Homily given at the Golden Jubilee Mass of Sisters Monica Kelly, Mary Moylan and Mary O’Dea in Magheramore, Wicklow – 28 July 2012
Isa 12:1-4; Eph 3:14-21; John 15: 9-17 – the Scripture Readings chosen by the three Sisters for the Jubilee Mass
What a grace it is, what a joy, to be gathered here this lovely morning to celebrate with Mary, Monica and Mary. “Break into song at the deeds of the Lord.” The entrance hymn captures the spirit of the day, the joy rippling through the liturgy and drawing us across the threshold of ordinariness to a place of Jubilee. We are here today to give thanks for the faithfulness of these three religious women over the past 50 years and to encourage them as they begin their Jubilee journey. They are here in no small measure because of you, family and friends, whose love, inspiration and support helped them to reach this blessed day. They, and all of us here, are grateful to you. But most of all we are here to praise the faithfulness of the Lord – the ‘strength, the song, the salvation’ of our three missionaries, whose lives give witness to ‘the marvellous things’ he does through those who follow him.
When she made her final vows in Olongapo, in the Philippines, Mary Moylan remembers the Columban Bishop Henry Byrne saying at the conclusion of the ceremony, “God is faithful.” “And then,” Mary said, “I was up and straight over to the school.” She had just made this huge commitment to God when, with a practicality similar to that which our Lady showed after her ‘Fiat’, she immediately went to help the other, to her students. The truth of the bishop’s words undergirded her many ministries down the years. Whether she was Dean of a large college or helping squatters, struggling for justice in the Marcos years, or joining in the songs of her beloved Filipino people, her focus was always, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, the phrase she took for her motto. Mary’s wide experience stood her in good stead when she went fund-raising in America and later when she was sent to London to minister to the Filipino migrants there. She next moved to inner city Dublin where, yet again, her many talents found full scope. And today, as anyone in this house will tell you, we are all blessed by her warm and generous spirit.
Monica’s calling took her first to Silver Creek, New York where she was infirmarian for three years. Then she too was sent to the East, to Korea, where the difficulties of language and culture in this Land of the Morning Calm were no barrier to building up lasting relationships with the people. Her ministry, in hospitals and clinics, opened doors to the Koreans whose joys and sorrows she shared. Encouraging of others, she herself was unafraid to venture out into a rural area, An Sam Ri, far from the city where, with a small community, she lived among the farming people, working the land with them. Some of you might not have known what a good farmer we have in Monica. Like her two companions here today, she could relate easily to people on the edge, always eager that they would come to know the compassionate Christ, in whose Will, as her motto states, is our peace. It is this peace she shares with the migrants and with the poor among whom she lives and ministers to in inner city Dublin today.
One day during their novitiate the novices were told of a newly professed sister being appointed to the United States. “Ah, the poor thing,” was Mary O’Dea’s sentiment, full of pity for her. To be sent to America! So, when Mary herself was professed, where do you think she was sent? Yes, to the United States of America. And it was here she lived for over 30 years, here where her missionary vocation deepened as she taught in schools, designed a superb mission programme for students, found time to fund raise and was too an excellent administrator. When the Sisters decided to set up a Web site, it was Mary who, with our sadly missed Kathleen O’Riordan, ventured out into this unknown territory and brought the baby to birth. And, as you all know, that little baby is thriving still! Mary was then sent to Peru where despite the harsh reality of their environment she met with incredible generosity among those who had virtually nothing. Here the hidden face of Christ shone out as her motto, ‘Love is repaid by love alone’ took on a deeper meaning. Her pastoral ministry with parents and children in Puente Piedra, in Lima continues to be a ray of light in the darkness.
You must fill out this very brief sketch of our three Golden Jubilarians by soaking in the breath-taking readings* they selected for this Eucharist. As one of them said to me, “The readings we chose are all about love.” This is what really matters to each of them – not their achievements or successes, not their undoubted and wonderful giftedness, but the reality of Christ in their lives. He it is who makes our ‘hidden selves grow strong’ so that in him, and through him, the Kingdom may come. “You are my friends,” Jesus says to us. Friends who are trusted to do ‘infinitely more than they can ask or imagine’; friends who, though they may sometimes feel alone and spun out are never abandoned; friends who are audacious in their faith, knowing that the Lord is with them every step of the journey, enabling them to bear that lasting fruit for the Father.
Now that they have reached their Golden Jubilee year and move into a new spiritual landscape we pray that they will with a new energy and deeper joy, celebrate ‘the breadth and the length, the height and the depth’ of Christ in their lives. This is a holy time, a time to ‘listen thickly’ and be fully present to the mystery that holds them. Who can tell the treasures the Lord has in store for them, the gifts still hidden in his heart? Who can know the wonders that the love of Christ, ‘which is beyond all knowledge’ will open for them? We, and they, can only pray with St Paul, ‘Glory be to him…’
May you journey well and lightly and, as you embrace the whole of your lives, the weave of youth and maturity, may you always hold in your hearts the psalm we just sang: “I will sing forever of your love, O Lord.” Our blessings and our prayers go with you, dear Mary, Monica and Mary, on this your Golden Jubilee year.
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