We say farewell to our Deceased Sisters
Sr Margaret Maher
of Clonkeen, County Limerick, Ireland
who died at Newport on 2nd January 2014
aged 83 years, 64 of Religious Profession.
Margaret Christina Maher was born in County Limerick on 22nd December 1930. She was always very close to her brothers and sister and loved to go to Ireland to visit them and kept in constant touch with them. She is survived by one brother Michael who unfortunately is not able to be with us today.
She was affectionately known as Aunty Chrissie by her nephews and nieces who kept in regular contact with her by phone or letter and often sent her photos of their families especially at Christmas. The photos came as usual this year and the nurses had displayed them near her bed for her to see.
Margaret answered the call “Come follow me” at an early age and responded generously to this all her life. At her clothing she was given the name Sr. Marcelline which over the years became Marci and this stuck right up to recently even though she changed back to her baptismal name Margaret many years ago.
She was always a valuable member of any community and showed boundless kindness to all. She never had an unkind word or action for anyone and all appreciated her Christ like love for them.
In 1953 Margaret undertook studies at Swansea University and obtained a degree in Geography which she really loved and enjoyed.
Her first post was at St. Joseph Convent School Taunton where she taught for many years. Her next post was at St. Thomas More School Bristol, during which time she attended a Theology Course at Maynooth in Ireland then went on to teach Geography and Religion in the school and did a lot of pastoral work with and among the pupils. She loved teaching at this school and was loved by staff and pupils alike.
Margaret retired from school in 1986 and remained in Bristol where she became Parish Sister in the local parish of Holy Cross and touched many people’s lives As part of her work she visited the hospitals took Holy Communion to the sick and housebound helped in the sacristy, and also formed a rosary and Divine Mercy prayer group a devotion very dear to her right up to the end .On one occasion while quite ill in the hospital she chuckled when those visiting could not remember this prayer.
Margaret will always be remembered for her care of the poor men at the door. Bristol being in the middle of the city attracted many poor men to the door looking for food and although given times to come they would not always keep to them but they were never turned away and Margaret could be seen any hour of the day or night going to the door with a tray of freshly made sandwiches and a pot of tea. She knew them all by name and sorted out many a squabble that went on between them. Her kindness was greatly appreciated by them.
One man said “we could go anywhere in the city for food but we come here because we know Sr. Margaret loves us and listens to us” Another interest was the garden she would spend many hours working away in the garden often with one of the men that she had helped in the past who on hearing of Margaret’s illness wrote
“I am sorry to hear of my old friend Margaret why does it happen to people like that? All I can say is that the garden and Margaret put me on the rails again. You can rest assured that I will say a prayer for her”. The garden in the summer always looked a picture so much so that passersby used to stop to look over the wall and admire it.
Prayer was a priority in Margaret’s life and she was often seen with a Rosary dangling between her fingers and everyday at 3 o’clock she would stop to say the Divine mercy prayer. She also loved to watch EWTN whenever she had the chance.
In 2011 we had the news that the Bristol house was to close and Sr. Margaret came to join the Abbey community she soon began to settle down and her infectious laughter could be heard all around the place. While here she was like Anna in the gospels always to be found praying in the chapel and people knew exactly where to find her when looking for her.
It became obvious after a while that Margaret’s health was deteriorating and she was well cared for by the Sisters and staff here at the Abbey during this time. On October 1st Margaret suffered a stroke and was taken to the Royal Gwent hospital it soon became apparent how bad this stroke really was but even then she would show some signs of recognition sometimes by giving us a smile when we went to visit her.
She was transferred to Panteg hospital after some weeks where she received loving care and attention, but during the last few weeks it was apparent she was quite unwell. On Saturday 27th December Margaret received the Sacrament of the sick.
On the morning of January 2nd Margaret was taken back to the Royal Gwent Hospital for further treatment but the Lord had other plans for her that day and after 64 years of faithful service she heard His voice saying “Margaret Come Follow me. I have a special place prepared for you”
Margaret died peacefully that morning. She will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved her.
