Sr Rosarii O’Sulluvan was called home to God on Tuesday. Sr Rosarri would have celebrated her 104th birthday in March. She is deeply regretted by her niece, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews and all the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles. A Requiem Mass to celebrate Sr. Rosarri’s life was held on was held at 2.00pm on Friday, 19th January, at Ardfoyle Convent. 

In our thoughts and prayers, we hold dear the memories we’ve shared with her. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Below are the words of farewell by our Provincial Leader, Kathleen McGarvey OLA.

Farewell to Sr. Rosarii O’Sullivan, 19th January 2024

Good afternoon and welcome. We are gathered today to bid farewell to Sr Rosarii O Sullivan, a Limerick Lady, who was blessed to live to the great age of almost 104 years, eighty of which she lived as an OLA Sister. Welcome to her niece Marian, her nephews Paddy and James, her very faithful friends the O’Shea’s, and all the other relatives, neighbours and friends who are here with us today. Also, to all the OLA Sisters here gathered, to our staff who cared for Rosarii here in our infirmary for so many of her last years, and to the SMA Fathers with us today to celebrate this mass of farewell and thanksgiving. We are of course saddened to see such a fine woman taken from us, but we are grateful for her long and fruitful life, her beautiful person, her impact on our lives and on that of so many others especially in Nigeria and in Ireland, and with faith we entrust her back to God to whom she had committed her life many years ago. Today she joins her parents Thomas and Ellen, her sisters, Mary, and Sr Liam, as well as so many relatives, friends, OLAs, and others who walked the journey of life with her. May they all rejoice to be reunited in heaven.

When Sr Rosarii applied to Ardfoyle way back in July 1944, she signed her letter as Peggy O’Sullivan, so that must have been the name she was then known by. Over these past almost 104 years, Athea, Limerick, Ireland, Nigeria, and indeed the world at large is a very different place. So much has happened, and so much has changed. Whether or not we can say the world has progressed, is an open question. Surely, in some ways it has, while in many others it has not. However, we are sure that for a great many people the world has been, and is, a better place because of Sr Rosarii. I have received many messages from OLA Sisters, Sisters of Our Lady of Fatima, and others expressing their condolences and those of her past students in Barkin Ladi, Marymount in Agbor, Kaduna, Akwanga, Shendam, Jos, all parts of Nigeria where Rosarii lived and ministered. Cardinal John Onaiyekan, whose sister Mary was one of Rosarii’s students, sent a letter of condolence and said “we shall continue to treasure her memory as a pioneer of girl-child education in Northern Nigeria”. And I echo his words where he said “She has been a great gift of God not only to the OLA Sisters and her natural family, but to us who were blessed with getting to know her in different stages of her long life”.

Some years ago, she wrote an article entitled “A Missionary Remembers” and in it she summed up the story of her life in two words “Deo Gratias” – “As I look back over the years all I can say is “thank God”. This article, like so much else that she wrote including her quite detailed Memoirs, is evidence of a deep, intelligent, reflective woman of faith, a woman who was well-read, had her feet on the ground, loved the OLA congregation and community life, loved mission, and was herself happy and fulfilled. Recalling when she first set foot in Africa in 1951, she quoted and paraphrased Wordsworth saying: “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, But to be young (and a missionary) very heaven”. She loved people and had great respect for their culture and religion and she recognised how she herself had been blessed and shaped by them. Speaking about her almost forty years in Nigeria working as a teacher, administrator, formator, catechetics director, and in many other fields, she said “So, like Ulysses, “I’m part of all I’ve met”, enriched and energised by these cheerful, friendly people, generous in poverty, patient and hopeful in adversity, and always grateful”.

Rosarii herself often quoted her sister, Sr Liam, who was also an OLA and was very much loved by Rosarii. Sr Liam used to say: “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved”. Rosarii lived the mystery of life with great faith, openness, commitment, love, and grace – including her dependence on care in these last years; at all times she believed the Lord knows best. She herself prepared her funeral mass; she chose the readings, the hymns, and the reflection from Helen Steiner Rice printed at the back of the Mass booklet where we read that “death is just another step along life’s changing way – just a gateway to a new and better day”. We thank God for Sr Rosarii and we trust that she is now continuing the journey of the mystery of life into “this vast and great unknown”, “the Promised Land of God”, resting in “the loving Father’s care.

Fr Eddie O’Connor, our main celebrant today, worked with Sr Rosarii for many years in Nigeria, and he has also been a very good friend to her while here in Ardfoyle.  So, I now hand you over to Eddie to lead us in our Eucharist. 

Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir.

Kathleen McGarvey OLA,
Provincial Leader