Sister Teresa Imelda Lennon
1935 – 2013
Born: 19th September 1935
Entered Religious Life: 2nd July 1954
Died: 10th April 2013
An appreciation of Sr Teresa Imelda Lennon
This appreciation begins with the welcome given at Sr Imelda’s Funeral Mass by Sr Anne Marie Costelloe. The homily given by Sr Úna O’Neill follows the references of the Readings at the Funeral Mass:
On behalf of the Sisters in Our Lady’s Hospice, It is my privilege to welcome you all here this morning as we gather to say farewell to and celebrate the life of Sr. Teresa Imelda, or Marion as her family knew her.
We welcome especially her sisters, Gemma, Teresa and Dolores, her brother Michael, their families and extended family. We welcome Sr. Imelda’s friends from Dublin and Cork and Sisters of Charity from many of our houses.
All of us have loved and supported Sr. Imelda in different ways over the years. All of us have been touched by her life. We have been inspired by her deep faith, her life of prayer, her unselfish love and service to others. Most of all we have been inspired by her courageous acceptance of suffering for so many years.
We are sad to say goodbye today but we give thanks to God for her life of goodness and love and we are glad she is now at peace, where there is no more suffering or pain.
Isaiah 40: 28-31
Gospel: John 14:1-7
Today is a beautiful day. All around us we see and celebrate the presence of the Risen Lord: in the song of the birds; in the blossoming flowers and trees; in the sunshine and shower of this day. The Readings chosen for this Mass by Srs. Ursula and Anne Marie, are also full of the presence and hope and joy of the Lord. In the Gospel, for instance, Jesus tells us not to let our hearts be troubled; to trust in Him because he is our Way, our Truth and our Life.
We are here to remember and celebrate the life of Sr. Teresa Imelda – or Marian as her family knew her – and if anything defined her life it was her trust in God in every aspect and moment and event of her life. Born in 1935, she spent almost 60 years as a Sister of Charity and throughout those years she was a resurrection woman in a very real sense. While her suffering, pain and poor health were very much a Good Friday experience and she spent much of her latter years with Jesus on the Cross, her attitudes and presence and selfless love reflected the love of Jesus. Her presence to all of us was loving and life-giving and full of faith.
It is easy to love at a distance. But that was never Imelda’s way. She loved in the minutes and hours of every day. Her love was wholehearted, practical and sensible. Everywhere she lived – in Ballaghadereen, Kilkenny, Tramore, Howth but especially in her beloved Cork where she spent 27 years – she fed those who were hungry, she wiped the tears of those in pain and sorrow, she eased the worries of so many, she consoled and comforted hearts that were sore and weary, she listened and advised and prayed. And she did this in a loving service that knew no boundaries. There is a poem by Richard Murphy that describes the death of a man who loved in that way. If I take poetic license by substituting her for him, the poem could be about Imelda and I quote:
There was no air too foul for her to breathe, no pit too dark to enter,
yet her very breathing made the foul air pure.
Her presence made the darkest day feel clear;
Because her kind of life taught me to live, her dying I forgive.
(Tony White by Richard Murphy)
The hymns for todays Mass are so appropriate for the woman we are celebrating. All who knew Imelda, knew her as unfailingly good-humoured, a woman who was able to laugh, to relax, to enjoy her beloved music. As the opening hymn said: her heart was filled with song.
Part of the richness of her life was her relationship with her family whom she loved deeply, prayed for constantly and always welcomed happily. All of us watched her growing ill health these past years with dismay and distress and were grateful for those who cared for her in Baldoyle, Loyola and here in the Hospice with great respect for her dignity and privacy.
Above all we celebrate the reality that all her life, God was her rock, her shield, her strength, her refuge, her life, her Good Shepherd, her love, her ALL. She answered the final call of the Good Shepherd last Wednesday in the Anna Gaynor wing, yielding her spirit to the Lord, peace-filled, calm and trusting – blest with a death that had no struggle, no pain, no fear.
So we remember and give thanks for her: for the gift she has been to us; for the fact that Service of the Poor marked her life and echoed in all the choices she made as she gave herself to those whom she served. Now she is gone from us but we are the better for having known and loved her. Jesus has surely turned her sorrow to joy and filled her soul with a new song.
We give thanks for the fact that she was a true daughter of Mary Aikenhead and I finish by using some words of Mary Aikenhead’s which sum up the life of Imelda:
“. . . come what may we can surely trust him. . . . as long as we try to do our little best for those whom He so loved, we can always count on Him with entire confidence, always, always. . .”
She trusted him. She did her best. She counted on Him. She gave her life in love and service of others. Now she is with Him in the fullness of His life and love.
May she rest in peace.