Florence Barton, CSJ

We remember Her in the blowing of the wind and  in the chill of winter

March 15, 1927 – February 5, 2019

 Florence Teresa Barton (Sister Natalina) was one of nine children born to William and Ellen Barton. Born and raised in Lynn where her family operated a bakery, Florence was well-versed in gracious hospitality from her youth.  Her love for her hometown was an enduring value in her life.

There is a line in a song, which says “You’re never fully dressed without a smile”.  That, I believe, was Sister Florence Barton’s philosophy of life.  Who among us ever saw Florence (Flossie) without that beautiful smile of hers? That smile arose from being grounded in God, sure of her call and willing to share her gifts with the dear neighbor.

 Florence began her ministry in the kitchen of many convents.  In those days the kitchen was often the heart of convent life, where the tone set by the sister in charge contributed in large measure to the well-being of all.  Florence’s reputation as a strong contributor to the quality of life in various convents was well known and respected.

After the Second Vatican Council, when our ministries broadened, Florence became somewhat of a trail blazer.  Answering a call to interview with New England Telephone Company, Florence was hired to be a directory clerk.  In the company newsletter Florence was featured in an article with an accompanying picture of Sister Natalina, as she was identified, in her modified habit. Florence commented on her employment as “a source of personal enrichment, as well as an invigorating change in environment”.

Florence spread her influence in positions from key punch operator at Boston College to receptionist at Bethany and Sacred Heart Rectory, Malden, to religious education at St. Joseph, Lynn. To adapt to various ministries Florence frequently updated her education to ensure that she brought the appropriate qualifications to the position. Florence certainly exemplified versatility in responding to the needs of her neighbor.

Through the 1990s Florence deepened her connection to our CSJ roots and charism as she joined with a group of Sisters who met regularly to explore our common heritage and to learn from great writers and spiritual leaders.  Florence treasured these gatherings and kept many of the prayer papers that served as focal points. Clearly the opportunity to pray and share insights about her spiritual life held great meaning for Florence.

 On the occasion of Sister Florence’s golden jubilee in 1995 her role as one of the founders of My Brother’s Table in Lynn was acknowledged.  From its humble beginnings in 1981 when it served 75 people three meals a week the soup kitchen had grown to serving over 300 guests a night and offering a range of services and programs.  The executive director stated that “Sister Florence’s vision of a house of hospitality is played out daily at the Table where people come to receive not only a hot meal, but also where guests come to receive spiritual nourishment.  My Brother’s Table is deeply indebted to the work of Sister Florence for setting it on its course and for providing the vision we now carry out.”

 Among the artifacts in her file is an account of a trip that Florence made to New Mexico in 2002 to visit our Sisters there.   She described each day’s activities, highlighting the prayer experiences as well as the opportunities for sightseeing and for congenial conversations. It is evident that this trip was one that she thoroughly enjoyed. Her closing remark, written in all caps reads. “Community, family and friends are a wonderful blessing.”  Yes, they are and you Flossie, in turn, have been a great blessing to all of us!

Given by Judith Costello, CSJ

February 11, 2019