Sister Thomasina Cosgrave
1934 – 2014
Born: 10th March 1934
Entered Religious Life: 27th June 1955
Died: 20th June 2014
An appreciation of Sr Thomasina Cosgrave
The reflection given by Sr Úna O’Neill RSC at the Eucharistic Celebration
to celebrate Sr Thomasina’s life and death
Gardiner Street Church Dublin
24th June 2014
Everything about the Liturgy today reflects the faith and fidelity of the woman whose life we are celebrating. She would be delighted to see so many gathered here this morning: her family whom she loved so well and who have been so faithful to her down through the years, the Sisters who shared her life and commitment, her co-workers and many friends, her students and associates. We all have our memories of her but in a very real sense she was much more than the sum of them. The Readings point us to a deeper remembering . . . remembering so that we can learn from her and give thanks to God for her and for the extraordinary gifts she shared so generously throughout her life.
In the second reading we are told: “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us “. Thomasina lived that love every day of her life – a love that led her from home and family in Co. Meath to Milltown in Dublin, to Kilkenny and Cork, to Chester in England, to St. Vincent’s, Crumlin, Baldoyle, Lakelands, Basin Lane, Harold’s Cross and finally these last years to Temple Street.
Thomasina had a heart that embraced all who were on the margins and a love that knew no boundaries. She also had an imagination that devised many schemes to get what she thought was needed for those whom she served. Sometimes her schemes went beyond comfortable boundaries but always, always her intent was to serve others. She had little patience with systems that did not serve her purposes and it is amazing how many agencies and individuals yielded to her persuasions when she needed to bypass rules and regulations!
She was a rare woman in that in that she had little or no appreciation of her own giftedness and generosity (though she was very definite in her opinions!). She rarely thought of herself or her own needs. She never looked for adulation or praise and when it was offered she dismissed it immediately. And, like all of us, she suffered. She suffered particularly in her efforts to understand and live her life as well as she could and she suffered in her sense of helplessness in the face of other’s suffering and pain.
At the same time she was well able to celebrate and we remember her happiness at the celebration of her golden jubilee some years ago and her 80th birthday last March. Among other things she loved her involvement with the Association of Remedial teachers and travelled enthusiastically to all their conferences and meetings. She enjoyed the theatre and good literature. She loved a good discussion but what she called discussion many of us would have called argument! She would be provocative in her comments in order to get a reaction and it was interesting to watch the uninitiated rise to the challenge only to lose out to her conviction that she was right! Poetry was always a consolation and inspiration for her. In recent weeks she found consolation in a poem by Des Hartford called Briared Daffodil. The last four verses read:
The Risen Lord lives within
Like briared daffodil bursting forth.
Believe and be at peace.
In the Gospel we are told: “Do not let your heart be troubled and do not let them be afraid” and that was true of Thomasina’s final weeks. She lived these past two months with grace and gratitude. Her desire to remain with the community in Temple Street was readily fulfilled and Sr. Helen and the Sisters there gifted her with a care and compassion that respected her freedom and her choices. She had many visitors, especially from her family and friends and those visits brought her great happiness. But being Thomasina she also had a number of projects to complete before she died and this she accomplished. She also wrote numerous thank you cards to many of her friends and students. About three weeks ago she still had 30 to write!
And then she was ready to go. And in her going, the Lord fulfilled his promise, made in today’s gospel, and she was peaceful to the end. She was intrigued at the blending of two worlds – this one and the next. She used the image of crossing a bridge: she was walking confidently across, and while the other side was shrouded in mist, she was happy to keep going because she sensed that on that other side she would indeed, in the words of the Psalm, find green pastures, contented repose and that she would want for nothing.
She crossed the bridge on Friday morning, yielding her spirit to the Lord, peacefilled and content – blest with a death that had no struggle, no pain, no fear. Her longing for understanding is now fulfilled. In the letter of St. John we are told: “I know that my Redeemer lives . . . When I awake . . . I shall look on God. These eyes shall gaze on Him and find Him not a stranger but a friend.” She chose that passage because it contains the promise that in death the mystery of life would be revealed and one can only imagine her relief and wonder and delight when at last she looked on God and found him not a stranger but a friend.
In recent times she revisited a passage from Karl Rahner which expresses that longing and I will quote it now:
God will be the final word…
Then will begin the great silence
in which no other sound will be heard
but you O Word resounding from eternity to eternity. . .
Being and knowing, understanding and experience
will have become one and the same. . .
No more human words, no more concepts,
no more pictures will stand between us.
You Yourself (O God) will be the one exultant word of love and life filling out every corner of my soul.”
(Prayers for a Lifetime, p. 18.)
We pray that God is now the one exultant word of love and life filling out every corner of her being.
May she rest in peace.