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Sister Margaret Mackey

1945 - 2018

Born: 5th April 1945

Entered Religious Life: 7th October 1963

Died: 11th September 2018

 

The following is the "Welcome" given at Sr Margaret's funeral by Sr Ann Marie McGeever RSC, the Local Leader in Stanhope Street community.

Good Morning
On behalf of Our Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity and Stanhope Street Community, I welcome all of you who have come today to celebrate Eucharist and give thanks for the life of Sr Margaret Mackey. I welcome especially Margaret’s siblings, Anne, Matty, Paddy, Mary, Monica, Joe, Richie and Canice, her in-laws, her many nieces, nephews extended family and friends. We also remember Margaret’s brother Noel in Korea who couldn’t be here today.

Margaret was born in Rogerstown, Kilmoganny Co. Kilkenny in April 1945. She entered with the Sisters of Charity in Mount St Annes Milltown in October 1963 and at her reception into the novitiate the following year she was given the name Sr Marie Ruth, a name by which she was known for a number of years before returning to her baptismal name. She was professed in 1966 and following this she spent a year in Ballaghadereen helping in the school. Carysfort College was her next port of call and on completion of her studies, she taught in Tramore, Baldoyle and Walkinstown, the bulk of that time being in Baldoyle where she became the school principal. It is said that while in Baldoyle she was fair in her dealings with pupils, staff and parents alike.

Following a career break Margaret spent a few years in Lakelands as assistant to the local leader and in 2001 came to Stanhope Street where she gave of her time voluntarily to the aware shop in Phibsboro and also to the Capuchin Day Centre with Brother Kevin. Being a very sociable person this work suited her down to the ground and she formed many friendships. In the true spirit of Mary Aikenhead she reached out to those in need.

A woman who had a great zest for life she had many interests and loved the great outdoors. Time spent in the garden, out walking and enjoying nature were a delight for her, as was time in the kitchen. She was a good cook and the baking of the Christmas cakes was something special. Knitting was also something she enjoyed, with cardigans and baby blankets produced at a great rate and always at the right time.

To say Margaret LOVED sport would be an understatement, she lived sport and her particular interest was in GAA. No one could have supported their county team more; with little if any sound on the TV and the commentary coming from the radio, Margaret became an armchair referee, she was better than any Hawkeye. All was well while the team were winning and when the cup was lifted on All Ireland today no one was prouder. Brian Cody was ‘St Brian’ when the team was doing well, if things were not so he was simply ‘Mr Cody’.

Family was very important to Margaret and she loved them all dearly, times for the clan to be together were special for her, and in the community we all shared in her delight with the announcements of engagements, weddings, and new arrivals, not forgetting all those who had done well in their exams.

Her love of the Congregation knew no bounds and over her 50+ years she embraced all the changes that took place with graciousness. Times of retreat and prayer were important to her as were times spent with other sisters either on holidays or even just a meeting for a cup of coffee, she really enjoyed this and if there was an opportunity to shop that was even better.

Her life was not without spells of ill health but Margaret, determined as she was, always strove to overcome any obstacles that prevented her from participating in and enjoying life. She always had something in mind that she could look forward to.

Margaret we will all miss you but you certainly ran the race and you kept the faith. May you now rest in peace with your God.

 

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.

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