Arise, My Love!
This was the homily given at the Funeral of Sr. Mary Neylon in Magheramore, Wicklow, by Sr. Maura Lyden, on February 21st, 2018.
We are gathered here this morning to express our love and sadness at the death of our loving Sister Mary.
Sunday, 11th of February was the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and we came together to pray for healing for the sick in the infirmary. Mary was so happy and took part with great joy. A small group of sisters joined Sr. Clare Slattery to hear a report of a meeting she attended at Dalgan Park. Clare spoke of a new vision of mission which Mary found so life giving that she was planning her next move as soon as her health improved. She received a phone call from her sister Brid and shared with her all that was happening. Later that evening at supper Mary got weak and it was clear that her journey to The Father’s House had begun. Today we rejoice with her – she is home.
Mary was born in 1939 in Ballyea in Co. Clare. In 1962 March 8th she came to Magheramore. With other companions we entered the Novitiate seven months later and this house was full of young women preparing to follow in the footsteps of the sisters who were on mission in the Far East and South America. In 1972 after completing studies and combined with a great desire to share her joy in the Gospel of Christ, Mary was missioned to the Philippines.
To have experienced the colour, life and beauty of the people of the East was an eye-opener for those of us from the Ireland of that time. The faith of the people shone bright, but Mary was very touched by the hardship experienced by many of the women and children. She responded in every way she could at that time.
After some years she returned to study in Bradford, England. The Justice and Peace studies there prepared her for the time she spent working in that field in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
In 1987 in our Mission Statement we read the following, “In the light of our charism we, women Religious accept the invitation to be faithful to the call to mission as we hear it today in our very troubled world.
Small in number, yet international in our missionary witness, we are continually being invited to express in new and vibrant way, our Columban Missionary reality. This calls us to be available to go beyond the boundaries of language, culture and beliefs and to accept the challenge of insertion into ways of living to which other people invite us.” This was music to Mary’s ears and the call to Peru two years later fulfilled all her dreams of mission.
Mary arrived in Peru in 1989, and after studying the language she spent some time taking courses in the history and culture of her new mission, and above all walking among the people listening to and learning from them. She endeared herself to many and they to her. Having acquired a master’s degree in social science before coming to Peru, and her own personal gifts of a listening heart and a great compassion in reaching out to the most marginalized especially women Mary was well prepared to journey and accompany the people with whom she worked. She participated in various women’s organizations both civic and church for the first few years and then with much experience of the Peruvian reality and its people, confidently and enthusiastically began to extend her services in one of the most populated sectors around Lima, Huaycan. Thousands of people were moving into this area to escape terrorism and to search for work. Mary began her reach out by forming small groups of women where an atmosphere of sharing was created, bringing about awareness of the plight of women. Also a variety of workshops were offered giving women an opportunity to develop their talents.
These groups expanded and developed in such a way that teamwork was seen to be necessary. The centre emerged with members who had received professional training in psychology, counselling. leadership, arts and crafts, instructors in human rights, and health educators. This model was shared in family groups and with teenagers in the local schools. This initiative was welcomed and greatly appreciated by the people. Mary brought joy and hope to the people of Huaycan. She was dearly loved and will continue to live in the hearts of a people she loved and served so well.
Now that the Columban Sisters were leaving Peru, Mary had prepared the women to carry on reaching out to others. The Loreto Sisters were ready to move in as Mary left to come to Ireland.
In Magheramore she wanted most of all to get better and to continue her mission in the service of the Gospel. The final days in quiet and silence she waited to be beckoned to take the one path that really matters in the end. As we waited with her we saw the surrender of a loyal and faithful life slip away.
In my father’s house there are many rooms. Mary would be happy in the room of the poets, W.B. Yeats and Patrick Kavanagh would welcome her. She would share that “my father played the Jew’s Harp, my mother hummed a tune.”
In the room of the dancers, she would meet the people of Clare and dance with them the Clare set. In the room of musicians she would listen and celebrate as she did in the home she made for the women in Huaycan, the room where Social Justice was aired, the room for the lovers of nature, the room of the women and young girls together networking. Mary is at home in all of them.
Mary experienced being loved by the Father and responded in love for Jesus Crucified. She expressed her love for Jesus in the poor and marginalized, the persecuted and the dying. In the First Reading today the Bride is the Church, the People of God, the Human family, Jesus is the Bridegroom and He calls to the Bride “Arise my love, my dove, and come away.
Mary loved you, her family and the people of Clare and she had many friends and you have so many memories to share. She was fifty-five years in the Columban family and we know she was ahead of her time. Her footprint was light on the earth and she helped many to find their own voice. People on a journey of faith need each other.
Today, Mary would like us to hear afresh in our hearts the call of Jesus, the Bridegroom:
“Arise, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come away.
for now the winter has past
the rain is over and gone
The flowers appear on the earth
The time of the singing has come
and the voice of the turtle dove
is heard in our land.” (Sg 2, 10-12)