Removal of Remains on Monday 30 May at 5.30pm to the Convent Chapel. Funeral Mass on Tuesday, 31 May at 11.30a.m., followed by Interment in the Convent Cemetery.
Lord, we ask you to receive our Sister Katherine into the eternal joy of your Kingdom. As she endeavoured to honour you during her life, so now allow her to taste the everlasting happiness which you promised to your faithful followers. We ask this through Christ Our Lord. Amen
Homily given by Sr. Redempta Twomey during the Funeral Mass of Sr. Katherine Hurley, RIP.
Magheramore, 31 May 2016
Phil 4:1-7; Jn 14:1-6
Our big woman is gone home. That big heart is stilled forever, that warm voice is silent now and those eyes, so often full of fun and laughter, will sparkle for us no more. Katherine is gone from us and we mourn her here this lovely May morning, the feast of the Visitation the feast of Mary whose words of trust were Katherine’s motto: ‘Be it done unto me according to your word.’ We are united in grief, but surely also united in hope. Hope because we heard the gospel, a text chosen by Katherine for this day of her burial. “After I have gone to prepare a place for you,” Jesus told his disciples, “I shall return and take you with me so that where I am you also may be too.” What greater consolation could we have at this time than these words of the Lord? And this is what Katherine wanted to give us so that we would be glad for her and dry our tears.
This is a day of memories, memories shared by her family, her friends, her community. Her much loved family were the jewels in her heart, loved in a way that only a very caring sister knows how. How Katherine enjoyed the family get-togethers, the fun, the laughter! How she valued your visits to her, especially in her last illness. And what a blessing, what a consolation, it was for her, for all of us, that her brother, Fr Paddy, anointed her less than an hour before she died. This good woman, this woman of faith and grace could go in peace.
When we look down the corridors of time, we meet someone who from her childhood seemed fitted for the many roles thrust upon her. Both her parents were teachers and she too greatly enjoyed teaching, especially the children in the parish schools the sisters directed in Westminster and Los Angeles, her first mission. The little children of Mexican immigrants, who were not always welcomed by their classmates found a strong ally in Katherine. Many of these students kept in touch with her; only last year one of them visited her after 50 years. A little girl who found it hard to speak English until Katherine took her in hand so that she ended up being a University professor. She never forgot the nun who opened doors for her – one of the many students that knew the blessing it was to have such a teacher.
What a wrench then it must have been to be elected as Superior General in the 1970 Chapter! This was the post Vatican ll era when the Church was undergoing a major upheaval, students were rioting, new ideologies were battling it out, endless debates and discussions were the fodder of the time. Religious women were leaving their convent in huge numbers, searching for a new articulation of the life, and undertaking various experiments in community living. In this turbulent time Katherine sought to steer a good course, responding to the movement of the Spirit with great faith and courage. Not everyone agreed with her decisions and she had many tussles but her integrity and her love for the sisters were beyond question. ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the woman’; it is doubtful that anyone else could have so ably taken on the role she held during those difficult years. One of her many gifts was a delightful sense of fun which could rescue the most sober meeting. And, of course, with her lovely voice there was always a song at the ready. Katherine in fact never lost that child-like quality, that openness that embraced life so joyfully. Hers was an uplifting presence, redolent with fun and laughter. How she enjoyed a good joke, often at her own expense.
After twelve years as Superior, she cast off the cloak of office and, without a backward glance, set off for Chile. Always a missionary, she now found herself living in small quarters among the poor, moving in and out of their lives with that respect and kindness that so endeared her to all. She gave but she also received. A favourite story, which she loved to relate, was of a little boy, about 11 years old who, when she was ill one time, came to the house and asked her, seriously, if he could anoint her. So, with his oil and his prayers he proceeded to minister to this tall, gentle neighbour who indeed felt blessed by his earnest anointing. The resilience of the Chilean people at a time of military oppression inspired her and, with the community, she was heart and soul with the poor. Later, back here, she wrote an admirable account of the sisters in Chile. On one occasion when the community was leaving San Antonio the people of the parish had a moving farewell liturgy during which one of the leaders, Ruben, approached the pulpit carrying a large plastic bag. Out of this he drew a dove, a symbol, he said, of the sisters’ presence, their love and dedication. And raising the dove aloft he said, “And now their mission is to go to another place.” At which he released the bird that flew around the sanctuary before settling quietly on the altar. Katherine now has gone to another place – the place prepared for her by Jesus. And the bird we would want to release I think, might not be a dove, but a big, strong eagle!
Coming to the motherhouse was the final transition before going to the Infirmary. She was at home here, and made others feel welcome too. Sensitive to their difficulties, Katherine was a good listener and many benefited from her wisdom, her insightful advice. Nor did her cheerfulness fail when she was diagnosed: “I am going on a gentle journey with cancer,” she told her friends. She was cared for by the devoted and kind staff who helped her battle the increasing weakness. But there came the long drawn out days of pain and more pain and we saw the struggle of this strong woman stretched on the cross like the Lord whose faithful disciple she was. Finally, on Saturday, before the first Vespers of Corpus Christi, he took her to himself.
Katherine’s final gift to us is to be found in the great readings of today’s liturgy: “I want you to be happy, always happy.” “I am the Way…” Let me also read to you from a letter she sent from Chile more than twenty years ago to her former students of Our Lady of Guadalupe School on the 40th anniversary of their graduation. Her words, so inspiring then will surely encourage us now.
“You asked me for a message. What can I say? Life is a great teacher! Its joys and sorrows, successes and failures, achievements and disappointments all add up making us wiser and hopefully, in the end, happier people. St Paul tells us that “For those who love God all things work together unto good” (Rom 8:28). And twice at the Last Supper Jesus himself told us he wants us to be full of joy! (Jn 15:11; 17:13). So to be truly happy is a real Christian gift. It’s offered to us in all the happenings of our lives. My prayer is that you may find it and welcome it into your lives.”