Sister Joseph Pius Keane
1925 – 2020
Born: 9th January 1925
Entered Religious Life: 5th February 1951
Died: 13th August 2020
Reflection given by Sr. Úna O’Neill, Provincial Leader in the Irish Province at the Funeral Mass for Sr. Pius
In the second reading from Timothy Paul says: . . the time has come for me to go. I have run the race to the finish I have kept the faith. How true that is of the woman whose life we are remembering and celebrating today. Since the almost 70 years since she joined the Sisters of Charity in February 1951 she remained steadfastly faithful to the constant core of who she was as a Sister of Charity – committed to Christ and to the service of those who were in need of any kind. She did indeed keep the faith. Born in Ballygar to Henry Keane and Mary Anne Davis on 9th January, 1925, that faith was surely gifted to her by her family and especially her parents.
She lived that faith in all her journeying and ministry – a life journey that took her from Milltown to Hackney and Walthamstow, to St. Vincent’s in the Green, to Zambia, St. Patrick’s Cork, to Caritas Convalescent Centre, to the Day Care Centre in Our Lady’s Hospice, to St. Monica’s, to Donnybrook and then finally back here as a resident in Anna Gaynor. Her longest period of time was her 27 years in Zambia where she lived and laboured in the service of the sick and dying in Chikuni and Choma and then as Regional Superior for 6 years in Kabwata. She was a formidable lady and experienced surgeons were known to cringe at her corrections even as they recognized that her standards were of the highest and her compassion and care of the poorest and most ill was evident to all.
In the Gospel St. John tells us not to let our hearts be troubled. Its interesting advice which Pius didn’t really follow because she loved sad stories and she daily predicted disaster. She was known by some as the 6th Sorrowful mystery of the Rosary. But in reality, she did trust in God and in Jesus and she easily moved from sadness to gladness and had a deep inner joy that showed itself in moments of delight and in her wry sense of humour. She loved her family and though she was not a demonstrative person one could see that love shining in her when she spoke of them and especially when her grandnieces and grandnephews were present.
Pius suffered in her growing debility and weakness these last years and all of us – family, community, friends – were saddened as she became less able and less independent. Here in the Hospice, the staff gave her great freedom and many a morning around 8.30 she could be seen pushing her wheelchair (in which she should have been sitting) down the corridor here for Mass at 10.00. She had a real ministry of compassion and caring for the visitors and staff and she also had the unwavering love and loyalty of special friends and Sisters. Sr. Catherina and the community in Donnybrook were very faithful to her – especially Sr. Maureen; Sr. Agnes Rose was almost a daily visitor as was Catherine Fallon until illness prevented her – and many, many more. A special thanks is due to the Chaplains – especially Liz and Brendan who gave her great comfort and counsel. She was loved and respected by the staff in the Restaurant and the Security staff who ‘rescued’ her in recent times when she took to ‘wandering’ – and always did so while managing to respect her dignity. She will be missed here.
On the 27th August 1848, our Foundress Mary Aikenhead wrote: “Pray that I may be faithful to the end”. In these last days she has been surrounded by those who cared for her – and in the end she let go gently and peacefully.
What do we learn from her life? Maybe she taught us that that we must live in this real world with faith and compassion; that we must listen to those who think differently; that we must take risks in our service of those who are poor, homeless, displaced, fearful, angry, oppressed. She herself took risks and gave generously – I recall that at the age of 73 she returned to Zambia for 6 months when we needed someone urgently in the clinic in Mumbezhi. In the Gospel Jesus tells us that he is our Way, our Truth and our Life. As we pray our blessings on Pius’ final journey we are assured of her presence with us in the Communion of Saints. She has enriched our lives 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.