Tributes paid to Columban Sister M Clement Sheehy R.I.P. by a former student and former colleagues who knew her in the Philippines
From: Lourdes de Guzman, Philippines
I am writing this, vision blurred from crying. I am finding it hard to let go…Sr. Clement was more than a teacher to me. She was my best friend, my one-woman cheering squad, my “Tita” (Auntie).
I first knew her as my fascinating teacher in English Literature. And as one of her most zealous students, I often wondered how much preparation it took to be able to teach like that. So I took up Education, majored in English, and became a teacher like her. I discovered that beyond mastery of the subject matter, it took heart and passion, and joy in the job. And whatever else is written in books about those intangible inputs, I saw them first and learned them from Sr. Clement.
She had such a thirst for knowledge and was continuously learning. She was interested in what was happening around the world, she read widely, and she kept up. In her 80’s she learned to use the computer and send email. On the cell phone she would send text messages using the atrocious text language that defies the rules of grammar and spelling.
She had a great zest for life and in her own quiet way enjoyed having a good time – going places, meeting people, trying new things. And gifted as she is with photographic memory, she would remember everything.
Kindness and thankfulness were her very nature. I never heard from her any unkind remark about anyone – even the most unpopular character. I would guess she did that by believing first in basic goodness and focusing only on the positive. And she was all the time sincerely thankful. I still have her last email to me dated June 24, which she closed: “With love and thanks,” She was like that, always thankful.
Most of all, she was very simple – the kind of simplicity that makes you humble. Once she let me into her room to show me something. Besides a few books and papers, I noticed an old black and white photo of herself with both her parents, taken on her profession day. There wasn’t much else. In my mind I figured that if she were to empty the room in a hurry, she could do it in less than half an hour.
She was my best friend. And she’s the best friend anyone can ever have! She fully believed in me…she believed I had talent, I had the ability, and she believed I was good. She made me feel I was No. 1. I knew she was proud of me, and that was for me the highest inspiration because when someone you so much look up to believed in you that way, how could you be otherwise, or how could you be any less?
If Sr. Clement’s life on earth made a difference in the lives of people and children among whom she worked as a missionary in the Philippines, she made the biggest difference in mine. Much of what I have become as a career woman, I owe to her. She was the kind of woman I had wanted to grow up to be.
She has accompanied me this far in my life…but only up to here. What matters now is that she was there with me when I needed someone.
I must accept that she will no longer be with us physically; that her life is changed, not taken away; that the Promise of Eternal Life is now fulfilled in her.
I am most thankful to God for Sr. Clement’s life. I am thankful to Him for leading her to my hometown, Lingayen, Pangasinan to share with us her God-given gifts. I am thankful for the many good times and all the beautiful memories in the company of Sr. Clement…
Till we meet again, Auntie…
Included below, in the second tribute to Sr Clement from Irene (Sister Joan McDermott’s sister), is one from Pacita (Cui) Jaque, Philippines
Dear Sister Redempta:
Yesterday I read on the Columban website your touching and beautiful tribute to Sister Mary Clement, with whom I worked in Ozamiz for four years. Even though I knew her well, your homily revealed several things about her that I had never known. A For instance, that her Christian name was Sheila. You did an excellent job of describing her and bringing her back to life with the words of your homily. Very well done! I don’t know if you have a personal e-mail address but I feel sure this will get to you somehow.
A very good friend of mine, and of Sister Clement’s, and indeed of all the Columban Sisters who ever passed through Ozamiz, wrote a “eulogy” to her and asked me to add it to your eloquent memorial. I’m not sure if you ever heard of Pacita Cui who was educated by the Sisters in ICC and who worked in the Administration Office there for many years. Years after I had left ICC, Pacita moved to Cebu and she later married Lucio Jaque. Pacita and I have kept in touch over the years and she has also kept in touch with the Columban Sisters she knew best in Ozamis, one of them being Sister Clement. As soon as I heard from my sister Joan the shocking news of Sister Clement’s death I sent an e-mail to Pacita in Cebu. Today I got this tribute from her, honoring her dear friend:
Euology to Sister Clement R.I.P. written by Pacita (Cui) Jaque (Philippines) July 22, 2010
“I wish to add my own contribution to Sr. Redempta Twomey’s homily and this can be my own eulogy for Sister Clement, up close and personal, having worked with her in ICC for a number of years. I was working in the Treasurer’s Office after I graduated in 1956. It was around this time that Sister Clement came to ICC as school director and house superior. I have very happy memories working in that office with her as my boss. She was very kind, always smiling, and she treated Mrs. Manloza and myself with respect and dignity. I don’t remember that she was ever angry or displeased with any of our mistakes. She would just correct us without any show of displeasure. When parents gave her promissory notes instead of cash payments for their children’s tuition, her generosity exceeded her
anxiety about how to meet the payroll.
“And speaking of generosity, after she left ICC and was assigned to Paco, Manila, I became very concerned that I had breast cancer and I wanted to see the best cancer doctor in Manila, who had helped others I knew. Not knowing anybody who could make the appointment for me, I phoned Sister Clement and she readily agreed to help. I flew to Manila and got a taxi
from the airport to the doctor’s office. To my surprise, there was Sister Clement standing in line at the doctor’s office with a big welcome smile on her face. I could not believe my eyes when I saw her standing there, especially as it had been five or six years since she had left ICC. Who am I that my boss should do this for me? I remember feeling so small compared
to this giant of generosity. She had to take the early jeepney ride from Paco to Makati City and stood in line for a couple of hours so that I could be facilitated. Appreciation is not enough. I felt a debt of gratitude and got a valuable lesson in generosity.
“Another generous act which I witnessed after she went back to Ozamiz to take charge of the Special Children’s School. We were at the gate of the compound when we heard the children howling and screaming, and saw them running around. There was Sister Clement in the midst of all the noise and chaos of these abnormal children who can’t understand what orderly behavior is. What do you call this but the epitome of generosity of heart and soul to care for these children deprived of the normal life that they deserve. She had a helper at the school who wanted so much to further her training to teach special children. Sister Clement got her a scholarship to the University of San Carlos in Cebu but the young woman couldn’t afford
to pay for her board and lodging when she came for weekend classes. Sister Clement asked me to help her solve this problem and we made room for her in our house.
“Other generous acts occurred in the course of Sister Clement’s home visitation to the poorest of the poor in Ozamiz. Once she came across a dying teenager whose poverty-stricken parents neglected her. Sister Clement managed to get a sponsor for this teenager and sent her to a government hospital in Cebu. She asked me to visit this girl which I did.
“I am sure there are hundreds more examples of Sister Clement’s generosity. She was never one to bask in her good deeds or to take credit for such things, but surely God who sees all keeps a record of what Sister has done in her lifetime and is ready with the reward promised to those who are faithful to Him. And who can question Sister Clement’s faith in Him?
“I printed out Sister Redempta’s homily so that I can keep reading and re-reading it. This way I can feel that Sister Clement is alive and always reminding me that generosity is a most important virtue and a sign of God’s love.
“At last I have put into writing the experiences I had with this saintly, generous soul and I rest assured that she is now enjoying peace and happiness in the glory of God Who must love her so much and Who welcomes her with open arms.”
Pacita (Cui) Jaque
July 22, 2010
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