Homily at Sr. Carmel Mongey’s Funeral given by Sr. Ann Breen.
This morning we are gathered to pray for and to say our last farewell to Sr. Carmel. As we thank God for her life, we experience also the pain of saying goodbye. With Rose, I welcome all of you who have come today to join with us in celebrating her funeral service, especially you, her beloved family to whom she was so devoted, her friends, and our own Sisters who have travelled to be here.
On 19th March 1947, the feast of St. Joseph, Carmel made her first profession of vows, taking as her religious name Sr.Mary Mechtilde, in honour of the 13th century mystic of that name. And last 19th March she, with her co-entrant Sr. Joan O’Donovan, celebrated the 70th anniversary of that profession. Looking back on those seventy years, one can only marvel at how much she accomplished throughout her long life. A Sister who was with her in the novitiate recalls her sense of humour, her warmth, her creativity. She had a gift for witty cartoons, and many of her co-novices received these if they were celebrating any special occasion.
Carmel was a trained teacher and must have looked forward to being sent abroad to the missions shortly after her first profession. Instead, she waited for twelve years before she received her mission assignment. During that time she worked with Mother Mary Patrick to organise the Mission Promotion ministry. This was in order to make our missionary work better known at home, and to generate support for it. Finally, in 1961, she was assigned to the Philippines, to the northern island of Luzon where she spent the next twenty-five years – one year in Lingayen and the remainder between Olongapo and Manila. Olongapo had an American Base close by, and, because of that, there were many night clubs in the city for the entertainment of the troops. The situation which this created, made Olongapo a difficult assignment, especially as it involved dealing with, among other things, one-parent families, broken homes and disturbed children. But despite this, Carmel set up the Elementary Department of the school, and worked tirelessly with the children and their families. She was also involved in giving catechetical classes to American children in the base. She later went to Manila where she established prayer groups, while at the same time studying for a Master’s degree in Counselling. This was to help her reach out more effectively to the young people she was working with in Olongapo. After a further spell there, she returned to San Juan, Manila in 1979 where, in addition to secretarial work, she continued with the prayer groups. One of the Sisters, writing when she heard the news of her death, recalls that, when everyone else in the community was going for siesta in the heat of the day, Carmel would be setting out to one of her many prayer groups. In 1986 she left the Philippines for Silver Creek, U.S.A where, for five years she was engaged in Mission Promotion work. Returning to Ireland in 1991, she was assigned initially to Dublin, to Crumlin parish, where she spent fifteen years, and where she is still remembered. It was here she launched her prayer tapes to help people to pray, and organised several prayer groups. She was also engaged in the Mission Promotion office and, at weekends, speaking in the Churches to promote the missions. Failing health indicated her last move here to Magheramore in 2007. And it was from here that she set out, peacefully, on her final journey last Tuesday night.
On the occasion of her final profession in 1952, Carmel took as her motto, words attributed to St. Mechtilde: “Jesus, my heart is yours: never will I forsake you.” If ever a motto was lived out, that one was! Anyone who has spoken or written of her in the past few days has used the words: zeal, enthusiasm, and above all, joy, to express the qualities which characterised her. To everything she did, whether it was making a mission appeal, writing a letter to a benefactor, organising and administering a school, teaching, praying with a group, she brought the same deep level of engagement, zeal, commitment and joy. One Sister who lived with her in the Philippines spoke of her commitment and faithfulness, especially in the area of helping people to pray. She says that Carmel was so committed to helping people to pray that “nothing was too much for her, no place too far, no group too small.” It was indeed in this area of prayer guidance that a lot of her energy went in later life. She had a deep love of scripture, and was convinced that if people were able to make the scriptures their own, their lives would be transformed. Her tapes guiding people in prayer became extremely popular and reached many lives in many places. One man, a prison inmate in Zambia, wrote to one of our Sisters requesting, among other things, some tapes. She sent him Carmel’s prayer guidance tapes. He wrote back to say that, after playing these tapes, and praying with them, he had experienced peace for the first time in his life.
The readings today are very apt as we remember Carmel. The first reading reminds us of the unbounded joy of her meeting with her God to whom she had given her heart. The Gospel sheds light on the source of her zeal, her joy and her enthusiasm. She had found the pearl of great price. Her life would be dedicated to helping others to find it too!
Those of us who knew Carmel in her earlier years remember how she loved to walk. Sometimes she prayed while she walked, sometimes she read, sometimes she just walked, but always at great speed! It must have been a great privation for her in later years that she became so restricted in her movements. Perhaps this is why recently she said more than once to Rose that she would love to dance her way into heaven. It would be wonderful to think she got her desire and who is to say she did not? Whatever happened, we can trust in the God she loved that she is now at the heart of the mystery: that she has met God and is united to him forever. For her it is indeed true, in the words of the first reading that “The winter is past, the rains are over and gone. The season of glad songs has come…”
We will miss you Carmel, but we thank God that you are now enjoying the fullness of life. We will remember you: the warmth, the gentleness, the thoughtfulness, the wit. We will cherish the memories you have left us, and the example you have given us.