Sister Mary Ursula Mongey
1931 – 2015
Born: 26th October 1931
Entered Religious Life: 14th October 1957
Died: 3rd August 2015
Homily given by Sr Úna O’Neill at Sr Ursula’s Funeral Mass
In the Gospel today Jesus asks us to put our trust in him as the way, the truth and the life. He invites us to put our hope in his promise to be with us, steadily and constantly, as we try each day to walk his way, to speak his truth and to live His life. That is surely a fitting description of the life of the woman whom we are celebrating here today.
On the 27th August 1848, our Foundress Mary Aikenhead wrote: “Pray that I may be faithful to the end”. Last Sunday night, at Ursula’s bedside, we recited the formula of the Vows which she took on the 18th April, 1960 the day of her Final Profession. At the end of that formula we ask the Lord to give us all the graces we need to be faithful unto death. And now Mary Aikenhead’s prayer for fidelity has surely been fulfilled in Ursula. Her life was an example to all of us of love and trust in the Lord, of faithfulness to her vows and of commitment to the service of those in need.
For Ursula – May as she is known to her family – today is the completion of a life history that began on the 26th October 1931 in a suburb of Dublin not far from here. From her parents and family she received the gift of faith that eventually led to her decision to become a Sister of Charity. After her profession she spent 29 years in St. Vincent’s in Cork where she fulfilled many roles in one. She was Chief Executive, (before the title was ever invented), manager, mother, carer, counsellor, friend and much more. We will never know how many people she helped, supported, encouraged, advised and stood up for in a myriad of different ways during her years there.
That spirit of selfless service continued in her ministry of hospitality in Bray, Baldoyle and in the Provincialate in Our Lady’s Mount and in St. Michael’s community until, in April 2011, she came to the Anna Gaynor unit in the Hospice. That was a lonely and difficult time for her but Ursula was a very practical woman who called a spade a spade and had little time for self pity or selfishness. So she settled in and became a central presence to many there – participating in the life of the unit as fully as she was able.
Like all of us Ursula knew pain and happiness, disappointment and contentment, loneliness and enjoyment. She suffered greatly – above all through her illness – these past few years and all of us, family, community, friends were saddened as we watched her suffering and her struggle to cope and to hope. It was inevitable that we would ask why: why had this generous, devoted, committed woman to endure so much? There is no answer to that question but in Ursula’s response to her suffering we may find the hint of an answer. She united her suffering with that of the Lord and, while sometimes frustration and sadness threatened to overwhelm her spirit, she never gave up hope.
So today’s reading from Isaiah is particularly appropriate: “Those who hope in the Lord renew their strength . .” and that is what she did. Her focus was on others. She was full of concern for her beloved sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews and the extended family. She prayed constantly for them and for the intentions of the Sisters and of Congregation and she spent much time writing cards and letter to loved ones.
In the Anna Gaynor unit her creative gifts emerged and she entered fully into the various activities offered including the baking and art classes, the crosswords and jigsaws. Her art was displayed in the Hospice exhibition in the art gallery off Grafton Street. She remained on the Hospice Mission committee right up to the end. She enjoyed her Tuesday evenings in Ard Mhuire. She spent happy hours in the rose garden and, as she would say herself, she slept peacefully when she went to pray in the Palliative care chapel! Above all she looked forward to and was sustained by the visits of her family whom she loved so well, as well as those of the sisters, friends, past and present residents of St. Vincent’s in Cork.
In her dying days she has been surrounded by those she loved so deeply and who ensured that her last hours were rich with prayer and presence and peace. The staff could not have been more caring and attentive to her every need and she died in peace.
Ursula trusted in God’s love for her. She did her best in whatever was asked of her as a Sister of Charity. She asked for little and lived simply. She cared for many with devotion and constancy. She gave her life in service of those in need. She did not look for praise or publicity. Now she is with God in the fullness of his life and love. In the words of the 2nd reading, “her good deeds go with her”.
So when times are difficult and when we feel lonely for her, may we remember deep in our hearts the promise of Jesus in the reading: no matter our fears or our restlessness, our doubts or anxieties, He is with us and will never fail us.
As we pray our blessings on Ursula’s final journey we are assured of one thing: her presence with us – loving us, caring for us, willing what is best for us. We are the better for having known her 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.
May she rest in peace.