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rose cashmanSister Rose Cashman

1924 - 2019

Born: 12th October 1924

Entered Religious Life: 3rd October 1949

Died: 27th December 2019

 

The following eulogy was given at Sr Rose's funeral Mass by
Sr Rita Dawson, the Provincial Leader in the English/Scottish Province

Sister Rose was the only child of Hannah and Thomas Cashman. When she left school, she worked in an office for seven years before entering religious life when she was 25 years old. She was much more sensible than those of us who entered when we were 18 or 19! Rose’s parents were very mature, sensible and I know she was very proud of them.

After her First Profession, Rose’s ministry was in the Parish in Birkenhead for 14 years. The following 10 years, she was in Parish Ministry in Chester, Basildon and Sowerby Bridge, where she was also Leader.

In 1976, Sister Rose trained as a social worker and worked in the Irish Centre in Liverpool as a Social Worker until 1980.

And throughout her life she kept in touch with all these people and sometimes three generations of families.

She returned to Parish Ministry in Hammersmith and Basildon until 1988. She returned to Birkenhead at this time to work with the Shrewsbury Children's Society until 1992.

Sister Rose was appointed to the Provincial Leadership Team in December 1987 and from 1992 until 1999, she was Provincial Bursar. In her role as Bursar she was absolutely meticulous. She knew exactly, to the penny, the expenditure in the Province. She was always very neat, very precise. The Bursar’s job not an easy role with people asking for money for all various things at various times. Sister Geraldine, who took up the role of Bursar from Sister Rose, always gave thanks for the order and detail Sister Rose left the books in when she handed them over.

Sister Rose relocated to Airdrie in 2004 at the age of 80.

Although Rose was retired from ministry, she continued as a Day Hospice volunteer in St Andrew’s Hospice. It is with great thanks to Bruce, who is here today, for facilitating this. At 92 years of age, Rose was still touching the lives of hundreds of people every year through Day Hospice, her faith sharing group and the Rosary group; and all the other groups which she ran and participated in. Every year we all have to send in our figures, and Rose’s last submission stated she touched the lives of over 800 people. She was always very conscientious.

Rose felt it a privilege to work with people, to be invited into their homes and their lives and to be with them in their hour of need, to be helping them both spiritually and mentally.

In April 2017, Sr Rose telephoned myself and asked to see me.

She told me that she did not feel able to continue doing what she was doing. I remember her saying, “Rita, will you tell me what to do”. Well I said to her, I am not going to tell you at this stage in your life Rose what to do; you tell me. After some soul searching she told me she would like to come to Clydebank, which she did at the end of April 2017.

Not long after arriving in Clydebank, Sr Rose said she would like to go to the pool in the Hospice at least once a week, which she really enjoyed. This is one of the reasons Caren did the second reading today as she so faithfully took Sr Rose every Friday. She was swimming right up until August this year, when it started to become too much for her. Avril, Katy and Caren all took turns at helping her to this each week.

Sr Rose loved her iPad and reading the Independent Catholic News online each day. She very quickly learned how to send emails and pictures. She attended the Day Hospice and enjoyed spending time with the Day Hospice patients and volunteers. She always had pictures of her family and cousins to show me on her iPad.

Sr Rose was a woman of deep faith; she was always first in the Chapel for Exposition each evening. You couldn’t beat her to the Chapel; she was always first! She loved the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament which we have each day Monday to Friday in the Hospice.

Rose was the perfect example of accepting retirement.
She was comfortable and at peace, all the staff absolutely loved her. And although retired, Rose really did continue her ministry. She would talk to the staff and listen to their problems or issues or anxieties which is a ministry in itself. Sr Rose was always determined to keep going – at 92 years of age she said “Rita, do you think I gave up too early”. And I said to her “you might have!”. But then I said I was joking but she herself knew this was the right time for her and the right place. She is a real example to all of us.

When she was able, she worked very hard but even in her later years when she knew she was not able, she herself acknowledged that talking to people, smiling and being interested in them was still a ministry – right until the very end.

Sr Rose never looked at time in terms of years or even months. She always took it one day at a time and always put her trust in God.

Sr Rose was always most gracious – right to the end and right up to the night she died. Every night she would say “Rita, I cannot thank you enough”. All of you here have experienced her gratitude and this is why I included the little reflection at the start of the Mass booklet.

So on her behalf and on behalf of the Congregation I should like to give a special thanks to Professor John Welsh and Dr Guy Haworth who so tenderly cared for Sr Rose, especially in her last couple of challenging weeks she could not have had better medical care. Prof looked in on Sr Rose on the last evening before she died before he left for his New Year holiday.

To all of the staff in the Mary Aikenhead Centre, and everyone within the wider Hospice team who so dearly loved Sister Rose and helped her in so many ways a very sincere thanks.

Sr Rose’s only request for her final journey was that she would have some roses which is why there are roses on her coffin from the Clydebank and Airdrie communities; and I see some single roses from others too.

Her choice for Readings, Gospel and music at Mass, she said she would leave to myself to do on her behalf.

The only other instruction she gave me, and it is written down, is that she did not wish any of her cousins from Cork to go to the expense of attending her funeral, and they could pray for her instead. This instruction I carried out – I always try to do what is asked especially when someone is seriously ill because I’m afraid I’ll be tapped on the shoulder one evening at a later date for not having fulfilled someone’s wish!

However, lo and behold, who turned up at reception this morning! All these Corkonians! I said to them, Sr Rose gave instructions you were not to attend the funeral, so I hope she will not be haunting me for not being firm enough with you. However, they told me they managed to get cheap flights, which Sr Rose would be delighted to hear having been Bursar for so many years. We are absolutely thrilled and delighted to welcome Brian, Catherine, Mary, Anne, Sheila, Teresa, Colette and Teresa as we know how much Sr Rose loved you all, and you in turn, loved her. She was always talking about her cousins.

As we heard in the first reading, (2 Timothy 4: 6-8), As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end, I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to me on that Day, and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.

Or as Pope John the 23rd Put it:
At one point during his final days he rallied enough to talk to members of his family and to tell his physician very clearly, "My bags are packed and I am ready, very ready, to go."

This truly sums up Sr Rose’s own life in that she was very ready, prepared and left everything in order. She had left a little briefcase with all her instructions and papers – even the instruction about the Corkonians!! Today we know she is with the Lord she so faithfully served.

She is in Heaven and many of you will know the saying in Ireland “happy the corpse the rain falls on” but Rose if you could just stop it for a while, til we get the cemetery and home, where we will say our goodbyes, this would be great.

May Sr Rose now Rest in Peace.

 

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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