May she rest in peace. Amen.
Sr Christopher – Anne Hennessy
of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales
who died at Malpas on January 29th 2014
aged 92 years, 71 of Religious Profession
Sister Christopher was born, in 1920, at Merthyr Tydfil, of a Welsh mother, Margaret Jones and Irish father, Daniel Hennessy. She was the youngest of four children, and was given the name Anne at Baptism. The combined national heritage, Welsh/Irish, often showed in her reactions to various events in one country or the other, but her feet were firmly planted on Welsh soil. They were a close-knit and loving family – two boys and two girls. Sr Christopher, as the youngest, was the apple of her father’s eye. Sister’s younger brother, Willie, was killed during the war of the 1940s and at a very young age. This was a tragedy and a heavy cross for all the family to bear. Her elder brother became a priest and exercised his priestly ministry in the Cardiff archdiocese. Kathleen, her only sister, taught in the Catholic school in Merthyr.
After the initial years at a local Primary school, she came to our convent school on Stow Hill and was there, as a boarder, until the end of her secondary school studies. Her deep desire to be Sister of St. Joseph led her to enter our novitiate, on Stow Hill, at the age of 18. She had always wanted to be both a Sister and a teacher so after her period of formation in Religious Life; she spent two years at the La Sainte Union Training College which, for that period of time – the war years – had been evacuated from Southampton to Cheltenham. She spoke of this period as a happy time and one which led to her first teaching appointment at Holy Cross School, Newport, which later became known as Holy Family Secondary Modern School. Sadly, with the evolution of education and of town planning, the school was eventually demolished.
Sister was not content to let that happen, without some recognition of what happy days the school had meant for her and so many Newport people. She, along with some local Councillors, campaigned for a memorial plaque and was proudly present the day that plaque was installed. The words of a former pupil, sobbing in the cloakroom the day the school closed, and often quoted by Sr Christopher , expressed the general feeling “It might have been a dump, but it was a happy dump”. Someone who had taught with her recalled “She had an ideal relationship with her pupils. Whilst maintaining discipline, she was able to create a spirit of love and friendship which was so necessary for them at that time. She was also able to inspire in them a desire to learn and to achieve success in spite of many difficulties”.
As well as her time in Holy Cross School, she also taught, for short intervals, in Chatham and Stow Hill, Newport.
Illness forced her to leave teaching, and during this interim period, she spent time in several of our communities – Taunton, Grove Park, Chatham, Skelmorlie, Treorchy and eventually Llantarnam. Her various responsibilities included; local Superior in Taunton and also parish secretary. At the same time she used her musical skills in making herself available for such parish events as playing the organ at funerals and weddings. During her nine years there, she spent much time sharing her interest in the Scriptures, as well as establishing a well attended prayer group. Every year she took this group away for a short period of retreat in St. David’s, Buckfast Abbey or Llantarnam. Her gift of being able to create strong relationships extended beyond her teaching days to almost everyone with whom she had contact.
Wherever she was based, her strong desire to make prayer an essential part of her apostolate prompted her to start a prayer group, with those parishioners who were interested. The prolonged effects of these sessions of shared prayer together, were evident by the way so many of those who participated still speak with gratitude of the powerful effect
of them on their lives. They recognised that the support and strength which this sharing brought to so many, was indeed a treasured gift.
Her apostolate in Treorchy extended over three adjacent parishes. Each of these was included in Sister’s programme of visiting the housebound, taking confirmation classes, and of her becoming involved in most aspects of parish life.
