Sister Cecilia Rafter
1944 - 2011
Born: 11th April 1944
Entered Religious Life: 5th October 1964
Died: 21st November 2011
Appreciation of Sr Cecilia Rafter
Eulogy given at Sr Cecilia''s funeral by Sr Patricia Byrne RSC
Aine Rafter was born 67 years ago, the first child of a family of eight children. Her sisters Fidelma, Barbara and Maureen and her brothers Gary, Derek, Dermot and Fergus are here today as well as her sisters and brothers in law, her nieces and nephews and grand nieces and nephews.
When she was 21 Aine entered the Sisters of Charity and spent most of the next 46 years in various parts of the English/Scottish province, serving the Lord, mostly through working with families. But first she stayed in Dublin where she worked as housekeeper in Merrion for two years. During the next ten years she ministered in Scotland, Hackney and Birkenhead as a parish sister. Her work with families took a different turn when she went to live in Oxfordshire and became a chaplain at Brize Norton Royal Air Force base. She was there during the Falklands war and so she was called upon to support families of loved ones involved in the conflict, and frankly there was no better person to do so because Cecilia was always at her best when she was with people who were vulnerable.
From there Cecilia spent a year as a parish sister in Yorkshire before going to London where she worked as a social worker with the St Joseph’s Hospice Homecare Team. This was a very special time in Cecilia’s life because for the first time she found herself working on a team and she was very much a team person. She worked on the team for fifteen years and made several deep and lasting friendships.
After that she found herself in Leeds in Yorkshire again, this time doing a variety of things, among these was working as a part-time chaplain in a men’s prison. Characteristically Cecilia rose to the role and showed a great interest in the welfare of the men. On Mondays when Mass was celebrated she would provide chocolate biscuits for the men who attended, such was her largeness of heart that the standard plain biscuit was not good enough.
Cecilia rarely talked about her work and one would not know that while on the homecare team she was encountering daily patients and families who were experiencing trauma. From time to time it would show how deeply she felt for these families.
Cecilia always brought to everything she did a whole variety of gifts and qualities, whether it was an event or a task, being with the people she served or with her community. All of her actions showed that no matter what had to be done it was carried out with all of her will and creativity. Once when I had to arrange some accommodation for48 of our sisters in York and I had booked into several guesthouses in different parts of the city I asked Cecilia to help me with the logistics of getting our sisters to the various sites. I knew with certainty that she would say yes, I knew with certainty that she would put her whole heart into the task and I knew with certainty, because of her good sense of direction, that she would do the task well. Having visited the various sites together, when the time came for the sisters to arrive Cecilia was there welcoming, ferrying and directing them to their accommodation.
Even to her illness Cecilia brought something special. I often heard sisters who visited her during her illness speak of her courage and patience. From the beginning she was determined not to allow herself to be influenced by what others said about her illness and treatment. She used to say “I will take one day at a time, each day as it comes”. As a woman of faith she believed that God would give her everything that she needed, when she needed it. And it was her faith that enabled her to surrender to allowing God to remove from her those things that she had always valued her independence, her appearance and her ability to express herself. She chose for her Requiem Mass the Ignatian song ‘Take Lord, receive…..’