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noeline maguireSister Noeline Maguire

1931 - 2020

Born: 29th November 1931

Entered Religious Life: 8th Februaryr 1954

Died: 8th April 2020

 

The following is the Reflection given by Sr Úna O'Neill, Provincial Leader at Sr Noeline's Funeral Mass

Everything about the Liturgy today reflects the faith and fidelity of the woman whose life we are celebrating. Even the fact that we are doing this on Holy Saturday and in the midst of Covid 19, is very much in tune with Noeline’s simplicity and humility.

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 Sr. Noeline for whom last Wednesday was the completion of a life history that began with her birth to her parents Mary and James, in Dublin on 29th November 1931. She entered the Congregation on 8th February 1954. It was undoubtedly from her parents and family she received the gift of faith that eventually led to her decision to become a Sister of Charity.

She lived that love of Christ in all her journeying and ministry – a life journey that took her to Milltown and Bray, to Temple Street and Foxford, to St. Anthony’s and Lakelands, where she was the local leader, and in her latter years here to Our Lady’s Mount. Her longest period of time was the 31 years she spent in Foxford where her extraordinary facility in financial and organizational matters contributed richly to the success and growth of the Mill and where she is well remembered today, not just for her expertise, but for her humanity and concern for all with whom she worked. Undoubtedly in ordinary times this chapel would have been full of her friends and former colleagues from Foxford as well as the many from financial institutions in Dublin who held her in high regard and with deep respect.

While we associate her very much with Foxford, her contribution to the Congregation and to the Irish Province, together with Sr. Colette, in her ministry as Bursar is immeasurable.

Noeline loved her family deeply though she was not a demonstrative person.

On the 27th August 1848, our Foundress Mary Aikenhead wrote: “Pray that I may be faithful to the end”. Mary Aikenhead’s prayer for fidelity has surely been fulfilled in her. Her life was an example to all of us of love and trust in the Lord, of faithfulness to her vows and of commitment to the Congregation.

I use Colette’s own words: Everyone has the same to say about her – a lovely, kind, gracious lady and a real Sister of Charity and daughter of Mary Aikenhead. Her words are echoed by members of Davy’s who wrote: “All of us at Davy were so very fond of her and have lovely memories of such a gracious, humble and loving lady. She will be missed by all who knew her as a loyal and trustworthy friend”.

In these latter years she has known the weakness and lack of energy that is part of aging. Nevertheless she retained her broad interest in world and national affairs – and especially in rugby affairs! She valued the support of the community in Ard Mhuire and the care she received there and in the Hospice. She was particularly appreciative of the way in which all who cared for her respected her dignity and her privacy. In her dying days the staff could not have been more caring and attentive to her every need. When the call came on Wednesday evening, she yielded her spirit to the Lord, peace-filled, calm and trusting - blest with a death that had no struggle, no pain, no fear.

The darkness we experience at this time is real and frightening and challenging.

The future for Noeline is certain. The future for us is uncertain and full of questions and anxieties. Its good therefore to remember that as we pray our blessings on Noeline’s final journey we are assured of her presence with us – loving us, caring for us, willing what is best for us. We are the better for having known her and our best remembrance of her will be to allow her life to be a source of inspiration and thanksgiving for us. May we learn from her life a little of what it means to be faithful to Jesus by doing our best to live for others – in the spirit of the Psalm which encourages us to Hope in God, hold firm and take heart.

May she 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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