Special friendship between Pink Sisters, Bishop Rice goes back to childhood

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Eddie Rice often tagged along with his older brothers to visit the Pink Sisters at Mount Grace Chapel, just a few blocks away from their north St. Louis home. Donning the cassock and surplice, he'd serve Mass alongside them.

Their father, John, worked for the gas company and visited the nuns' convent several times a year to make sure the furnaces were properly working and all systems were in order.

Those were the beginnings of a decades-long relationship Bishop Rice and his family have enjoyed with the contemplative community of women religious, who have dedicated their lives to the Holy Spirit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Rice family later moved to south St. Louis, but Bishop Rice continued visiting with the Pink Sisters. As a student at St. Mary's High School, he borrowed his parents' car and drove to the convent on Sunday evenings.

"I just got enthralled by the peace and quiet of it all," he said. "I loved the sisters' singing."

It wasn't until he entered the seminary, adopting the prayer schedule there, that he realized he'd been attending evening prayer with the sisters all along. He kept up his visits with to the chapel during his years in the seminary, sometimes bringing classmates along with him.

"It was a great opportunity for me to introduce them to the Pink Sisters," he said.

Early on, Bishop Rice joined the Legion of 1,000 Adorers, an organization that promotes eucharistic adoration at Mount Grace. He later became the group's spiritual director.

After his priesthood ordination in 1987, he brought parishioners to visit the Pink Sisters whenever he could. For RCIA groups, "it was a great introduction to eucharistic spirituality and adoration." The visits were also popular with the teens of the parish. "We'd go to Crown Candy on Friday and then head to evening prayer," he said. "The younger people need to know about this treasure." And every year, he's made a visit around the time of his ordination anniversary, Jan. 3.

It became more of a challenge to visit the sisters once he became a bishop in 2011. But he always made time for the community's Sacred Heart Novena in June. Just a week after his installation as bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, he will return for the novena's closing Mass June 11. (See related box for schedule.)

Sister Mary Gemma has known Bishop Rice since the 1970s; she served as the community's superior from 1971-1977, was transferred to another convent and then returned to St. Louis in the 1980s once again as superior. She's now the community's assistant superior.

"I remember stories of how he would come and watch the altar boys learn how to serve," she said. "We supported him all through his seminary years — moral support and praying for him. He's always been a good friend to us — he's meant very much to the community, like a longtime friend does." 

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