Among her achievements was the part she played in the setting up of St. David’s Foundation with its care for the terminally sick. Her brother, who was in very poor health but still able to continue his work as a priest, was receiving very good care in the place where he lived. This led her to consider something at the same level for people in the Newport area. With the help of friends, and some members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of which she was an active member, she started planning and fund raising. Her fund raising efforts took her all over the town of Newport and she could be seen with of her ‘begging box’, outside Newport station, the shopping areas and even some local public houses where people were always generous and where she was nicknamed ‘the pub nun’. When she was forced to leave this work – again because of health problems – all that she had done to help set up the St. David’s Foundation was recognised by the presentation of a certificate for 10 years of service as a founder member. But her remark was. ’It is the people who have supported us, who listened and were always ready to help, are the ones who should be recognised’. She was indeed guided by, and tried to live out, the maxim of Fr Medaille.....“Do not wish for any praise or reward for your good works in this life; it will be purer and greater in eternity”.
During her last years spent at Llantarnam, Sister Christopher still showed the initiative and zest for life, of former years and was never idle. She learnt the intricacies of a computer and became expert at producing beautiful cards, having them ready for any special occasion. But even this activity had to be curtailed, as increasing health problems brought her energy to a very low level. It became necessary to move her to Malpas, and the St. David’s wing, where all the necessary medical care was available. After such a chequered history of illness, with varying crisis peaks, the Lord called Sr Christopher to her final home on Wednesday 29th January. We are grateful to all – the nurses and carers at Llantarnam, the Staff of St David’s, to Fr Cronin, the chaplain, who offered so much prayerful support and encouragement , and to all, who in one way or another, helped Sister to face the fears that increasing age can bring. Sister Christopher had feared death, but it was consoling to know that towards the end of her life, she wasn’t afraid to die and knew that God would have a great welcome for her. Those of us who knew her, are equally convinced of this.
May she rest in peace.
Sister Marie Blanche – Odile Hastonay
of Leytron, Valais, Switzerland
who died in Vieugy on August, 11th, 2014
at the age of 93, 73 years of Religious Profession
Sister Marie Blanche – Odile Chastonay _ was born in Leytron, in a very fervent Valais-Switzerland family. She was the youngest in a family of 8 children: 3 girls and 5 boys. One of the boys chose the Priesthood and, for many years, he has been in charge of the Parish at Meillerie, said to be a difficult Parish. Sister Marie Blanche recognised that, as a child, she had been spoilt, especially by the older members of the family. Five generations of the family have remained very united. “My nephews and nieces are formidable”, she used to say. “They telephone me regularly twice a week”. Of course, when she lost the use of speech, it was no longer possible to phone her. However, ins pite of this and distances involved, nephews and nieces paid regular visits to Grand Chêne.
While still a child, she thought about Religious Life. Sister Marie Ligori who knew her, spoke to her about the Juniorate. Her parents agreed to send her there so that she could develop her vocation. She remained there for a few years, after which she returned to Monthey, to follow a course in Home Science, finally entering the Novitiate in 1938. She was just 18 years of age. During the course of her Novitiate, she was sent to St Joseph’s Day School to assist a teacher in the Nursery School. “I really loved contact with these little ones”, she used to say.
She made her final vows in 1945, and began her Nurse’s Training at Lyon. Her professional working life was spent in the Surgery Dept at St Julien Hospital, under the direction of Dr Paluel. This work was particularly interesting because the patients recover fairly quickly, unlike those in the medical section, at least in the majority of cases. She remained for 31 years at St Julien Hospital, with a break in between, during which, she followed a managerial course at Strasbourg. “A very interesting course”, she said. But I did not have the joy of using what I had learned, because I was named Superior of the Community and responsible for UNACASH (actually REPSA). To my great regret, I was no longer to work in these departments, unless it was to replace people here and there”.
After this, she was sent to the Hospital at Monthey, Switzerland, where she conducted courses for student nurses. Being very adaptable, she was able work for a further 4 years in the Care Centre at Annecy, a period which she particularly loved, because it put her in direct contact with the families. Wherever she worked, whether in hospitals, in homes for elderly people, or in home-care, she felt quite at ease and fulfilled. “My education was of bygone days”, she used to say. “One must love what one does”, and not dwell uselessly on the past. There should be no regrets because, if we were able to make mistakes in the past, we are also quite capable of making them today. Every morning, I recite a prayer which I love: I confide the past to the mercy of God, the present to His Love, and the future to His Providence”.
