Remembering Gwen Costello

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The following article was written by Richard Costello, the husband of the late Gwen Costello. It was originally published in the October issue of “Associate Notes.” »»

When Brother Larry told me that they wanted to do an article on Gwen for the Associates Newsletter. I told him I appreciated that idea. I didn’t know that a day or two later Chris would email with some questions about Gwen that would make the article more personal. I also didn’t realize how difficult it would be to write this piece partly because of the grief that I feel, but also because Gwen was in many ways a complex and beautiful person.

Why did Gwen love the Brothers? The answer to that is easy because she loved me. Through my friendship and love for them, she got to know them herself and came to embrace the uniqueness and giftedness of each. She loved Bro. Cornie’s optimistic outlook on life, Bro. Art’s compassion during her bouts with cancer over the last 5 years. She admired the love and dedication Bro. Mike had for the poor of Haiti, and for Bro. Harry’s commitment to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. She found in Bro. Rich Mazza a gentle loving person who was always so thoughtful of our anniversaries and birthdays. She loved these men and the list of those unnamed could go on and on. Gwen found in the Brothers a compelling simplicity. She commented to me at one of the Associate Retreats that if a stranger walked into the room where the Brothers and Associates were gathered and listened for awhile no one would be able to distinguish the Brothers from the Associates—there was no sense of hierarchy here.

It was because of these friendships that Gwen established with the Brothers that when I was asked to begin the Associate Program, Gwen immediately agreed to help write much of the foundational materials. She knew that it was a dream of Bro. Bonaventure that the Brothers have an Associate Program and that knowledge and her love for Bo made the task even more compelling.

But it wasn’t just the Brothers that helped her embrace the Associates program, it was the wonderful men and women who we came to know and love and that was especially true for Brothers Cos and Dan Doherty, Barbara Ives and Brooke Schaab, members of our VA and Southern Maryland Group.

One of the commitments that we as Associate make is to pray daily. Gwen prayed and meditated often during the day. Usually when she prayed she wrote. She also had a small well-worn prayer book that she used daily. It was filled with favorite prayers, pictures of people that she loved, death cards of friends. This morning as I began to think of what to say about her I came across this prayer. She did not write it, but ever the editor, she changed words, inserted others. But if she were standing over my shoulder now I think she would want these to be her final words to all Associates about the importance of prayer in our lives:

Learn to listen! The voice inviting you is voiceless.
Most ancient of all voices.
Listen within the cells of your being.
From the marrow of your bones, listen.
From the deepest source of your life, listen.
A holy vibration, a gentle movement, a persistent tugging-summons
you into the deepening places.
Learn to go deep! Embrace the depths.
A voice without words calls you to the deepening places.
Learn to abide. Remain in God as God remains in you.
Live in God. Abide. Dwell. Inhabit. Reside.
Trust the deepening places.
Learn to listen! Silent as the leaves that fall, silent as the blossoming
flowers, silent as the moment before dawn.
You are being summoned into the temple of silence.
Practice silence, for this voiceless voice can be heard only in the
shrine of silence.
You are being chosen for the deepening places.

3 Comments

  1. Mary Jane Abell Zuknick says:

    To: Richard Costello. My father, Wilfred Abell, was best friends (from youth) with Gwen’s father, Frank Bean. We lived in Bowie, MD. Gwen was ‘Gwenie (sp) Bean to the Abell kids. At this time I am trying to get permission to use Gwen’s ‘Daily Reflections, Practices & Prayers from her Lent 2015, Our Sacred Journey.’ My youngest sister, Carol, was at your wedding ! She asks if I’ve been in contact with you … not until now. I am in charge of The Prayer Line at Incarnation Church, Sarasota, FL and, find it hard to believe I found this publication by Gwen. Gwen’s reflections mentions the church I grew up in … parishioners (by name) that I knew … a wonderful Lenten read, My sister sent your ‘Remembering Gwen Costello’ to me. Beautiful.

  2. Richard Costello says:

    Hello Mary Jane,
    Chris Irr at the Xaverian Brothers Generalate sent me your email about Gwen. I remember Gwen mentioning the kids that she baby sat for. I know that she often mentioned your family. Please let me know if you need help getting a copy of Gwen’s 2015 Lenten book. Thanks for your kind words about her. She is still missed deeply.

  3. Mary Jane Abell Zuknick says:

    Dear Richard,
    Yes, I would like, very much, to have copyright-permission to share Gwen’s comments from her 2015 Lenten Book. I have the book ! Haven’t any idea where I found it ! It’s amazing ! Gwen’s parents would come to St. Pete to visit Kate’s father, Lawrence Maenner. One afternoon they just showed up to our door … and, I took them on a driving-tour of Sarasota. Our children were very young at the time. My mother, Rose Mary Abell & Kate Bean were very good friends. After Sunday Mass the two ladies would visit on the church steps and we would slide down the railings … the church was built high on a hill. Did you know that it burned to the ground ? Of course, it could never be duplicated !!! My great-uncle, Charles Fladung, was the first altar server at Ascension Church, Bowie, Maryland. My sister, Carol, alerted me to the fact that you had responded to my comments ! Baby Sisters are good for something ! LOL !

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