Sister Una Connolly
1933 - 2021
Born: 15th May 1933
Entered Religious Life: 9th November 1953
Died: 28th June 2021
Reflection given by Sr Mary Christian at Sr Una's Funeral Mass
On behalf of the Congregation, I wish to welcome each of you who are accompanying us in the Church today. Due to Covid regulations we are only permitted an attendance of fifty people. Four of Sr. Una's nephews are present, welcome to Gerard, Donal, Noel and Joe. We are glad that despite all the present restrictions you are able to be here. I welcome also, members of the General Leadership Team, Sr. Úna O'Neill our Provincial Leader and her team and all the Sisters of Charity present.
A very special welcome to all who are joining us through the webcam transmission, especially Sr. Una's nephews John in Kerry, Kevin and Enda in England, Colm in the United States and her niece Paula also in the States. Welcome to the many Sisters of Charity throughout the Congregation who are joining us and I welcome in particular the Sisters from the California Region in which Sr. Una lived for fifty nine years. Welcome to Una's former colleagues, especially Gary and those from Valley Family Center, members of the Associates and her many friends. It is a blessing that technology can bring us all together for the funeral liturgy of a wonderful lady.
We are grateful to Mons Ciaran O'Carroll and the bereavement team in Donnybrook for facilitating us in the celebration of this Liturgy and to Mons. Paul Callan, Chaplain in Stanhope Street who agreed to celebrate this Eucharist.
Agnes Mary Connolly was born on the 15th May 1933, the youngest child of John and Mary Connolly of Kilcolgan, Co. Galway. At the age of twenty-one she entered the Sisters of Charity on the 9th November 1953 and made her First Profession on the 22nd May 1956. Throughout her Religious life she never lived in Ireland until she retired in 2018. Her first three years after profession were spent in England, teaching in Walthamstow and Basildon.
ln 1959 Sr. Una or, Sr. Mary Rita, as she was known in the early days on her religious life, was missioned to California. This was a young mission of the Congregation, barely six years old, and it must have been both exciting and challenging for her to leave Ireland for the United States. At that time home visits only happened every six years.
As was common at the time in California, sisters were moved frequently, and during her teaching ministry, which spanned about fourteen years, she moved between Sr. Cornelius, Long Beach, St. Columban's, Garden Grove and Immaculate Heart of Mary, in Los Angeles, serving more than once in some of the schools.
As an elementary school teacher, she was very aware of the needs of some of her students and their families. After much prayer, spiritual direction, and time spent in discernment, Sr. Una felt that God was calling her to become a Counsellor. This necessitated a return to College to qualify for her new ministry. As a counsellor she spent a short time in Immaculate Heart of Mary School before moving to Alemany High School. During this time she developed a great love for the Hispanic people. Her dream was that the Congregation would open a foundation in Mexico or somewhere in South America. After many years of research and discernment, of which she would have been one of the prime movers, a mission was opened in 1980 in Venezuela. She was never missioned there, but I was one of the founding members of that mission.
Sr. Una was a woman of great faith and dedication to Mary Aikenhead. While working as a counsellor in Alemany, she realized that there was a great need to provide low-cost counselling services to the community in San Fernando. This was her vision and inspiration. Beginning in a very modest way in a small house opposite Santa Rosa Church she, with the encouragement of Fr. Tom Rush OMI, began offering low-cost counselling to the community. Soon the needs outgrew the facility and she moved to another site which also soon became inadequate. However, with a good Board of Directors and much fundraising the present site in Brand Street was purchased. From its humble beginnings Sr. Una watched the Valley Family Center grow from strength to strength and watched it expand to offer counselling to individuals and couples, family therapy, co-ordinated services for victims, children and perpetrators of domestic abuse and parenting education. Sr. Carmel Somers, who is present here today, supported Una in all her endeavours and became responsible for the Learning Centre which provides tutoring and academic support for at risk children.
Sister Una was a woman of prayer, reflection and contemplation and, no doubt, it was from her spiritual resources that she received the strength she needed to carry out her dream despite all the problems and challenges she faced. Her love for Mary Aikenhead was obvious and all her counsellors were imbued with Mary Aikenhead's spirit. I have often heard them say that they wanted ‘to give to the poor what the rich could buy for money’. Another passion of hers was working with the Associates of Mary Aikenhead. She and Sr. Carmel worked ceaselessly to inspire them to follow the Charism of Mary Aikenhead and commit themselves to working for the poor.
Una loved her dog, Guinness, and made sure he had his daily walk. Returning to Ireland in poor health must have been difficult for Una. Her desire was to spend time with her family. Her health did not permit her to travel around. Nevertheless she sought comfort from her faith, her love of reading spiritual books and her rich prayer life. The last fifteen months must have felt endless for her. For most of that time visiting was very limited. Her family and the sisters also found this difficult and Una, herself, had been so accustomed to being surrounded by people.
A special thanks to the staff at both Loyola and Beechlawn Nursing homes who looked after Una with such care and compassion. Today we celebrate the life of a woman who lived her life with great faith, vision, inspiration and enthusiasm, dedicated to following the Charism of Mary Aikenhead.
May Una rest in peace