Sharon Smith is known by many as the woman who received the second healing miracle that cleared the way for St. Marianne Cope’s canonization, but for the friends who gathered to say goodbye at her funeral Mass May 8 at St. Vincent de Paul Church, she will always be remembered as a gentle, humble woman who preferred talking to people one-on-one rather than being in the limelight.
Smith, 67, of Chittenango, passed away May 3. A Syracuse native, she was born July 23, 1946. She was predeceased by her parents, Bernie and Mabel Smith, and her sister, Norma Sochia. She is survived by a loving circle of friends with special mention of her close friend Patricia Pilon.
Smith was a retired head custodian for the Oneida City Schools, having served there for over 20 years. She was a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Naval Service and Reserves and retired as a Chief Petty Officer. She was a member of the Sylvan Beach American Legion and a former instructor with the Navy League and the Sea Cadet Corps. She also volunteered her time at Francis House, a home for the terminally ill in Syracuse.
In April 2005, Smith was diagnosed with pancreatitis, an infection that was destroying her organs. Doctors did not expect her to survive.
In the hospital waiting room, a woman gave Smith’s friend a prayer card of Mother Marriane Cope and suggested she and Smith pray to her. Marianne was a Franciscan nun who ministered in Upstate New York and Hawaii; in 2004, Kate Mahoney’s 1993 recovery from multiple organ failure was affirmed to be a miracle due to Marianne’s intercession. Marianne was beatified in 2005.
During Smith’s illness, a Sister of St. Francis, Sister Michaeleen Cabral, visited and prayed with Smith. She later brought a small bag of soil from Marianne’s grave and pinned it to Smith’s hospital gown.
For nearly a year, prayers to Mother Marianne for Smith continued. Smith began to recover, and doctors declared her cured in January of 2006. After a month in a rehabilitation center, she was able to return home.
In December 2011, Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that Smith’s amazing recovery was a miracle due to Marianne’s intercession. This miracle paved Marianne’s path to canonization in 2012.
Smith traveled to Rome for the canonization and presented Pope Benedict with a relic of the saint. She told the Sun in Oct. 2012, “I believe in miracles, I just never thought I’d be part of one.”
Father John Rose, current pastor of St. Vincent de Paul concelebrated Smith’s funeral Mass with the church’s former long-time pastor, Father Alfred Nortz. During the homily, Father Rose highlighted Smith’s gentle personality and gracious humor.
“Sharon was a wonderful, beautiful woman. She suffered but never complained.
God says, ‘I am with you,’ and so God is with Sharon. Sharon was an unassuming woman. She was a strong person with passion and compassion: a person with heart. She was a beautiful gift from God and she is rejoicing and celebrating new life now. We celebrate with her and with St. Marianne Cope.”
Members of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities and Sisters of St. Joseph were among the mourners for Smith. The music, Gospel and scripture readings followed a theme of celebration and rejoicing, a fitting tribute for a woman so well-loved.
“She was a fine, brave woman,” stated Sister Roberta Smith, OSF, general minister of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. “God gave us an opportunity to know her and have her become part of our lives.”
Following the funeral, Pat Pilon, Smith’s best friend and travel companion for over 30 years, spoke about Smith.
“She was a quiet soul. Gentle, but determined and she had such an impact on others,” she said.
Lorraine Hickcox, Pilon’s sister, agreed. “She was quiet and humble and would do anything for you. She was such a loving person.”
Pattye Hubbard, a member of the Franciscan Association and one of the women who had prayed for Smith nine years ago as she lay in the hospital, smiled sadly. “I remember praying for her. She was so loved.”
Tom Ferri, a friend of Smith and Pilon’s brother-in-law, smiled as he reminisced about Smith. “You always knew where you stood with her but there was no one she didn’t like. She never said a bad word about anyone. Never.”
Contributions in Smith’s memory may be made to Francis House, 108 Michaels Avenue, Syracuse, N.Y. 13208 or The Museum of St. Marianne Cope, Maria Regina, 1118 Court Street, Syracuse, N.Y. 13208.