Her every waking moment was an exercise in joy. Even up to May 7, the day she died from a rare form of cancer, Judy Cannato, 62, well-know author of Radical Amazement and Field of Compassion, continued to choose life, said long-time friend, Carol Creek.
“Judy believed that this was the most important part of her journey and she wanted to live it well. No dwelling on fear, dread, or doom. It was about making life-giving choices every day and holding the intention for wellness.”
As she lost strength, Judy Cannato continued to meditate for an hour each day. “When her energy became so low that even it became too much for her, she became the meditation.”
Carol Creek a spiritual director at River’s Edge, a center for contemplation and action in Cleveland, Ohio, had worked alongside her colleague for several years. She was there to celebrate with Judy and her husband, Phil Cannato, when Judy’s writings on the relationship between science and spirituality were published by Ave Maria Press, beginning with “Quantum Grace Lenten Reflections “in 2003
“Judy was the brightest woman I ever met,” said Phil Cannato. Their library spilled over with 500 books on the new cosmology.
In 1973, the year after their marriage, Judy converted from Methodism to Catholicism. Judy taught English composition and poetry at the high school and college levels, and later earned two master’s degrees from John Carroll University in education and religious studies as well as a certificate for spiritual directors from the diocese of Cleveland
Judy became an associate of the Congregation of St. Joseph in 1995.
Her growing interest in quantum physics and spirituality moved her into presenting retreats and writing on the new cosmology. Influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, Fr. Thomas Berry, Barbara Marx Hubbard and Fr. Diarmuid O’Murchu, Judy wrote of the connection between all life and humankind.
In Radical Amazement, she applies the reality of interconnectedness to Paul’s remarks on the Body of Christ. “The theory of evolution and the new universe story take his words to greater depth. Now we know that the human cannot say to the river, ‘I have no need of you’, nor to the creatures who inhabit the forest, nor to any particle of creation anywhere in the cosmos. All is sacred, expressive of the Holy, a manifestation of the Divine. Each member of creationkind brings with it a gift for all, and our refusal to accept the gifts of any diminishes the whole.”
St. Joseph Sr. Rita Petruziello, executive director of River’s Edge, credits Judy Cannato with “helping me reframe everything in the larger context of the universe story. This gave me a great sense of freedom to live a life working to strive to overcome dualism, mechanistic ways of thinking and patriarchy.”
Sr. Rita said that Judy played a large part in the inspiration that birthed River’s Edge in 2005. Cosmology is one of the centerpieces of their retreat offerings.
Bridget Pritchard, a staff member of Llantarnam Abbey in Wales, commented; “The universe needs people like Judy so desperately. She communicated in a very down to earth way that didn’t scare or threaten people. Before they realized what had happened, they were in there, on the inside, part of the story and wanting more.”
In other reminiscences, Jim Conlon director of the Sophia Center at Holy Names University in Oakland, Calif., recalls Judy’s visit there two years ago. She told how she and her little boy loved to play peek-a-boo with the moon. “When clouds parted, the moon was visible in radiant splendor. When the clouds reappeared, this lunar spectacle was hidden.” They sat together, waiting. When the moon shone through again, he was exhuberant.” Judy Cannato, however, was struck by wonder. “Is this the first time I have really seen the moon?”
At her funeral on May 10 at River’s Edge chapel, Fr. Norm Comtois , a staff member of Barakah Retreat Center in Pittsfield, New Hampshire, spoke of his spiritual director’s “clearest message.” Judy Cannato warned, “We cannot afford to be afraid. We haven’t much time. All creation beckons us. Our planet is crying out to hear the voices of love. “
‘”In her last chapter of “Field of Compassion,” she speaks of throwing away beliefs that tend to be mental constructs. ‘My beliefs have tended to come from my head, not my heart. They’re accompanied by rules and regulations and not far behind comes judgment. What does sustain me is what I know to be true I know love, and love never seeks to separate or excuse. I know freedom and freedom never lets ego and fear have the final say. I know I am not alone, that we are connected in the web of life and we feel the connection most powerfully when we operate from within the Field of Compassion.’
Judy Cannato leaves behind her husband Phil, her mother, Lucille LeMaster, a sister, Linda, father in-law William, her children and grandchildren.