Monday, October 17, 2011

Into Your Hands, O Lord, We Commend Our Sister, Eucharia

At long last the line has been restored to Rathkenny - a week without internet - call it a retreat, call it frustrating, call it a relief - anyway, I'm back online.    The last week has been very eventful in Ireland and abroad - I am not going to do a broad sweep of what has happened - I don't have the energy, but for us in the Fraternity it has been a sad few days - one of our founding Councillors passed away on Friday:  Sr Eucharia Kenny, RSM.

Sr Eucharia was there on the first night when a group of people gathered to help a mad priest decipher the ideas which had been coming to him for three years.  She was a bastion of common sense and prayer. 

Sr Eucharia was born Bea Kenny in Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, on the 19th January 1927 - we have only found out that she shares the same birthday as the Fraternity which was founded on that day 80 years after her coming into the world!   She never sought to draw attention to herself, so she kept her birthday to herself.  She discerned a vocation to nursing, and so trained as a General Nurse.  It was during this time that she heard the Lord call her, and so she entered the Sisters of Mercy to offer her life to God in the service of the sick in imitation of the Venerable Catherine McAuley.

After spending a number of years in a hospital, her superiors decided to send her to the US, to a new foundation in New Jersey.  She was sent with no money in her pocket. She often told us of how she got from Ireland to the US by air with not even a few dollars for tea and a sandwich!  When she arrived she discovered that the community did not need a nurse but a teacher.  So, as enthusiastic as ever, she launched into a training course to prepare her to teach, and so began a new "career" within the congregation.  She was well loved by her students and she enjoyed her time in the States.

With much good work done, she was reappointed to Ireland, and she was sent to the community in Drogheda where she embarked on a ministry among the sick and elderly as a pastoral sister.  She spent a great deal of time in the Cottage Hospital, helping the staff there to look after the patients and those who came for day care.  She was always at the centre of things, and I remember many great Christmas parties with her in the Day Care Centre.

With her work in the service of the sick, Sr Eucharia heard a call to another area of service: that of artistic endeavour.  She was gifted with artistic ability, which led her to the art of the Icon.  Learning from a master, she wrote a number of beautiful Icons, entering into the spirituality of the sacred art, praying and fasting as she worked.   As a woman of deep prayer, she brought her spirituality into the writing of these "windows of the light of heaven".   When we were looking for an Icon of St Genesius I had asked her to write it, but in her humility she felt that it was a task which was beyond her, and so asked her master to do it.  She did, however, paint a painting of the martyr.

Sr Eucharia was, as her name suggests, a woman of the Eucharist. She spent a great deal of time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament each day, never missed Holy Mass, and was devoted to the Rosary.  We often spoke about the Scriptures, and she shared her insights: she led a Lectio Divina group in Drogheda for many years.  Sr Eucharia was a faithful religious, though many in her congregation, sadly, abandoned the habit and veil, she continued to wear them as the outward symbol of her interior consecration to Christ.  She was sister of simple life, embracing poverty and cherishing obedience.  

She has been a great blessing to the Fraternity: she was in charge of the apostolate for epilepsy, and she was forever using her skills and contacts to reach out to those with epilepsy to make them aware of their patron St Genesius.  Frequently she was on the phone looking for more Blessed Oil of St Genesius or prayer cards for the sick or Blessed Linen.  She brought sick people for a blessing with the Relics of St Genesius, and noticed that our saint was working hard among those who suffered from the condition.  Her advice, support and prayer were invaluable to the Fraternity.  She was forever coming up with new ideas.

Despite the strength of her spirit, Sr Eucharia's body was in decline, and her health was failing. Just over a year ago she had to leave her community to enter a nursing home, there her health declined even more.   In the last few months she was in and out of hospital: her death on Friday last was a shock, but not totally unexpected.  Her last moments confirmed her life lived in the mystery of the Eucharist.  She received the Last Rites, and then Viaticum.  A few moments later, with the Lord still sacramentally present within her, she died peacefully. 

May the Lord grant this faithful servant everlasting sight of his Face, and reward her for labours.  As we thank her for her generous service to the Fraternity, we pray that the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St Genesius may receive her.  May she intercede for our family of prayer, and guide us, and watch over all our members and those we serve, especially her beloved sick. 

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord,
and may perpetual light shine upon her,
may she rest in peace.  Amen.

Thank you, dear Sr Eucharia, for all you have done for us.  May God grant us the joy of seeing you again in his eternal kingdom.

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