Today, August 22nd 2015, we celebrated the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of four Columban Sisters.
Sr. Rose Gallagher, welcomes everybody:
“On behalf of the Sisters here in Magheramore, it is my great privilege to welcome you all.
Especially our Jubilarians, Nuala, Stephanie, Kathleen and Mary.
A warm welcome to you… Nuala’s family and friends, to our Columban priest friends and to our sisters who have travelled to be with us today.Thank you all for coming.
The cause of our joy, our gratitude, and our celebration today is that between them, our Jubilarians, have given 230 years of Missionary Service.
And during those years we can imagine God’s delight in holding full sway in their hearts, and then, laying their hidden treasures at the feet of the poor….
to ennoble, empower and enrich lives deemed worthless and undeserving.
And how right it is for us to turn now to this God of extravagant generosity and quiet ways to say thanks through the Eucharist
for all God has done in and through these our Sisters.
We are indeed blest to have our Columban brothers con-celebrating…
with Fr. Pat Raleigh, Regional Director in Ireland, who will lead us in the Liturgy.
And before we begin, let us bring into this sacred space and into our hearts our unseen guests…
The peoples from across the globe who have enriched our lives as missionaries and who continue to struggle
for dignified livelihoods… may their burdens be eased…
And also those who are joining us from Heaven… parents, and family members… especially Kathleen and Aidan who are close by
and whose prayers continue to mind, guide and bless beyond measure.
And finally – being a day of joyful celebration we invite you all to join with full voice in singing the Hymns in the Mass Booklet.”
Photos of the Jubiliarians with Columban Sisters and Columban Fathers.
Below was the Homily given by Sr. Redempta Twomey
Magheramore August 22, 2015
Golden Jubilee: Nuala Raleigh
Diamond Jubilee: Kathleen McHugh, Stephanie King, Mary Nugent
On this sunny August day, the feastday of Mary our Queen, we welcome all of you to join us in this lovely Jubilee celebration of Nuala, Kathleen, Stephanie and Mary. Here too with us, we can be sure, are those who are now with the Lord, those we have loved and who loved us, parents, family and friends. We remember especially Nuala’s brother, Aidan, who died so recently. We hold all of them in our heart with faith and with gratitude this special moment.
Not only is this their Jubilee year, but it is also the Year of Consecrated Life when we are encouraged to look well at our lives, and ‘stir up’ as St Paul would say, that essential spirit which first drew us to Christ. It is a call that, even when we are no longer at our athletic best, continues to draw us forward with the hope that never fades, the love that opens the heart, the joy that overflows. And, to be noted also, this is the 1,400 anniversary of that great missionary, St Columban. So, for our quartet here today, songs must surely be spilling over. And in us too who are blessed to be here with them.
“A committed missionary knows the joy of being a spring which spills over and refreshes others. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary.” (EG 272)
These words from Pope Francis’ letter, Evangelii Gaudium, ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, could be spoken of each of our four Jubilarians here with us today – Nuala Raleigh, from Limerick, celebrating her Golden Jubilee, and Kathleen McHugh, from Galway, Stephanie King from Boston, and Mary Nugent from Co Meath, their Diamond Jubilee. Their lives, like springs of water have refreshed and restored many, not least ourselves, as they journeyed through the decades. It is a life-giving image bringing us back to those words of Jesus in St John’s gospel, “Whoever believes in me, as scripture says, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” (Jn 8:37).
All four sisters spent years in Asia; Kathleen, Stephanie and Mary in Korea and Nuala in Hong Kong. The embracing of different cultures, the challenge of learning new languages and tasting new foods, the upturning of fixed ideas and opening to the new – all this was gift and grace and, while not without pain and loneliness at times, proved in the end to be the forging of their spirit in Christ. The weave of their lives, incorporating the threads and hues of the stories of the people they lived with and loved and served, became a pattern of rich and vibrant colour. The hours of prayer and contemplation revealed the on-going presence of Christ, the silent work of his Spirit and with this the profound understanding that they were part of Missio Dei, God’s mission and not some noble venture of their own. The motto of St Columban, and our congregation’s motto, became their lived experience: “Let us be Christ’s and not our own.”
Nursing, teaching, social work, chaplaincy, community building, catechesis, office work, home-making – the list is endless, the talents mighty and varied. And all to one end – to make the Lord known and loved. With eyes eternally young, they looked for possibilities in the different, sometimes very stressful, situations they encountered. Possibilities for sowing the
seed, possibilities for true and generous service, possibilities for the Kingdom. Like Mary, in the gospel we just heard, they too travelled hill countries – literally and figuratively – reaching out to those in need. And today they too can sing with her that great song of praise, wonder and thanksgiving, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Sr Stephanie told me that she, Kathleen and Mary celebrated their Silver Jubilee together in Mokpo, South Korea in 1980. And now, unexpectedly and by happy chance, they are together again for their Diamond. Surely the kindness of the Lord. From her throve of memories Stephanie told me that Bishop Harold Henry, who invited the Columban Sisters to Korea, said his only complaint against the sisters was that his priests never got sick until they came! “We owe the Columban Fathers a great debt of gratitude,” she says recalling, as do Mary and Kathleen, how the priests helped them down the years. To see the Korean Church flourish, to witness the charity and good spirit of the people, their loyalty, their vibrant faith, the increase in vocations – all this is a source of joy and thanksgiving today.
In densely packed Hong Kong, Nuala found, in the endless cacophony of noise, the space to touch on deeper things of the spirit. As hospital chaplain she shared the vulnerability of the sick and the poor, listening to their stories, waiting with them in their struggles and ready always to respond to their needs. Her skills as a nurse and a teacher were honed over the years as her many friends will testify. As with our Diamonds, we are all the richer in this house, and in the wider community, not least yourselves here today, because of our Gold.
Jubilee is a powerful image in the Old Testament, when Yahweh called his chosen people to let the land lie fallow, to give it rest. It is a holy time, a time to reclaim the land of our soul; to sit in silence, listening, waiting, receiving. And, as each of the Jubilarians told me, a time above all to look back with gratitude. A time to marvel at God’s action in their lives, from the nurturing by their families, the call to religious life, the urge to be a missionary, right up to the present day. “What return can I make?” the psalmist asks. And St Paul hints at the answer in that first reading from Ephesians: We are chosen and destined to exist for the praise of his glory. And the praise is on-going – in sickness as in health, in a time of letting go as in the time of gathering, in a time of uncertainty as in the time when the road stretched solidly before them. What a different world it is now from that of 50 and 60 years ago when these sisters set out with such faith and courage! With that faith, grown stronger through the years, they are able to embrace the pain and suffering and the lostness of many today, to be peace-makers, witnesses to the compassionate presence of Christ.
So we thank our Jubilarians for the gift they have been and are to all of us. We wish them well as they continue the journey begun so many years ago. We pray them the joy of our ever faithful Lord, the joy of Mary whose song is their song also. May they continue to be like that spring of clear water spilling over and refreshing their own hearts and the hearts of all they meet on the journey.