Farewell to Sr. Mary Catherine Sullivan, 18th January 2021
Good afternoon and welcome. We are gathered today to bid farewell to a very special person, a woman of great simplicity, humility and gentleness, Sr Mary Catherine O’Sullivan. Today, due to the COVID pandemic and the restrictions in place, sadly so few of us can be here in this chapel in person to bid her farewell at this funeral mass.
Our sincere condolences to Sr Mary Catherine’s family who are here – her brother-in-law Maurice, her niece Anne, and grandnieces. Failte to you all; we are very happy that you can be here today. To her sister Pauline and 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. Mary Catherine was always very close to and knew she was greatly loved and supported by you, her family. Welcome and thanks also to Fr Hugh Harkin SMA, our celebrant today.
We are gathered in prayer with all the OLA Sisters of Ardfoyle, including those joining us today from the Infirmary or the Community Room or other parts of this Community where Mary Catherine was a member for the past number of years. Also joined with us are OLA Sisters from our other communities both in Ireland and abroad, our SMA Fathers, and so many others who would all be here under normal circumstances. We are indeed very sorry to see Sr Mary Catherine depart from us, but we thank God for the gift that she was, for her long life of almost eighty-four years, lived in the service of God and others, and with faith we entrust her back to God.
Mary Catherine, at that time Margaret O Sullivan, left her home in Knocknagown, Rylane, Co Cork, on the 6th September 1956 to join the OLA Sisters, at the age of nineteen, shortly after finishing in the Loreto Secondary School in Fermoy. As she said herself, she wanted to ‘be a missionary Sister and would like to go to Africa’. She had considered religious life for a few years, had prayed to the Sacred Heart and Our Lady, and after a visit to the Grotto in Knock, she felt sure that God was calling her to be an OLA. At her birth she was one of triplets, the other two unfortunately died almost immediately, so it was indeed a gift from God that the then baby Margaret survived and grew to be the wonderful gift to her family, the OLA and indeed the world that she was.
Mary Catherine’s devotion to Our Lady and to the Sacred Heart remained with her through all her years as an OLA, years during which her wish to go to Africa was never to be realised due to health reasons. After her profession in March 1959, she helped for some months in the sacristy here in Ardfoyle, and then some months in the kitchen in the SMA House in Blackrock. She was then sent to work for a year in the laundry in Mount Mellaray, followed by seven years in Ardfoyle working in the Crown Fund which involved corresponding with people who support the OLA Mission in Africa and send their intentions requesting prayers. Being a committed and faithful letter writer all her life, up until the end, this ministry would certainly have suited Mary Catherine. In 1967, she was sent to Northern Ireland to work in the kitchens in the SMA House in Dromantine for three years. In 1970 she went to Cathal Brugha Street, Dublin to do a course in Institutional Catering, followed by some months helping in the OLA house then in London. From 1971 to 1990, she was an assistant in the kitchen in the OLA Community in Rostrevor, a house where guests came to spend some time in silence and rest. In December 1990 she moved back to Ardfoyle, where until some few months ago when she had to move to the infirmary, she continued to cater for the needs of the community in whatever way she could. She was also very involved with a prayer group that used to meet in Ardfoyle on Wednesdays and was very faithful to praying the community daily Rosary.
Mary Catherine was never asked to go to Africa, but she lived a full life of service here in Ireland, taking on all the Ministries assigned to her with a willing heart and carrying them out in her gentle, kind, humble, faithful, way, never assuming anything for herself and grateful for whatever little thing anyone did for her. These are the qualities we are all asked to live as we seek to follow Christ and make known the compassion and love of God for all people. Indeed, Mary Catherine, a woman of prayer and humble service, is a true example of following the path of Christ as taught to us in todays’ Gospel: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth; Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Her recent illness greatly and quickly weakened Mary Catherine, but she was calm and at peace, grateful as always for the help and care given to her by the infirmary staff. I have no doubt at all that she went straight from her infirmary bed into the loving embrace of God.
Before I finish, I take this opportunity to thank Nurse Joan and all the staff in the Infirmary as well as Sr. Katherine and the House Council here in Ardfoyle who show such respectful care and compassion daily to our elderly and infirm sisters. I also thank Sr Mary Catherine’s family for having been so good to her throughout her life and especially during these last years. May she now, reunited in heaven with her parents, her siblings and all who have gone before her, send many blessings from above.
I now hand you over to Fr Hugh to lead us in our Eucharist.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir.
Kathleen McGarvey OLA
Read by Sr Maura Cranney, Assistant Provincial Leader