Today, we Columban Sisters are united in sorrow with all of you in the Fay family, Paddy, Carmel, Kathleen, Joe and Harriet, and all Marie’s nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews and her many friends.
We have come together today to celebrate the life and death of Marie – a life that was lived to the full and a death that came more quickly than any of us expected but like so much of Marie’s life, a death that was very simple and quiet. In an article she wrote for the Far East magazine a few years ago, Marie said, ‘If I had a hundred lives, I would wish to spend them as a missionary.’ Marie had only one life but it was a life totally dedicated to sharing with others the love of God. The motto she chose at her Final Profession, ‘Heart of Jesus, Thy Kingdom come through Mary’ was surely her focus and guiding light throughout her life.
Marie was born into and brought up in the Fay family, a family of deep faith and a perfect environment for the nurturing of a missionary vocation. Attracted to and inspired by the China mission, she joined the Columban Sisters and on her entrance day, was all set to convert all 600 million in China, as she said herself. I’m sure it was a great disappointment to her that she was not to see China but instead was sent to the US where her excellent teaching skills came to the fore.
After several years in the US, she was sent to Peru where, for a time, she ministered in Recuay, a mountainous area where the Shining Path terrorist movement was active. I first met Marie when she was home on holiday from Recuay. At that time she didn’t share with me any fears she might have had for her safety there. Oh no – what Marie had to share was her accomplishment in learning the Scots dialect from her two Scottish companions in community. She took great delight in telling me that the Bishop was a wee dote and that she no longer ate spring onions but sybies. You probably need to be Scottish to understand this! It was in Peru and later in Chile that Marie’s enjoyment of life was given full expression. Entering fully into the Peruvian and Chilean capacity for celebration and enjoyment, she said she had never danced so much as when she was there.
These last several years, Marie spent in Ireland in very active retirement – always ready with a warm welcome when she was in the community in Eglinton Road and more recently in Ballymun, where she plunged herself into parish life, involving herself in activities and services too numerous to mention. Told with concern that she should slow down, she was known to retort that she didn’t know how much time she had left so she wanted to do as much as possible. In the first reading this morning we heard, ‘Our gifts differ according to the grace given us.’ As all who were acquainted with her knows, Marie was not only a woman of many gifts, she put them to full use. Ever open to the grace offered by God, she discovered in her later years a gift for painting and her art work now graces the walls of many of our communities and your homes.
In addition to her numerous parish activities of these last few years, Marie was extremely generous in offering to do our Columban mission appeals to which she brought her usual enthusiasm, passion and interest in people. She seemed to like nothing better than to be standing behind a lectern like this and her appeals were always sure to touch people’s hearts, not to mention her singing of the Hail Mary in Spanish.
A few years ago, she and I did several appeals together. I would be driving and Marie would be sitting beside me with the map on her knee. I’m afraid she wasn’t a very good co-pilot so invariably we would pass signposts or landmarks we had been told to look out for and the journey would take longer than we had expected.
When this memory came to my mind in the last few days I had to smile. And then I realized – Marie might not have been a great map reader when it came to the roads in the diocese of Clogher or Cashel and Emily, but it was a different story when it came to the road of life. On this road, she never got lost and her sense of direction was sure and straight. As she said in that Far East article, ‘Over and over I have heard the call’ and it was this call that drew her ever more closely to the God whom she has served so faithfully and lovingly all her life.
Marie’s journey is now at an end and we will all miss her in many different ways. In one sense, she has gone from us but as believers in the Resurrection, we know that she will always be with us, inspiring us to follow her example of generosity, her zeal for Christ’s mission to the world and her sheer enjoyment of life, no matter what it might bring or offer us.
These last few weeks were not easy for Marie but she faced her illness, pain and weakness with great courage, always managing a smile and never complaining. I visited her in her room when she came to Magheramore a few months ago and with a sense of awe in her voice, she told me, ‘I always wondered what God would have in store for me.’ That sense of wonder stayed with her right to the end and we can be forever grateful to her because she showed us how to live the words we hear Jesus say to us today, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me.’