Sister Mary Holohan
1945 – 2014
Born: 9th September 1945
Entered Religious Life: 6th July 1964
Died: 10th January 2014
An Appreciation of Sr Mary Holohan
Reflection given at Sr Mary’s funeral by Sr Mary Christian RSC
We are gathered today to remember Mary, to comfort and console each other as we recall her unexpected and sudden death and above all to give thanks for her life.
Sixty-eight years ago Mary was born in Kilkenny and shortly after was baptized. Since then Mary has lived her life conscious of her baptismal call to live a life of faith.
The readings chosen for this liturgy remind us of our call to the fullness of life. In the first reading taken from the Book of Revelations we have been given several consoling images of what awaits the elect – they now stand in front of God’s throne and serve him day and night and the One who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will never hunger or thirst again, neither the sun or scorching wind will ever plague them, because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water, and God will wipe all tears from their eyes.
The Gospel passage reminds us of how Jesus prepared his disciples for his own departure. Jesus told them that he was going to prepare a place for them and that ‘I will come back again and take you to myself so that where I am you also may be.’ He assured them that where was going they knew the way. He also told them: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’
These words of Jesus spoken to his disciples are also spoken to us. These words were spoken for Mary. Jesus has now called Mary to the place which he has prepared for her.
Almost fifty years ago Mary left her home and family to enter the Sisters of Charity. Christ called her and she responded with a resounding ‘YES’. ‘Here I am Lord I come to do your will’. Little did she know when she left home on that day, 6th July 1964, that within about two years her mother would die. This must have been a terrible blow to her father and her sisters. Mary was in England on her ministry experience and in those days’ sisters, even novices, did not go home, even for funerals. Yet despite this and knowing that her father and five younger sisters were left without her mother, Mary continued to say her ‘Yes’ to God and knew that God would take care of her family. She was professed on the 3rd February 1967.
Motivated by the motto chosen by Mary Aikenhead for her young Congregation, Caritas Christi urget Nos – the love of Christ impels us, Mary tried her best to live a life of charity and love for all those she served. The living out of religious life will always have its joys and its challenges. The ideals are put before us and demand a constant ‘yes’. This ‘yes’ can only come about through an intimate relationship with Jesus. Speaking of evangelization, Pope Francis tells us: ‘The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known.’
The second reading which we have just heard outlines the importance of love in our lives. We are told that ‘if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. This reading goes on to tell us that love is patient, love is kind.
These words –love is patient, love is kind – were the words which inspired Mary to live her life as a Sister of Charity in the caring profession of nursing. This she had chosen before she entered and it continued to be her passion to the moment of her death. Much of her life was spent working with people who were mentally challenged. To them she showed great love and concern whether in Cregg House, Ballybane or Kilkenny. Later when she completed her general nursing training she spent some years in St. Vincent’s and many years in Cappagh as a theatre nurse until such time as we moved from Cappagh. Mary had a great rapport with her nursing colleagues and this is very evident from the large number of her friends from Cappagh who are here today and at the removal last night. Friends she made in Ballybane many years ago remained in contact with her up to her death and have come to pay their final farewell.
In her latter years Mary developed health problems and was no longer able for active nursing. However, her passion for nursing continued during her time in St. Monica’s when she showed the same love and concern to the elderly sisters there who were in need of care. Her death has been a huge shock to them and they remember with fondness her goodness to each one.
For Mary death came quickly and unexpectedly. In the days before her death she had the opportunity to visit with her family. This year in July she was due to celebrate her Golden Jubilee. While she was home in those last days she had arranged her Jubilee celebration with her family. For her it was a time of excitement. Just before Christmas those of us who are celebrating Golden Jubilees this year met to arrange a celebration. Mary was full of plans. The first thing she requested would be that there would be a hymn to Our Lady. We all agreed on a Magnificat for the recessional hymn. Little did we know then that we would be gathering here today to bid farewell to Mary and singing that same Magnificat as a final hymn for her funeral Mass.
For her sisters Joanie, Bridie, Cecilia and Bernadette, her nieces and nephews, extended family and her community at St. Monica’s this is a very sad day. It is the culmination of over two weeks of shock and numbness. Mary has now reached her eternal reward to be with her parents Edward and Mary and her sister Kathleen who predeceased her. We draw consolation from the fact that in the days prior to her death Mary had accomplished a lot. She met with her family, prepared for her jubilee, visited Sr. Christopher who is now in Kilkenny but was formerly in St. Monica’s and for whom Mary showed great care and concern and her last great act of care was to visit her friend Sr. Anne Marie McGeever who was a patient in an English hospital recovering from serious surgery
Today we are filled with sorrow as we bid farewell to Mary. At the same time it is a time to rejoice as we give thanks for a life well lived and celebrate Mary’s almost fifty years as a Sister of Charity. May she rest in peace.