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marie veronica mcmahonSister Marie Veronica McMahon

1935 - 2021

Born:  6th August 1935

Entered Religious Life:  6th October 1958

Died: 10th June 2021


Reflection given by Sr. Mary Teresa Clarke, Provincial Leader of the English/Scottish Province, at Sr Marie Veronica's Funeral Massr 

We have come together today, to give thanks to God, for the life and ministry of Sr Marie Veronica McMahon. On behalf of the Community here at St Andrew’s Convent. I welcome you, to our Mass celebrated by Fr Breslin, Fr Keegan and Fr John.

We welcome Sr Marie Veronica’s: Brother, Jim, Sisters, Frances, Brenda and Anne - Nieces and Nephews who are with us today and many other family members joining us from Ireland, Germany, Canada and the US.

We welcome too, Sisters of Charity joining us from the English/Scottish Province, from Ireland and beyond, reminding us too; Sr Marie Veronica, served God for nearly 60 years in the Religious Life. But we are sad that our gathering here in St Margaret’s Church in Airdrie does not include the many Sisters, family and friends whose lives have been touched by Sr Marie Veronica over many years and who would have liked to be present with us today.

Sr Marie Veronica, Rena as she was known to her family and friends was born to parents Susan and Daniel, in Clydebank in the summer of 1935. Rena was the eldest of six and very soon as a young child, Rena and her family experienced the bombing blitz of March 1941.

Their home was damaged but the family were thankfully unharmed and were evacuated to Renton, near Balloch and later, her mother Susan, took 4 of the children to Fahan, in the north of Donegal for safety.

These traumatic memories remained with Sister all her life, as indeed they did for so many ‘Bankies’ of that generation. But for Rena out of these experiences, came great courage and resilience, which she drew upon in later life in coping with illness.

The family returned in 1942, to a Clydebank devastated by the bombing, where over one thousand people had been killed or injured. Rena went on to attend Notre Dame School in Dumbarton. After School she worked in an NHS Accounts Department, Rena had always enjoyed working with figures and Book Keeping.

The Sisters of Charity came to Clydebank in early 1950’s, Rena helped with Fundraising, then went on to join the St Agnes’s Guild and the Children of Mary, where she got to know Sr Mary Spinolla Mooney, whom she always said had been, a great influence on her life and vocation.

Rena travelled to Mount St Anne’s, Milltown, Dublin and entered the Noviciate with the Religious Sisters of Charity on the Monday 6th October 1958. After Profession, Rena now Sr Marie Veronica, began her journey as a Sister of Charity, this took her first to Howth, Dublin, in 1961, later to Donnybrook and then back across the Irish Sea, to Hackney in London. Sister’s journey continued on to Birkenhead, Chester, Airdrie, Bath and then back to Airdrie in 1993. Sr Marie Veronica worked in Parish Ministry for almost 50 years touching the lives of countless people in that time in many places from Howth to Airdrie.

Sr Marie Veronica was always mindful of the Sisters working on the Zambian Missions and as she said ‘she did her bit to help’, by running Coffee Mornings to help raise funds for ‘Sr Philomena’s (Reid) Mission’ who was another Bankie!

Even late in life, Marie Veronica had a very keen mind, loved her iPad and working out ‘Code Words’ from her numerous puzzle books! She was also very interested in the healing abilities of Aromatherapy and would make special recipes to relieve many aliments for sisters and friends.

Family always, meant a great deal to Marie Veronica, she loved being in Clydebank, for her birthday in August and having the opportunity to catch up with all the family and especially meeting the latest arrivals!

But one aspect of Sr Marie Veronica’s life we were, all very aware of and indeed inspired by was her courage and resilience in coping with illness, and disability. Marie Veronica made light of the pain and discomfort she undoubtedly suffered over many years, and rather interested herself in the lives of and stories of others.

Finally I would like to add - to all the Sisters, the Medical Staff, the Nursing and Care Staff here in St Andrew’s, you have been part of Sr Marie Veronica life over these last years. Thank you, for the love, care and companionship you gave her. Grateful thanks too, to Fr Breslin and Fr Keegan for your faithful spiritual care of Sister over these last years.

May she now Rest in Peace. Amen.


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.