Sister Mary Sabina Devaney
1918 – 2020
Born: 22nd November 1918
Entered Religious Life: 1st October 1943
Died: 23rd July 2020
Reflection given by Sr. Úna O’Neill, Provincial Leader in the Irish Province at the Funeral Mass for Sr. Sabina
“The time has come for me to go”. The words of St. Paul in the second reading are so very true of the woman whose life we are celebrating today. At almost 102 years of age the time had indeed come for her to go.
Today is the completion of a life history that began on 22nd of November 1918 in Cave, Clarinbridge, when John and Sabina gave birth to a little girl whom they named Mary. She lived through historical and global changes and seismic shifts in the Church and in Religious Life which we can only imagine. For almost 77 years she remained steadfastly faithful to the constant core of who she was as an RSC and her life had its steady centre and focus on Jesus.
She lived all her life in the Irish Province and spent her longest length of time ministering in the Hospice in St. Patrick’s Cork where her gifts of hospitality and caring were lavished on those whom she served – both in the Hospice itself and in the community. Wherever Sabina was, her presence was always kind and compassionate and generous. No doubt she first learnt such hospitality in her home in Clarinbridge.
She loved her family deeply and we thank God today for them and for the many people who have loved her through life, especially her parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews and the many Sisters of Charity who knew her as friend and companion. Today we remember especially Sr. Aloysius – her devoted and beloved sister who will miss her so much.
In the Gospel we are told: “As long as you did it to others you did it to me”. It challenges us to practice what we preach, to be people of integrity, committed to living out the values of Jesus and to the service of God’s people; to build a world where forgiveness and trust, peace and patience will win out most of the time over anger and resentment, oppression and suspicion. That was so true of Sabina. She has given us cause for gladness; she has brought light into the darkness of peoples’ lives; she has shown us that fidelity and selflessness and quiet strength comes from our commitment to Jesus. He was her life, the reason for her living, the joy of her being, the centre of her heart. Because of that her needs were few. Her living was simple. She asked for little. She gave with her whole heart.
The fruit of her life is obvious in the way she lived her last years. Her involvement in ministry and community lessened, her strength diminished, friends and family died, and yet she remained steadfast and peace-filled and gracious.
We live in dark days. These are troubled times for all of us. Each day we face confusion and uncertainty. Sabina knew that. She knew about the virus. She knew that the Nursing Home where she was so content was closing. She knew that life as we knew it would never be the same again. And yet she did not despair. Rather she lived the advice that Mary Aikenhead gave to her Sisters in times of trouble: “Low spirits and dread of evil . . are the beginning of despair. If all the rest of the world goes wrong, we should still persevere in trying to serve God with faith and fervour”.
She was so blest to be in St. Monica’s – first the convent and then the Nursing Home – where she was cared for as she had cared for so many in her lifetime. The staff respected her privacy, ensured her dignity and did everything to comfort her in her growing debility.
Her smile defined her. Her life history was written in that smile. When we reflect on Sabina I think we learn that in times of suffering, controversy, pain and injustice, Jesus alone gives us reason to continue to walk His way with passion and in spite of everything. We must live the Gospel without fear or favour; doing things because they are right, not because we want acknowledgement or praise or gratitude.
In the 1st Reading we heard: “The Lord is the One in whom we hoped. We exult and we rejoice . “ and this is echoed in the second reading where we are advised to put all our hope in God, to place our trust in him, now and evermore. If we do that, trust and hope in God, then He will calm our anxious hearts and reassures us that our lives are worthwhile. He will lead us to places of hope and healing even in the midst of dark and troubled times.
Sabina can now rest from her labours, and we who are left behind can learn from her to keep our faith strong, our hope bright, our hearts honest and our trust in the God of love who has now received Sabina into the fulness of that life and love .
May she rest in peace.