+Sister Rita Mekitarian passed away peacefully in St. Columban’s Nursing Home, Magheramore, Wicklow on Friday, 6th November 2015.
Removal of Remains on Sunday, 8th November at 5:30pm to the Convent Chapel. Funeral Mass on Monday, 9th November at 11.30am followed by Internment in the Convent Cemetery.
Lord, we ask you to receive our Sister Rita 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
Words of welcome by Sr. Rose Gallagher during the Funeral Mass of Sr. Rita Mekitarian:
On behalf of the Sisters here in Magheramore, it is my great privilege to welcome you all and in particular to welcome you,
Tom, Noel and Ann, family members and friends, and we unite with Joan who is with us in spirit from her home in the US.
Welcome also to our priest friends, the Columban Fathers,our local priest Fr. Scully, our valued Staff members,
and our own sisters who have travelled to be with us.
Our thanks to Sr. Anne Carbon who is our homilist today and to Fr. Pat, our Resident Chaplain,
who will lead us in our Liturgy,together with our priest concelebrants.
Rita, through her way of relating, has reminded us once again of God’s refreshing ways of engaging with us
… a God who delights in simplicity, spontaneity, and is fun-loving
… a God who enjoys the company of the ‘chancers’ amongst us, and the risk-takers for the sake of the Kingdom.
… a God who is wreckless in self-giving where need is greatest
… and a God who shelters us in our suffering making it fruitful for our world.
And how right it is for us to turn now in this Eucharist, to this gracious God
to give thanks for Rita, for her winsome ways and for her fidelity unto the Cross.
May the merits of your suffering Rita, reach out into our world… and into the heart of the Filipino people whom you loved so well ….
and also, bring unnumbered blessings to your beloved family”.
Reflection given by Sr. Anne Carbon during the Funeral Mass of Sr. Rita Mekitarian:
We are all gathered here this morning to say goodbye to our dear Rita as she enters into the fullness of life with God.
Like all those who have gone before us, Rita left us with wonderful memories and all of us present here have different memories of Rita- as a Sister to Joan, Noel and Tom, as sister in law, as an aunt, cousin, friend and as our Sister in the Congregation. And am sure if we begin to share those memories, we will end up writing a book of this remarkably beautiful woman.
Even the reading today on the Gospel of Matthew on the Beatitudes, captured a lot of who our dear Rita is and as someone had said, ” Rita is in God’s pocket!”
Kathleen Rita Mekitarean was born in Newtown, Trim, Co. Meath, together with her twin brother Tom, on 6th June 1931. She entered the Congregation in 1953 in Cahircon, was professed on April 26, 1956 and was given the name Sr. Mary Gregory.
In her application letter, Rita wrote that she joined the Missionary Sisters of St. Columban believing that God called her to a life of missionary service in the Far East, particularly in China. With great enthusiasm she looked forward to go to China but found herself missioned in the Philippines instead.
Rita was missioned in the United States for a few years and shortly after that, she arrived in Malasique, northern part of the Philippines in 1961.She was very much involved in Catechetical work in the parish and like any missionaries, Rita studied the local language to be able to relate deeper with the people. Rita described in her letter during her early time in the Philippines that “life here is very simple and we lived at a slow seemingly uneventful tempo. We depended on the Calesa-similar to our pony and trap to transport us from school to school”.
Being a typhoon prone country, Rita had various experiences of typhoons in the Philippines- hearing the screeching noise of the galvanized iron sheets being stripped off the houses and half expecting that the roof of the house will come off at any moment, thunderous sounds of the rain as it lashed against the houses, mopping up efforts with the rainwater that comes inside the house and in the window sill and worst, not finding a dry spot on her bed to lie down! With all this, it was not a bother for Rita because she has that great consciousness of God in her life and even seeing God being in the storm and His protecting arms keeping them safe. And typical Rita, she would be out the following day to help the neighbours!
As a Social worker by profession and coupled with her many gifts, Rita had a wider scope of getting herself involved in many aspects of the reality around her either on health care- discovering the prevalence of malnutrition and TB, mental illness and leprosy, networking with different agencies, observer at a local election to make sure that it is an honest and clean election, justice and peace work( she seems never afraid of anything and to do anything), and working on family life apostolate in the Diocese which was very much valued by the priests, religious and laity of the Archdiocese because of her excellent rapport, presence and talents. Rita’s most positive attitude, commitment and compassion were very much at the heart of her ministry and she was very much immersed with the reality of the people and the country especially in politics.
When the mission in Malasique closed in the early 80’s, where Rita worked for several years, she was sent to the southern part of Mindanao working and living with the Subaanens, one of the indigenous tribes in Mindanao. It was actually the dream of Rita to work in the island of Mindanao! Once again, Rita found another challenging reality of the life of the Indigenous people living in the midst of poverty and injustice. And she loved being with the Subaanens and the simplicity of the lifestyle in there. In one of her letters, Rita said, “I am enjoying my time here in the mountain, experiencing the life of the tribal and reading books on ecology. It’s only when you are living in the middle of the devastation-the result of logging and cutting down trees, water erosion, that all these ecological materials makes sense”.
No doubt, with her lovely smile, generosity, sense of humor, simplicity of life style and innocence, Rita captured the heart of the Filipino people who were endeared by her gentle presence. I remembered Imelda Domantay, a good friend of the Sisters in Malasique told me that “The people in Malasique saw Sr. Rita like Our Lady. She has very beautiful eyes!”
For health reasons, Rita has to return to Ireland and yet, she still continued to be on mission for 10 years in Ireland, Scotland and England, where once again she gave the very best of herself and was a very hard worker!
Later, when her health deteriorated, she came here to Magheramore in 1999 to have the needed care. This was a great challenge for her. As we all know, Rita, all her life, was most artistic. We all remembered her hand made cards of dried flowers and shrubs. She loved plants and I think she was the one who took care of flowers and plants on our chapel corridors for several years.
A woman of deep faith and trust in God, she accepted the gradual deterioration of her condition patiently and humbly. Perhaps, in all these years as we watched Rita became totally dependent on the care of others, we have also come to grips with our own vulnerability and helplessness. Yet, throughout Rita’s long journey of suffering, we never saw or heard her complain. Even the staff here in the Nursing Home were witnesses that Rita never complained. I suppose, Rita was able to embrace her pain so that it became for her a life giving grace as she lived through with her Motto: “My Jesus, Mercy”.
We know that Rita loved her family and she connected with them closely during her time in the mission. She was a good writer and shared with them her many mission stories of her life with the people. She even wrote to Una while waiting at the Canadian Embassy in Manila to follow up a project for the farmers in a village in Malasiqui! She never wasted time indeed!
We thank God today for Rita’s life especially for her peaceful presence with us and we join together with thanksgiving in returning her to the God of Love with gratitude. And on behalf of the Filipino people whom you served and loved, I would like to say personally once again to you, Rita, “DAGHANG SALAMAT” (THANK YOU very much!)
We will miss you but we also know that you are now free from your long years of suffering and are now united with your dear parents, your sisters Ann and Una and brothers, Teddy and Frank. I am sure that the many saints of Ireland gave you a great welcome as you met them on their Feast!
A great missionary indeed “’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
May you rest in Peace.
by Sr. Anne Carbon, SSC
November 9th 2015