Sister Marie Blanche was open, joyful and sociable. She had a sense of humour and was easy of approach. She kept in touch with former patients and their families. She loved life, the joys she experienced, and knew how to enjoy every good thing which came her way, such as, holidays, invitations, etc. It gave her great joy to spend a holiday with her family each year.
In December 2007, she was admitted to Grand Chêne. For her, who so loved contact with others, the loss of speech must have been a difficult trial. Did she continue to recite the prayer which she loved? “My God, I confide my past to your mercy, the present to your Love, and the future to your Providence”. Prayer of abandonment, of a child who is sure of it’s Father’s tenderness. “Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom”. On Monday, August 11th, in her sleep, Sister Marie Blanche committed her life to the Father’s love.
Sister Marie Blanche, tomorrow, with all the Sisters who have gone before you into this mysterious kingdom of Light, of Pure Love, you will celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, our Mother, perfect image of the Church to come. Pray for your family, pray for the Congregation.
Sister Nicole Chessel
of Vinzier, Haute Savoie
who died in Vieugy on September 9th, 2014
73 years of age, 49 years of Religious Profession
Nicole, our Sister,
At your Baptism, God pronounced over you these sacred words:
“You are my beloved child, in you have I placed all my love”.
Today, your family, your Sisters in Community, your friends, are all united around you to celebrate your going to the Father.
How was your life spent?
Born in 1941 in Vinzier, you grew up in a family of 4 children, surrounded by the love of your parents. On entering with the Sisters of St Joseph in 1965, you gave yourself to the service of God and your Sisters. After gaining a Diploma in Nursing, you were missioned to the St Julien Hospital where you devoted yourself to the care of the sick
You were later to continue this mission here, at Vieugy, where you cared for Sister Anne-Gertrude during the last stages of her life. Strong bonds were forged between you. You knew how to care for her with limitless, sensitive, thoughtful acts of kindness, always remarkably attentive to and aware of her needs.
Through the offering up of her silence and suffering, Sr Anne-Gertrude was to strengthen and confirm you in your love of God. Finally, it was you, Nicole who, little by little was to follow this long, desert-like and mysterious road of sickness. However, there again, you remained more than ever faithful in your search for God, and your total abandonment to His Love.
Proof of this can be seen in the following text which you loved, a copy of which you sent to me a few years ago.
“The ‘desert’ is the decisive experience of Faith, the ultimate proof of faith.
As long as the world is welcoming, as long as life seems easy, the presence of God can seem natural to us, and in order to respond to Him, it suffices for us just to let ourselves be carried along by this benevolent attention.
The day when everything all at once disappears,-the welcoming world and the presence of God,- we feel lost. This is when the Spirit, who drove Christ into the desert, is right there to ground us in Faith. This God who remains silent is the true God. However, this same God is not distant from us. He is right there. He speaks to the hearts of His children and His children respond to Him.
Deprived of anyone, anything to lean on for support, they come to recognise Him and realise that they are still attached to God. Thus, it is God who holds them close to Him, and they love Him, not for His gifts, but for Himself: So they recognize Him and realise that they are His children”.
Nicole, today you have reached the end of this long road to God!
Yours now, is the joy and wonder of this Meeting!
Sister Geneviève Favre
of Annemasse, Haute Savoie
who died in Vieugy, October, 23, 2014
88 years of age, 68 years of Religious Profession
Sister Geneviève, known in her family as Ginette, was born on February, 25th 1926, into deeply Christian family. She was the eldest of 4 children, 2 boys and 2 girls. Their father was an astute businessman. He was enterprising, open, and he knew how to exploit the “perfume trade” which he managed. However, misfortune was soon to hit this very united family. Their father died, probably as a result of wartime experiences,-he had been gassed, - leaving four young children and a young wife: Ginette, 9 years old, Pierre, 7 years old, Paule, 4 years of age and Michel, a baby of 2 months. Pierre used to say that wanted to be a Missionary of St Francis de Sales, but when he was 12 years of age, he died of meningitis. Michel died in 1990 at the age of 55.
