects of an herbicide on estuary trees. The research was part of her Master’s Degree, and her professor included it in his published work.
When I entered in 1985, Sister Regina was in charge of food service for the Sisters and for our guests in the Conference Center (now Retreat Center). The food was fresh and delicious. She also was the first Conference Center Director. Both of these were big jobs, but she did them tirelessly and cheerfully.
In those days Sister Regina had a large vegetable garden in the field behind the cemetery that she lovingly tended as carefully as her cherished rose garden. I was tickled when she purchased a rose bush named, “Karen,” and I was even more thrilled when she brought some blooms in to grace our dining room tables with my namesake.
Aside from gardening and cooking, Sister Regina was a birder. I can remember listening to a tape she made of different bird songs she had recorded. Another woman in initial formation and I teased her unmercifully for her announcement on the tape in a slow, dramatic voice, “the wood thrush.” Even today, if I want to know what bird I saw flying across my path, I go to Sister Regina and describe it to her. She either will know it immediately or at least have a good idea of what bird it might have been.
In more recent years, Sister Regina has continued to exercise her love of nature by collecting seeds and seedlings from our two mature Gingko trees in front of the monastery. She nurtured them and eventually sells them to interested guests. Several of these guests have commented on the joy it has brought them to take a little piece of Sacred Heart home with them.
Until very recently, she was a faithful feeder of the fish in the sunken garden fountain. She continues to help Sister Magdalena with caring for the monastery cat, Kitty B.
Sister Regina, more than her love for nature, loves her large extended family. Growing up as one of eight children on Barrett Ridge in Mississippi, she has lots of fun stories to share with us at the monastery table. She still keeps up with and shares her pride in her nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews, and great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews!
Both of Sister Regina’s loves are brought together wonderfully in her loving fidelity to our Benedictine way of life of prayer and work, of caring for all things as if they were sacred vessels of the altar. While writing this blog, the song “All Things Bright and Beautiful” came to mind as a perfect expression of Sister Regina’s good zeal.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The lord god made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their little wings.
The purple headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning,
That brightens up the sky.
The cold wind in the winter
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty
Who has made all things well.
John Rutter, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjbktnTuV30
By Sister Karen Ann Lortscher, OSB