Sister Teresa Vincent Shea
1922 – 2014
Born: 2nd January 1922
Entered Religious Life: 27th January 1941
Died: 26th July 2014
An appreciation of Sr Teresa Vincent Shea
The reflection given by Sr Úna O’Neill RSC at the Eucharistic Celebration
to celebrate Sr Teresa Vincent’s life and death
Sandymount Church Dublin
30th July 2014
The readings this morning are both comforting and challenging. In the Gospel Jesus speaks of himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. He invites us to put our hope and our trust in Him and in His promise to be with us, steadily and constantly as we try each day to walk his way, to speak his truth, to live his life. It is an apt description of the life and commitment of the woman whom we are remembering here this morning.
For Sr. Teresa Vincent – or Nora as she was baptised – today is the completion of a life history that began on 2nd April 1922 in Caherciveen in Co. Kerry. She was very proud of her Kerry roots and had many of the characteristics associated with those who come from the ‘Kingdom’ – not least of which was pride in her origins there and love and loyalty for her family and friends.
She joined the Sisters of Charity in January 1941 and for more than 70 years she remained steadfastly faithful to the constant core of who she was as a Sister of Charity – committed to Christ and to the service of those who were in need of any kind. The Reading from Ephesians points to the source and focus of her life: “…planted in love and built on love you will have strength to grasp the breadth and the length and the height and the depth of the love of Christ”.
She lived that love of Christ in all her journeying and ministry – a life journey that took her from Milltown to Mountjoy Street to St. Vincent’s Cork; from Walthamstow to St. Patrick’s Kilkenny and then to Milltown, Lakelands and Crumlin. And back again to Lakelands in 2010. Her longest period of time was her 37 years in Milltown – teaching in the secondary school and training the novices in the mysteries of housekeeping – and the 22 years she spent in Crumlin where she did home visitation and adult education. She worked quietly and steadily at whatever was asked of her and her life was peopled by many who benefited from her patient teaching, her generous hospitality and her wry sense of humour.
She was known to many of us as T.V – long before televisions came into our community rooms! T.V. was not versed in the art of political correctness and had little time for small talk. Indeed she was a formidable woman in many ways and had very high standards that proved a little beyond the capabilities of a number of those whom she tried to train in the art of housekeeping a la Sisters of Charity! Many of us Sisters will remember the way she smiled her lovely smile while batting her eyelids and telling us: “Everyone loves you, well for you” or Well to be you and hard to be like you” or “the Congregation was lucky to get such a good catch in you” – And you were never quite sure if she had complemented or insulted you!
Like all of us Sr. Teresa Vincent knew suffering and sadness. Even in her latter years she did not seem to appreciate all the good that she had done and was doing in the service of the poor. But even in the hardest times she was unwavering in her love for God and her trust in his love for her. That steadfast trust in God’s love is expressed in the first reading from Isaiah: “God does not grow tired or grow weary. His understanding is unfathomable. Those who hope in him renew their strength … they run and do not grow weary, walk and never die”.
In these latter years she has known the weakness and lack of energy that is part of aging. Nevertheless she retained her broad interest in world and national affairs. She remained a constant letter writer and was generous in her contributions to those in need overseas. She valued the support of the community in Lakelands and the care she received there – a care that respected her dignity and her privacy. She also valued the many people to whom she had been a loyal and trustworthy friend. They will miss her.
Like many people, she was not inclined to talk about death and was fearful of being incapacitated. So while the suddenness of her departure from this life last Saturday was hard for her family and community – it was a great blessing that the Lord took her so gently and quietly. I can only imagine the welcome she will receive from many who have gone before her – not least her family and parents – but also Srs. Mary Veronica and Aquin and Martha Magdalen, Teresa Emmanuel, Teresa Angela… and the list goes on…
Sr. Teresa Vincent 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 gave her life in love and service of others. Now she is with God in the fullness of His life and love. And so when times are difficult, may we, like her, remember deep in our hearts the promise of Jesus in the second reading: his power in us can do more than we can ask or imagine. . . no matter our fears or our restlessness, our doubts or anxieties, He is with us and will never fail us. This is aptly summed up in the words of our Foundress Mary Aikenhead listed for today: In the Sacred Heart of our Lord you may truly seek and find relief. Amen.
May she rest in peace.