With great courage, their mother took over the reins of the shop, assisted by a young employee who was to remain close to the family for the rest of her life. The 2 little girls were placed in St Martin Boarding School, S/Arve, to pursue their studies. Ginette entered the Novitiate on September, 10th, 1944, when she was 18 years of age.
Very intelligent, she easily passed the examinations throughout the academic cycle: BEPC, Elmentary Brevet and Higher Religious Instruction, part 1 of the Baccalauréat C, Science section, followed by Philosophy, part 2, and, finally, a Science degree. As Professor of French, Latin, and Greek, she was an excellent Teacher. She taught at St Martin for 10 years; at Alger, “Fénelon”, for 10 years; in Les Tilleuls, Annecy, and for a second period at, at St Martin. She later returned to Alger for 2 years and again returned to St Martin, spending 2 years in each place.
Intellectually endowed, she inherited artistic gifts from her father and one of her uncles. She excelled in music, poetry, painting, and she loved dance and drama. While very young, she learned to play the piano. Her knowledge of music later on, enabled her to animate the Liturgy and Religious Services. A born organiser, she trained the pupils taking part in plays chosen for end of year Dramas: Job, Esther, etc. When needed, she taught them dancing. Without doubt, she was appreciated, loved by the pupils, whose artistic and intellectual talents she knew how to develop.
These multiple gifts did not prevent Sr Geneviève from remaining very simple. She never “pushed herself forward”, responded very cordially to Sisters’ requests, happy to be of service. Refined and tactful, she did not often show her feelings. She was the one the Community approached, to compose a song or a poem, for particular events, or for a feast.
Foreseeing the future, aware of the increasing age of the Sisters, and potential ensuing problems, the Major Superiors established a Community at “Le Grand Chêne”. Sr Geneviève was part of the first Community, remaining there for 7 years. She had spent her whole teaching career in Boarding Schools. Henceforth, she was to work in the Parish. Here is what one parishioner, a member of the choir, is quoted as saying. “When we were told that some Sisters were going to join the choir, we reacted with reservations. Sisters with us!! Sr Geneviève, Sr Jeanne Marie and Sr Emma had come to restart the choir. This was a pleasant surprise! What lovely moments of joy and exchange followed! The Sisters brought much to us. We made some changes in the celebrations of the Liturgy. Sr Geneviève, a very good musician, trained the ‘tenors’. Truly, this period has been a gift! “
After her sojourn at Le Grand Chêne, a period rich in friendship and in the Parish apostolate, Sr Geneviève was sent to the Mother House, where she worked for a while in the secretariat.
However, Like St Paul, she was afflicted with a “thorn in her side”. Her health had been fragile, and all during her life she had suffered headaches, migraines. Were these migraines due to, or had they worsened, during her time in Algeria, from 1960 to 1970, during the war? The “Fénelon” school building was situated in a street where violent combats took place. This must have been a very trying time for her fragile health.
She was admitted as a resident in “Grand Chêne” on January, 21st, 2013. She settled down quite simply, as if she had been there all her life. She never ‘pushed herself forward’. She was not exacting, but rather, fearful of disturbing others. Open to the world, to the Church, she read, gathered information, listened to the radio, and regularly watched television. She lived her vocation simply and faithfully. Her prayer was, above all, contemplative. Some who were close to her were privy to her intimate desire: her thirst for God, her desire to be rooted in love, to experience the Breadth, Length, Height and Depth of this love”.
God granted her this ardent desire on Thursday, October, 23rd. Her sister and her niece had the consolation of seeing her a few hours before she died.
Sr Geneviève, you have entered into the plenitude of God’s love, and you are going to celebrate the very beautiful feast of All Saints in the House of the Father. With you, with all the Sisters of St Joseph and the members of your family who have preceded you, we rejoice. Goodbye. Help us in our journey towards God, Pure Love, and Source of all joy.