Her motto: Behold the handmaid of the Lord
The Funeral Mass was celebrated on Wednesday, 4 September at 11.30am followed by the Burial in the Convent Cemetery.
Sister Sheila Crowe delivered the Mass Homily, the text of which follows below:
Good day everybody on this beautiful harvest day. The corn growing in the fields all around us, in this area of Wicklow, is ripe and being harvested. I was driving behind one of those big trucks a few days ago and there was the load full and flowing over with the rich corn. So it was with our dear Sr. Fintan, Auntie Biddy to you, her family, the Lord came and called her on Sunday evening when He saw her harvest was ripe and ready for the next stage of her journey.We heard in the gospel just read and chosen by Sister herself, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord.” She has been whisked off to enjoy the Splendour of God as our opening hymn reminded us.
So here we are today gathered to mourn and to celebrate a life very well lived as I hope to attest to in my few words. Biddy Ryan was born in the metropolis of Cappamore Co. Limerick, a GAA heart land, into a loving and Faith filled family. Between home and school with the Mercy Sisters she was nurtured in her Faith and when the time was ripe she moved on to the even more famous metropolis of Doon – don’t we have ideas about ourselves! – where I first got to know Biddy Ryan. Biddy, Mary Mulcahy, Kathleen McGrath and I were classmates for those five years of development and study. My greatest memory of Biddy was how GOOD she was. It was a long straight and windy bog road from Cappamore to Doon but Biddy cycled it daily, like her predecessor, her sister, Sr. Mary Attracta, and followed by Nora Canty both of whom we are happy to have with us here today.
Now in Ireland we have local folklore and the story goes like this.The Sisters in Cappamore were a branch house of Doon and naturally there was a lot of written communication between the two convents, and the Ryans, at various stages, were the main conduits of such mail etc.Biddy on return to Cappamore in the evenings duly delivered the goods, and sometimes there was an awkward item such as a flower pot. Biddy in turn handed on the responsibility to Nora and this is the legend, Nora did it faithfully but did it her way. All items were duly delivered and always before night fall even with a few gentle hints from Mrs. Ryan.
In our homes as well as by the Mercy Sisters, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, we were nurtured in the Faith and the ideal of being missionaries was never far from the school ethos. Well, the 4 of us became Columban Sisters in Cahiracon in Co. Clare. There we were nurtured again under the careful watch of Mother Mary Peter and Sr. Joan O’Donovan, who is with us here today. Finally we were sent for higher education; Sr. Fintan was trained as a nurse and midwife, and on graduation was awarded Midwife of the Year in Holles Street Maternity Hospital, Dublin. Now she was ready for the missions.
At a recent seminar in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, we celebrated the fourteenth hundred anniversary of the death of St. Columban, our patron. Knowledge of St Columban, the pilgrim and missionary for Christ is basic to our formation as Columbans. And so it was that Sr. Fintan set out by boat from Ireland in 1962 along with six more Sisters on their way to the East, full of faith, zeal and energy. Yes, in those days we travelled by boat. Another piece of folklore here: as the boat pulled out from the North Wall on a wet windy January night, Sr. Imelda, an older Sister asked Sr Fintan to come up on deck to get a last glimpse of Ireland. There was a young man on deck looking wistfully at Ireland who spoke to the two Sisters of his grief and loneliness at having to live so far away in England. He asked the Sisters where they were going and Fintan replied in her full missionary zeal, “I am going to Burma ((her first assignment)) and Sr. Imelda is going to Korea.” The poor fellow was ‘flummoxed’ and Sr. Imelda suggested to Fintan that she break it gently to the next person who might inquire as to their destination.
Sr. Fintan had a temporary assignment to the Ruttonjee Sanatorium in Hong Kong in the hope of moving to Burma when a visa would be issued. That visa never came. So Fintan lived and loved the people of Hong Kong all her missionary life. She was in Hong Kong from 1962 until last year when she returned to us, apart from 2 breaks, one on Mission Awareness program in Scotland and another term nursing in our Nursing Home here in Magheramore. During her H.K. years she nursed in various capacities as nurse and ward sister in the general wards and especially in the Children’s ward and later as an efficient theatre sister. The Ruttonjee was famous for its care of patients with T.B. which was rampant in H.K at that time. Later Sister ministered in a rural clinic and nursery school in Daguling on the very borders of China. This in some ways would have reminded her of her native Co. Limerick and the Old Bog Road. This was where many of us came to, from the noise and pollution of the big city, for rest and recreation. Fintan always made us most welcome. She laboured tirelessly in Daguling until she was assigned as a Catholic Chaplain in the large Prince of Wales Hospital in Shatin, a suburb of Hong Kong, and within St. Benedict’s Parish. Here she spent her last years on mission in Hong Kong, China.
The best way for me to pay tribute to these years is to quote from some of the tributes paid to Sr. Fintan by her work colleagues, many friends and past patients and I quote briefly from some of the cards, letters and emails: “We love you, you were so patient, …’you taught me to trust in God, how can I live now that you are gone?’ Each message is so sincere and I cannot really convey the grief written on the pages. There are many trophies and tributes and I feel this little one says it all: “Total Commitment Award winner, Sr. Fintan Ryan.” Lastly, a short snippet from a long tribute from Maryknoll Father Ahearn, PP: “…a wonderful example of a faithful religious Sister and friend.” Speaking with our Nursing Home staff here in Magheramore about their time with Fintan, I got the following the response “It was far too short. We would love to have had more time to get to know such a wonderful lady.”
Life for Fintan was great and I am reminded of a short poem:
There is but one journey afforded each one of us.
At every step of the way
We seek out the meaning of life and existence
And cherish those moments
That clearly make the journey
Worth the gift of life.
Sr. Fintan is physically gone but our Faith tells us that she is with us and this is the mystery.
Before the remains were brought to the Convent cemetery, two Hong Kong born Chinese, Columban Sister Lucia So and a friend, Sally Chan, led a short Chinese funeral ritual making the three bows of respect for the deceased before the coffin.