Farewell to Sr. Bernadette Flynn, 7th January 2021
Good afternoon and welcome. We are gathered today to bid farewell to Sr Bernadette Flynn, a great and gentle lady, a woman who loved life, loved beauty, and despite many health challenges, always lived and enjoyed life to the full. She is known and very fondly remembered by many people, especially in Nigeria and in Ireland, and many are mourning her loss. Today, due to the COVID pandemic and the restrictions in place, sadly so few can be here in this chapel in person to bid farewell to this very special woman at her funeral mass.
Our sincere condolences to Sr Bernadette’s family who are here – her nephews, nieces, grandnieces, and grandnephews. You are all very welcome. Failte too to Fr Eddie O Connor, SMA, our celebrant today. To the many other relatives and friends who cannot be here, we hope you are joined with us online and we send all of you our sincere condolences. Bernadette is the last of her siblings to leave this earth; today may she rejoice in heaven as she is reunited with her parents, her brothers Tadhg and Mickey Joe, and her sisters Nellie, Margaret, Nora, Sr. Mary Barbara, Anna, and Bridie.
We are gathered in prayer with all the OLA Sisters of Ardfoyle, including those joining us today from the Community Room or other parts of Ardfoyle and those united with us in prayer from the Infirmary Community where Bernadette was a member for the past few years. Also joined with us are OLA Sisters from our other communities both in Ireland and abroad especially from Nigeria, our SMA Fathers, and so many others who would all be here under normal circumstances. We are indeed very sorry to see Sr Bernadette depart from us, but we thank God for the gift that she was during her long and full life of over eighty-six years. Today, with faith and thanksgiving we entrust her back to God.
Sr Bernadette was proud to be a Kerry woman. Born and brought up in the beautiful Castlegregory, it is no wonder that she was always so close to, and appreciative of, nature. She entered Ardfoyle in March 1954, a few months before her twentieth birthday. On the 8th September 1956 she made her first profession, where she vowed to give her life to the service of God in Africa as an OLA Sister. Over the years since then, Sr Bernadette was asked to go to many different places, whether in Ireland or Nigeria, serving as a teacher, formator, administrator, bursar and in OLA leadership, and whatever she was asked to do she did it wholeheartedly, generously, graciously, gently, with love, and very well.
She was first sent to UCC to do a BA, followed by the H.Dip in Education. From there in 1963 she set off for Nigeria, where she spent her first missionary tour of three years teaching in the Sacred Heart Training College in Ubiaja. She was then recalled to Ireland to be the Principal for three years in the OLA Secondary School that was then here in Ardfoyle. In both Ubiaja and Ardfoyle, I’m told that, while she demanded very high standards, she was loved and highly respected by both staff and students. In 1969, she was asked to go to Rostrevor to help in the formation of OLA Novices and after one year there, she went to Ballinteer in Dublin to do a training course in religious formation. Then in 1971, she was sent back to Nigeria, this time to Shendam in Plateau State, to form the Novices in the young Nigerian congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Fatima (OLF). She is still very much remembered and loved by the OLF Sisters in whom she was always interested and with whom she always kept in close communication. After six years in Nigeria, including a year in Ibadan doing vocation promotion, she was once again recalled to Ireland where she worked in Ardfoyle from 1976 to 1982, as part of the Provincial Leadership Team, as Ardfoyle Local Superior, and as Novice Mistress. Then she returned again to Nigeria where she was to spend the next sixteen years, from 1982 to 1998, teaching in St Teresa’s College Ibadan, working in Formation in Maryhill novitiate Ibadan, training OLA Postulants in Agbor, serving on the Provincial Leadership Team, and administrating St Anne’s Primary School, Kaduna. I have received many letters and messages of condolence from the OLA Provincial Leader and other OLA Sisters in Nigeria who feel they have lost a very beloved mother and mentor, and who express sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Sr Bernadette for the very positive impact she had on their lives.
In 1998, she left Africa, to return to Ardfoyle as Local Bursar, in what was then a very big community. In 2004, having served as Bursar for six years, she took up responsibility for the Community Dining room and kept it always neat and welcoming. I’m told Bernadette was a beautiful singer but that was stopped when she became more and more reliant on oxygen. Every afternoon, herself and Katherine went for a long walk with the dog. Her long daily walk was also curtailed by a hip replacement in 2015. Despite her increasing respiratory and other health problems, Sr Bernadette, up until just a few weeks ago, went out daily, oxygen tank inside her Zimmer frame, and walked the grounds of Ardfoyle, appreciating the birds, trees, flowers, and all nature’s bounty. Only last August, we had a most memorable day out together in Garretstown beach, loving the sea and the sun, Bernadette taking home a beautiful stone shaped like Africa which she found on the sand. That stone as well as photos of her family, her nieces and nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews, all of whom she was close to and loved dearly, is still in her room. So too is a framed picture of St Bernadette which once belonged to her own mother and which Sr Bernadette cherished dearly.
These past few years she has been in the Infirmary but continued from there in constant communication with her family, as well as her many friends and former students, postulants and novices in Nigeria. She endured frequent health threats over these years but her great inner strength did not allow these to overcome her or dampen her spirit. She even ensured a last brief visit to Ardfoyle from hospital on Friday night, before having to return to CUH on Saturday afternoon in preparation for her final journey to her eternal home on Monday.
The staff in our Infirmary have accompanied and cared for Bernadette so lovingly during these last years and to them we are deeply grateful, for the care they showed to her as they also do to all our other infirm and elderly Sisters. Even during these trying months of COVID-19, our staff in the Infirmary and in this house, true frontline workers, have witnessed to courage, faithfulness, and love. I take this opportunity to thank each one of them just as I thank Sr Katherine and the House Council in Ardfoyle, the doctors who have attended to Bernadette over the years, and the Hospital staff in CUH. A special thanks to you her family for being so supportive and faithful to Bernadette during these years.
May Sr Bernadette, now reunited in heaven with her parents, siblings, and all who have gone before her, send many blessings from above.
I now hand you over to Fr Eddie to lead us in our Eucharist.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir.
Maura Cranney OLA, Assistant Provincial Leader
on behalf of Kathleen McGarvey OLA, Provincial Leader