Sister Marie Hilary Kane-Smith
1933 – 2017
Born: 2nd April 1933
Entered Religious Life: 14th July 1963
Died: 17th August 2017
The following is the reflection given at Sr Marie-Hilary’s funeral Mass by Sr Phyllis Behan, Provincial Leader in the Irish Province
Our Eucharist today is a celebration of thanksgiving and we remember Sr Marie Hillary Kane-Smith and give thanks for her life and we give thanks for her release from suffering.
The First Reading tells us ‘the souls of the righteous are in the hands of the Lord and no torment will ever touch them’. So Sr Marie, we believe, is now in the hands of the Lord and is at peace. And we are glad for her that this is so.
Sr Marie Hillary was born in 1933 and baptised Dympna Catherine (Dympie as she was called in the family and by those who knew her well) in Moyle Co Carlow, the eldest daughter of the family. She had one brother, James who lives in England and is unwell at the moment, and three sisters; Alice who lives in Australia, Matilda who is here with us today and Sheelagh who died some years ago. She had happy memories of her childhood at home and family was important to her. She was studying as a Sister in London when her mother died and she returned home for two years to care for her father. She had entered the Religious Sisters of Charity in 1963 and lived mostly in Ireland in Cork, Clarinbridge, St Vincents Hospital, Milltown, Temple Street, Lakelands, Linden, Kilkenny and finally in Anna Gaynor for the last 13 years where she received loving care and attention.
The psalm speaks of the uncertainties of life and how God works our purpose: it states: ‘no matter how uncertain things may be, sometimes through me, sometimes in spite of me, you (God) seem to find your purpose in my life’. We may never know our purpose in life while we are on this earth but I am sure Sr Marie Hillary knows it now and will by now have met people whose lives she touched and people she helped, who have gone before her to their reward.
Sr Marie Hillary is remembered by her colleagues from St Vincent’s as a wonderful musician who loved classical music. We are told that no one could compare to Sr Marie Hillary in the gentle way she played the large organ in St Vincent’s Hospital chapel. Sometimes she would go to the chapel at a quiet time and just play music while Sisters would quietly go into the chapel and sit and listen to her and enjoy the music. She also played the Harp and donated her harp to St Agnes’ Community Centre for Music and the Arts in Crumlin. It is a fitting tribute to Marie Hillary that Sr Bernadette who founded the Music Centre has arranged to have Breda from St Agnes’ Parents Orchestra here to play the harp during mass. Breda often comes to the Hospice to play the harp and knew Sr Marie Hillary well. I am sure Marie will be smiling down from her ‘room in the father’s house’ and enjoying this music today.
Her main ministry during her lifetime was in the secretarial line both in Milltown and St Vincent’s Hospital and it was she with Sr Mary Paula Gleeson who helped to open the first St Vincent’s Private Hospital and Marie was the first Secretary Manager there.
A bit like our foundress Venerable Mary Aikenhead, Marie spent the second half of her life in poor health. It is hard to understand suffering whether it is physical, psychological, mental , spiritual, or emotional. It is part of our human condition.
But the Scripture readings today call us and call those who suffer to ‘trust in God still,’ (John 14:1-6)
They call us to accept that we are carried on eagles’ wings and cared for in all our years’ as the psalm we have just sung states. (based on Ex: 19:4 and Psalm 105)
I think God doesn’t intervene directly in our lives to do this carrying of us but sends us people who do the carrying on God’s behalf and for us. All through Sr Marie Hillary’s life when she was ill and unable to do things for herself, the staff, carers, doctors, nurses, family, Sisters, all carried her in many different ways. For some it was in directly providing personal care, or medical treatment, others wrote letters for her, visited her, put her music on for her and so on.
Marie came to great rest and peace in Anna Gaynor and although unable to communicate by speech in the latter years she could indicate with her eyes and sounds that she understood who was with her and what was being said to her. She lived her life as a Religious Sister and ‘died in Jesus’ as the second reading states and so ‘God will bring them with him’. We know she will ‘inherit the kingdom and that Jesus has ‘prepared a place’ for her so that where Jesus is, Marie is there too now. May she rest in peace.