The Funeral Mass took place in the Convent Chapel on Thursday, 20 May. Below you will find the Homily given at the Mass by Sr Redempta Twomey.
May she rest in peace
On Tuesday morning as we gathered here to pray we learned that our little sister, Genevieve had slipped away less than an hour beforehand. Outside the magnolia petals and the cherry blossoms were already floating away these lovely May days and now it seemed, with that same softness, Genevieve too gently took her leave. No longer will her elfin person weave in and out among us, charming us with her droll humour, startling us with her witty observations.
We will all miss her greatly but none more than her loved family to whom we reach out in sympathy. This precious sister was not the only missionary in the family; her zeal and commitment were shared by her brothers and sisters. Embracing not only Genevieve and her mission, but the whole Columban community, they were, they are, tireless in their support, encouraging, praying, fund raising. At the annual Sale of Work you could always be sure of the strong and generous presence of the Hickey clan. You shared Genevieve’s spirit; you will surely share in her blessings.
After she left school in her home town of Mullingar, Genevieve got a position in the Civil Service. Cycling to and from work in Dublin, she quickly learned the detailed procedures required in the Post Office at the time, skills which were to last her throughout her life. But there was something drawing her to take another road. It was on reading the little magazine the sisters published at the time, ‘Star of the East’ that her thoughts first turned to Cahiracon and the Missions. ‘I have little to recommend me,’ she wrote, ‘but if I could be useful in any way, I’d like to become a member.’ Well, that ‘little’ was like the mustard seed of the Gospel, it was all that the Lord asked for. ‘I hope,’ she wrote, ‘to receive the grace to persevere to the end of the journey, like the Wise Men did.’ Born on the eve of the Epiphany, she identified with these searching, journeying Magi. And, as we stand by her coffin today, we thank God for that grace of perseverance richly given, so faithfully treasured and deepened over the years.
After her first vows she undertook training as a laboratory technician in preparation for her mission in Korea. There, in the Sisters’ hospital she was one of a dedicated team, serving the poor and the sick in Mopko. Day after day she did the detailed analysis of specimens required by the medical staff, always with the thoroughness that distinguished her. ‘You could always be certain that Genevieve’s reports were utterly reliable, with no margin for error,’ one of the Sisters who worked with her told me. The precision and detail of her work was demanding but she never lacked in concentration or allowed herself to be distracted from the work. The Korean people always had a special place in her heart and she gave of her best to them.
Genevieve’s next assignment took her to the other end of the planet, to the US. In Boston she undertook promotion work, fund raising and transferring money to the missions. As bursar hers was a weighty responsibility, keeping meticulous accounts and, as one of her community said, she was never, ever a penny astray! (We wouldn’t be missing our billions if Gen had been head of the banks here!) The community valued her skills at shopping, she knew where the bargains were and though prudent, she was generous in her buying. The neighbours too called on her as she seemed to be able to make the dollar go further. Up and down the street she was well known for her kindness and practical help for the elderly. In the same spirit she was the loyal helper of Fr Dunne, the blind Columban, assisting him in his wide correspondence and the many projects he undertook. All this was done unobtrusively year in, year out.
Gentle and serene in her manner, Genevieve was fabulously witty, having the apt phrase, the precise quotation whatever the occasion. She made you laugh with her memorable phrases, ‘Holy cow!’ being a favourite. Crosswords were a delight and of course, in this community especially, playing cards. Every evening she took a hand and more often than not, she won. Even on the eve of her death she played and her favourite partner and namesake, Genevieve Blanchfield, told me she trumped them all.
In 2005 she came back to Ireland. Her memory was failing, but still, she was able to go to Mullingar every weekend to be with her sister Alice who was so ill. Gradually her mental acuity diminished but this seemed never to distress her. She floated through the days, landing gently among people who loved her. The nursing staff, in particular, wove a mantle of care around her, saw that she was always at ease and without anxiety. Only a week or so ago she said to someone that ‘God takes me just as I am.’ That same acceptance with which she had walked the road of discipleship, following her star, allowed her now to experience the truth of Jesus’ word, ‘Another will bind you’, in this case Alzheimers, without complaint. In some way the diminishment of her physical and mental powers seemed to release in her a wisdom, a quiet joy that is the Spirit’s gift. It is surely a profound spiritual experience to feel oneself so totally in God’s hands. In these final years, she was living fully the richness and depth of her motto: ‘Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come.’
Two days before she died Genevieve told one of her older companions, with quiet assurance and that impish smile, ‘There is a great welcome awaiting us in God.’ This is her parting gift to all of us, this trust, this resting in God’s loving presence, however frail we may be. And for this, and for all that she meant to us, let me say, on behalf of all of us here, of all who knew her, in words which were her common currency, “ Dear Gen, Thank you kindly.”