Sister Teresa Wadding
1924 – 2013
Born: 27th June 1924
Entered Religious Life: 4th October 1949
Died: 29th March 2013
An appreciation of Sr Teresa Wadding
The homily given at Sr. Teresa’s Funeral Mass by her brother Fr. George Wadding C.Ss.R.
What a powerful promise Jesus made to us! “My Father’s will is that I lose nothing of all that he has given to me….(So,) whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life…” And despite this promise, when a loved one dies we invariably think of death as an enemy. It brings sorrow and pain to loved ones… But death can also be seen as a friend as a door that opens into paradise, as a full stop to life’s sorrows and disappointments, as the reward that crowns life’s struggle and brings us the eternal life guaranteed us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Good Pope John XXIII wrote in his diary: “Death is a golden step towards our fatherland, towards one’s holy friends and relatives who come to meet us, towards the embrace of the Blessed Virgin, towards the vision of God and eternal possession of him. O Happy Death! You are the gate of heaven, a birth to true life.” I have no doubt that Teresa’s leaving us on Good Friday was such a happy event. Like the good thief on the cross she heard the Lord whisper in her ear, “this day you will be with me in paradise.” And there were plenty of family and friends in paradise there to greet her.
Teresa was the fourth in a family of thirteen children. She was the longest lived of all those who died before her. To live to 88 in our family is a first class miracle in itself. Her death brings to ten the number of her siblings who have completed their earthly pilgrimage and returned to the Father.
She and Kathleen always wanted to enter religious life but postponed it until the family was sufficiently settled and cared for after our parents’ deaths. Though a child myself, I have good memories of Teresa at home – particularly, her good humour. I remember her standing before a mirror making faces at herself to get us all laughing. Her mad half-hour she used to call it. To the end of her days she loved a good laugh and her smile rarely left her. And all that despite the fact that at times she tethered on the edge of religious scruples.
Teresa (or Sr. Mary des Victoires, as she was then called) blossomed in religious life. She left school at inter-cert level but came into her own when she qualified as a social worker. She displayed those great qualities that St. Paul listed in our second reading this morning: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
She thrived in her work in Hoxton (near Hackney in London), and later in Bristol, then in Rock Ferry near Liverpool; and, after she was officially retired, she went to Marycrest (Los Angeles) to work for a further 14 years. Without work in her latter years she was a bit lost, but found some relief working in St. Anthony’s Guild until the ascending years eventually took their toll and she accepted the inevitable.
Let me briefly mention two qualities which I think were the hallmark of her personality: her enormous capacity for friendship with colleagues in the Congregation and with her relatives and friends even from pre-convent days. The other quality was her story-telling. Her friends among the Sisters knew more about our family than some of ourselves did. And we learned a lot about Sr. Anne Lally, Kathleen Newell and Margaret Mary and many others of yourselves…
Particularly, when she talked about cases she had encountered in her social work, her stories would digress up by-ways and down slip-roads and around detours until the main road almost disappeared in a haze of parentheses. She got used to me saying to her, “Teresa, I’m losing you; come out of the footnotes.” In a sense, in these stories Teresa was simply re-living and celebrating her own life.
After the Vatican Council, like many religious, Teresa could not get enough renewal. She attended course after course and lecture after lecture in England and America. Even after she retired the second time and returned to Ireland she attended a three-month renewal course with us in Marianella. She simply could not get enough.
She also loved shopping for a bargain, but shopping with her was a nightmare. Leave her side for one second and she vanished down the aisles of modem labyrinthine superstores. Annoying at the time, but laughable afterwards! … But these are stories for another time and another place.
Teresa loved God. She served him faithfully, especially in the poor. But the wealthy also get sick and old and need a comforting presence which Teresa provided in her years in L.A. She walked faithfully in the spirit of Mother Mary Aikenhead. And I’ve no doubt that Mary Aikenhead was head of the long, long queue of people who were waiting to welcome Teresa into her promised haven. As the first reading said: “Happy are those who die in the Lord! Happy indeed, the Spirit says, now they can rest forever after their work, since their good deeds go with them.”
It was sad to see her losing her powers at the end – not remembering people she truly cared about. But, let us think of her, not on her Good Friday Cross but on her Easter Resurrection day.
“Think (of her)
Stepping on shore, and finding it heaven;
taking hold of a hand, and finding it God’s hand;
breathing new air, and finding it celestial air;
feeling invigorated, and finding it immortality;
passing from storm and tempest to an unbroken calm;
(think of her)
waking up, and finding it home…”
where she now rests in peace with her parents, her brothers and sisters, the members of her religious family, and many, many more! So, may it be! Amen.