Sister Frances Daly passed away peacefully in St Columban’s Nursing Home, Magheramore, Wicklow, on Sunday morning, 21 April 2013. The funeral Mass was celebrated on Tuesday, 23 April, followed by interment in the convent cemetery. The Mass homily, given by Sister Ita Hannaway, follows here.
Text of HOMILY given by Sister Ita Hannaway at the Funeral Mass on Tuesday, 23 April
Good morning to you all! I’m sure Sister Frances is proud to see the great turn-out of the Daly clan as she takes her leave of us all and journeys into eternal life.
The Readings of our liturgy today give us an insight into the guiding faith and urge which have always been characteristic of Frances’s life. As early as the age of eighteen, in 1939, she took a definite step in response to a belief that she was to be a servant of the Gospel after the example of Jesus life. She would search for Jesus and, finding him, would give her life to sharing his message of love by word and deed wherever his grace led her. She would be his disciple for the rest of her life.
Being a disciple of Jesus, like paying for the field that held the treasure, would be a costly business, a challenge which would make demands on all aspects of Frances’s life. She rose to the challenge with all the faith and gifts which had been nurtured and encouraged in her in her family home in Cormeen Valley, Co. Meath.
Faith was at the heart of the Daly family; each child’s gifts noted appreciated and fostered. Frances came to the Columban Sisters in Cahiracon, familiar, even at eighteen, with methods of good housekeeping, gardening and caring for health. It was in the latter capacity, as a trained nurse, that she set off for China in 1946. For the next twelve years she served the neediest in body and soul both in Hanyang on mainland China and later in Hong Kong. She was an excellent nurse, beautiful in appearance and all-round in her care of the sick – not just healing their illnesses but also trying to do something to overcome the causes of their ailments. This was a demanding ministry in many ways; for Frances it called upon all her resources of energy and competency. But she knew that this was the price she was paying for the treasure and privilege of sharing in the mission of Jesus.
A different challenge awaited Frances when she was assigned to the Philippines and became part of the parish pastoral team in Ozamiz on the island of Mindanao. Now her days were given to visiting and caring for the sick in their homes or in hospital as well as participating in feeding programmes and medical care for the undernourished poor who came for help. In this work she was surely reminded and inspired by the public life of Jesus who reached out with loving, caring compassion to all in need.
A totally new ministry awaited Frances when she moved to another diocese some distance from Ozamiz. From Molave, in the diocese of Pagadian, she initiated a parish/diocesan programme for family life enrichment and guidance. As a wise missionary, she soon began training a core group of women who would go with her from parish to parish throughout the diocese, meet and give seminars to married couples or couples soon to be married, training and encouraging them in maintaining good marriage relationships, in natural family planning methods and encouraging them to keep prayer at the heart of their homes. The people of Molave were sad to see her leave their parish, but they have not forgotten her. To this day her core group of faithful companions continue her work with the same zeal which she inspired in them. They will be really sad to learn of her death.
Frances’s health began to decline in the late 1970s and it was time for her to withdraw from active ministry abroad. Back in Ireland, she participated for as long as she could in the mission of our community here, still maintaining and expecting the same high standards which she had set herself at the beginning of her missionary life. However pain and disability gradually claimed her energy and independence. For me it was sad to see this great nurse submit to being nursed, but just as she had made demands upon herself in the course of her various ministries, so she expected the same high standards from those who cared for her. She could be quick from time to time to ‘have a go’ at those of us who tried to meet her needs on any level. It was always good to know that her fine spirit was well in touch with what was going on around her.
Gradually she entered the realm of peace and contentment. She had given her all to God, had experienced that nothing could come between her and his love. Her motto, adopted on the day of her Final Profession stated simply: ‘My God and my All’ – God was her all and she was all his. No wonder she ended her earthly life so peacefully.
It has seemed to me for many, many years now that when Frances joined our Congregation her parents and family joined us also, but in a capacity different from that of Frances. She would go to mission lands; they would remain at home with us, sharing our efforts to provide for the maintenance of our missions. We are all aware of the Produce Stall set up annually at our Sale of Work. At this stall customers and supporters can still find the finest homemade jams – which weren’t made overnight but demanded painstaking fruit picking and cooking in the course of months from the Dalys and their co-Columban supporters. Farm and garden produce from many sources find their way to the stall which they manage and it is a stall sure to be cleared well before the Sale ends.
It seems fitting that on this day when we thank God for giving Frances to our congregation that we thank her family too – the generations of Dalys who walk with us generously as we do our best to share the treasure of God’s love which inspired and impelled Frances throughout her life. Frances has now made her generation of the Daly family complete win heaven. May she enjoy with them forever the unimaginable joy of God’s infinite peace and love!