Sister Maurita Bernet: ‘I hear the Music'
by Deanna Boone
One grandpa yodeled; the other played the church organ. Her dad whistled and played the harmonica, her mother loved to sing. The family often sang, "quite endlessly around the piano. If we stopped singing after the first few verses, Mom would say, ‘There's another verse,' so on we'd go.
Music is a gift that has sheathed Sister Maurita Bernet, the music teacher at the Montessori Day Schools in Phoenix and Chandler, Arizona, since her days in the womb. She and her five sisters all took piano lessons and used all the same books. By the 5th grade, she played an old foot-pumping organ and, the next year, she was the summer church organist.
Sister Maurita attended St. Francis High School in Little Falls where her singing and accompanying was a standard with Messiahs and operettas. Joining the Franciscans as a senior, she was encouraged to play and "not to give up the music." After the novitiate, she was asked to list her preferred choices for ministry; her first choice was nursing. Instead, she was sent to the College of St. Catherine to study music "for which I am profoundly grateful."
The highlights of her life in music are many: learning guitar, ministering in Venezuela where she entered a new world of life and music, participating with other communities to make a CD "Sisters in Song, Rejoice!" and joining with her Franciscan Sisters to record the CD "Songs from the Heart" with traditional Franciscan Favorites.
"If I had to pick my much-loved songs, they'd probably be ‘How Can I Keep From Singing?' and the chorus of ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow'. 'I sing because I'm happy, I sing because I'm free....' Like with the flowers, there's just so much that's beautiful," she said, with a song in her voice.
To this day, she says, "I'd be dead without music. We humans make music in so many ways, as do the birds, the waters, the winds and the music of the quiet."
This article first appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Our Journey, a publication of the Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN.