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Sister Thérèse Foley

1925 - 2018

Born: 1st June 1925

Entered Religious Life: 4th February 1946

Died: 14th July 2018


The following is the reflection given at Sr Therese’s Funeral Mass by Sr Josephine McDonald RSC.

In the first reading Isaiah tells us that Sr. Therese is now enjoying the ‘feast’ of Heaven in the presence of God and that all tears are now wiped away.  The words of  St Paul in the 2nd reading are so true of Therese:  ‘I have fought the good, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’
And she certainly has.

In the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples as He is talking with them just before His crucifixion and death: ‘I am going to prepare a place for you.  And when everything is ready I will come and take you home with me.’
Such beautiful words.  Therese is now ‘at home’ with God in Heaven, forever.

Therese Foley, the daughter of Denis Foley and Alice Gould, was born in Limerick on 1st June 1925.  She entered the Religious Sisters of Charity on 4th February in 1946 and was received into the Novitiate on the 6th August 1946, receiving the name of Sr Mary Ethna.  She was professed on 10th August 1948.
She died very peacefully on Saturday last, 14th July 2018 aged 93 years.  

Therese came from a family of 7 with 2 brothers and 4 sisters.
She loved her family; she was very close to them and she enjoyed very much their visits and phone calls and her holidays with them.
In the not-so-distant past she suffered the loss of her brother Fr. Joe Foley S.J. Her brother, Denis also died.  Some years ago her sister, Sister Rosaleen, who was also a Sister of Charity, died.  Two other sisters – Gerardine and Marie, are also with God.
Anne alone remains of the family now and to Anne we offer our deepest sympathy and condolences and our prayers.

When Sr Therese was first professed she was missioned to Walthamstow just outside London.  Indeed she spent most of her Religious Life in different parts of England, north and south, and in Scotland, working as a pastoral/social worker in different parishes.  She did spend a short time in the Irish Province also as a social worker. She was very committed to her ministry wherever she was.

Therese returned finally to Ireland on 25th May 2006, 12 years ago, to retire, and was missioned here to Temple Street, her final resting place.  She soon became very much part of the community in Temple St and participated in many activities.  She joined a club in the area and became very interested in their regular meetings and various events; and also in their outings which she really enjoyed.  

She responded to a call for volunteers for Eucharistic Ministers here in this parish and was very regular and faithful for the Evening Mass on Saturday which was assigned to her.   But she had great interest in all parish activities and loved to attend daily Mass until she was unable to do so about a year ago.  She found the availability of Church services on the internet a great consolation and was now able to participate in the Mass in various places daily.  However she really wasn’t able to master the use of the internet but she always ensured that somebody (and sometimes she looked for several ‘somebodies’ in case the previous one forgot!) was there to turn it on for her.  It just meant so much to her to have Mass available on the screen.

Therese suffered from a hearing loss for several years and in recent years found this very stressful.  It was also difficult for the sisters at the table to include her in their conversations and keep her connected with them.  But she always tried to keep abreast of what was going on.  She loved to read and her interests were wide and varied.
Therese was a great woman of prayer. She was always praying.  She loved the Mass and her daily prayer and adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  She had great devotion to the rosary, 3 parts each day, and always included her family, community and Congregational intentions, as well as parish and world events.  She seems to have been quite conscious of those around her and with whom she lived and was especially sensitive and supportive of those members of the community who themselves suffered bereavement.  For as long as she could she was always ready to be helpful and she liked to take care of house-hold tasks that were of their nature regular and routine.

A few weeks ago she was moved to St Monica’s Nursing Home as she needed some care.
She was admitted to the Mater Hospital last Friday for a check up as she wasn’t at all well. The next day,  last Saturday the 14th, she deteriorated rapidly and died very peacefully in the afternoon surrounded by her family and members of her community.      
Paul tells us in Philippians:  ‘Our homeland is in Heaven and from Heaven comes the Saviour we are waiting for, Christ the Lord.’  This is so true of Sr. Therese.  She too has too has been waiting and now has reached her homeland, and her Saviour, Christ the Lord was certainly waiting for her.

It reminds me so much of the last verse in the hymn to Our Lady:

‘Thou hast waited Blessed Mother and thy waiting now is o’er,
Thou has seen Him blessed Mother and will see Him evermore.
O His human face and features, they were passing fair to see.
Thou beholdest them dear Mother,
Mother show them now to    Sr. Therese’  

Therese is at home with God in Heaven, forever. And with Our Lady is gazing on the face of Christ. She had a special devotion to Mary and the rosary. Mary is surely looking after her.
She is enfolded in God’s tender love and in peace.
The words of today’s Gospel are so very consoling.
Jesus says to His disciples: ‘I am going to prepare a place for you.  And when everything is ready I will come and take you home with me.’
And that’s what Jesus has done for Therese.
She has now heard those beautiful words: ‘Welcome home Therese,” “Cead Mile Failte.”

Sr. Joseph Helen Cunningham.


We are standing this morning on holy ground: the place where Mary Aikenhead spent the last years of her life as an invalid – a woman whose vision, courage and practical common-sense gave birth to our Congregation and to our long and graced history of service of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.Today we are celebrating the life of Sr. Joseph Helen, a woman who cherished that charism, serving those in need with fidelity and generosity, and who also spent the last years of her life here in the Hospice.


The readings this morning are both comforting and challenging.In the Gospel Jesus speaks of himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.He invites us to put our hope and our trust in Him and in His promise to be with us, steadily and constantly as we try each day to walk his way, to speak his truth, to live his life.It is an apt description of the life and commitment of the woman whom we are remembering here.


In her 103 years of life, Sr. Joseph Helen lived through historical and global changes that are impossible for us to imagine.She experienced seismic shifts in Church and state.She witnessed wars and famines on a world scale.Through all of those yearsshe remained steadfastly faithful to the constant core of who she was as an RSC.She was born Dorothy Cunningham in Ballacolla in Portlaoise on 1st July 1908. She was an only girl, with one brother, and was much loved by all.Her childhood and youth reflected the calm ordinariness of children’s lives at that time.Following her degree studies she spent some months caring for her mother who was ill and then secured a job teaching in Mountjoy St. School in Dublin.Her father was not impressed!His comment on hearing of that place was:“It doesn’t sound like much of a job but you like working for the poor and you’ve always been good at it”.She remained there until she entered the Sisters of Charity on 5th October 1931.


In the first reading we are told that God gives strength to the wearied; that those who hope in Yahweh will soar like eagles, run and no grow weary, walk and never tire.That was so true of J. Helen throughout her active life.She was missioned back to Mountjoy St. after her religious profession and taught there for 12 years.Following a year’s further study in Scotland, she went to teach in a Secondary Modern school inWalthamstow in England for a year.And then came the call to be one of our three founding Sisters of the Zambian Region, or Northern Rhodesia as it then was.


In 1948 they set sail, travelling for four weeks by boat – The Athlone Castle -rail, bus and lorry before arriving in Chisekesi Siding on a dark morning on 28th October 1948. Sr. Helen kept a diary of the journey which was printed for the 50th anniversary and which gives a fascinating insight into their journey and how they coped with, what was for them, such a strange and almost ‘alien’ environment.


One can only imagine the anticipation and anxiety, the challenge and the loneliness, the wonder and the doubts that marked that journey and her first months in Zambia.It was a place and people that she came to love and cherish.She committed herself to the education of girls and brought the gift of knowledge and freedom to countless women who still remember her with gratitude and appreciation.There are many past pupils with sad hearts in Zambia at the moment – their sadness at her passing tempered only by their gratitude that she is free from the debilities of her age.And that mourning is echoed this morning among our sisters there in the Region and here in this Chapel in the sisters who lived with her and shared her life for those 30 years.


Her first 15 years in Zambia were spent in the Teacher training college run by the Jesuits and began her work in promoting the education of girls – beginning with the setting up of a girls secondary boarding school in Roma in Lusaka.Nine years later she was appointed Regional Leader and on Independence day 1978she was conferred with the Order of Distinguished Service for 30 years of outstanding service to the people of Zambia in the fields of Education and Social work.


While she was a formidable woman in many ways, with high standards and expectations, her devotion to her religious life and her commitment to education was recognized and appreciated by all who knew her.She was a strict disciplinarian, spoke the truth without apology and demanded very high standards.At the same time her heart was compassionate and her generosity and hospitality were known and appreciated by all.


Like all of us, Helen has known suffering and joy, tears and laughter, pain and happiness, loneliness and friendship.And she had strong relationships with herfriends – too numerous to mention – but exemplified in the love and devotion of Sr. Mary Bernadette Collins and Catherine Fallon.Up to the end she valued and enjoyed her relationships with her nieces, nephews and other family members and followed their lives with interest, with love and with prayer.


In 1978 she was missioned to Ireland and worked on our Constitutions.Subsequently she was appointed as local leader to our community in Crumlin before her appointment to our Provincial Leadership team and consequent arrival here in Our Lady’s Mount in 1981.


Sr. J. Helen’s commitment to Mary Aikenhead's charism was single-minded and she never compromised on that.The second reading confirms her attitude to life:nothing outweighs the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus. It is only through Him, with Him and in Him that we can find life and happiness and fulfilment.Rooted in that conviction, she endorsed and embraced anything that served the people for whom she cared in a better, more dignified or respectful way.


She suffered in her growing debility and weakness these last years and all of us – family, community, friends and colleagues - were saddened as we watched her suffering and her struggle to cope.In spite of the wonderful, caring staff who surrounded her and the sisters and friends who were her constant support,she had difficult and dispiriting days.Yet she never gave up .Her faith in Providence was the touchstone of her life.In the midst of all her pain and letting-go she was confident that he was with her, holding her, comforting her and in the end, calling her to himself.And when that call came, sheyielded her spirit to the Lord, peace-filled, calm and trusting - blest with a death that had no struggle, no pain, no fear.And perhaps I can end with some words of hers, written in the diary of which I spoke, on her arrival in Chikuni:“Now that we have reached our Promised Land we must thank God and Our Lady for our very pleasant and on the whole easy journey which we have had . . . . “Those words echo, not only the journey to Chikuni, but her life journey, now at its end as she moves, we believe, into the fullness of the Promised land of God’s life and love.