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Sister Marie Angelus HaydenSister Marie Angelus Hayden

1935 - 2013

Born: 3rd May 1935

Entered Religious Life: 5th October 1970

Died: 28th September 2013

 

An Appreciation of Sr. Marie Angelus Hayden

Mary Anne (Maureen) Hayden, daughter of James Hayden and Anne Byrne, was born in South Circular Road in Dublin on 3rd May 1935.  The eldest of five children, Maureen had two brothers, Willie (who died at 12 years of age) and Bobby, and two sisters, Bríd and Angela.  Maureen entered the novitiate in Milltown on 5th October 1970 and was given the name Sr. Marie Angelus at her reception on 21st April 1971.   She made her religious profession on 21st October 1973.  

Since her childhood Sr. Marie Angelus had been plagued with delicate health but despite this she was determined to enter religious life.  She was a woman of prayer and had great devotion to Mary Aikenhead.  Her life was one of suffering and ill-health and yet she was always cheerful and good-humoured and ready to help all those in need. Sr. Marie Angelus had a great gift for sewing, knitting, crochet and crafts.  These skills she learned from her mother at an early age when she was unable to attend school due to illness.   She never gave in to self-pity and constantly used her gifts in the service of others.  Until her final years, when she was no longer able to do so, Sr. Marie Angelus knitted and sewed with great joy and amazing dexterity!  Many a Sister in the Irish Province proudly wore a cardigan lovingly knitted by Sr. Angelus!

After her first profession, Sr. Marie Angelus was missioned to St. Patrick’s Kilkenny to minister to the children with special needs.  But this was not to last for long and after a few months she was asked to move  to Lady Lane in Waterford to use her skills by helping in the workshop.  Once again, however, after a short period of eighteen months in Waterford, Sr. Marie Angelus was missioned on 5th May 1975 to Mount St. Anne’s, Milltown.  Here she did tremendous work for over twenty years with the children from the Travelling Community who attended St. Anne’s school. These children were brought by special bus to Milltown every morning during the school term.  Before they attended class, Sr. Marie Angelus looked after all their physical needs, giving them a nourishing breakfast which was followed by a hot shower.  The children then put on their school uniforms and were taken to their classes.  At the end of the school day, they returned to Sr. Marie Angelus, who then helped them back into their ordinary clothes which she had already washed, dried and ironed while they were at school.  She did all this each day with great joy, love and good humour.  She was loved and respected by the children and their parents in return.

When Mount St. Anne’s closed in 1995 Sr. Marie Angelus was missioned to St. Mary’s, Merrion.  Here she helped in catering for the needs of the blind residents.  In 1998 when the Sisters vacated the main Convent she became part of Shalom community in Merrion.  From here, and until her health began to seriously decline, she ministered in Caritas Convalescent Centre and Loyola House.  Soon she became so incapacitated that she needed nursing care and so, in 2007, she cheerfully accepted being admitted as a resident in Loyola House.  She never complained about her suffering and always had a cheerful word for everyone she met.  In 2010 when even the nursing care in Loyola House was not sufficient for her needs, Sr. Marie Angelus was transferred to Our Lady’s Hospice.  Here, in Marymount ward, she was lovingly cared for by the staff of Our Lady’s Hospice who enjoyed her good humour and enthusiasm for living.   Her family visited her regularly and were very appreciative of the care she received.  

Sr. Marie Angelus became seriously ill in September 2013 and died very peacefully on 28th September 2013.   She was laid to rest in the community cemetery in Donnybrook.  
May her gentle soul rest in peace.

 

 

Sr. Joseph Helen Cunningham.

 

We are standing this morning on holy ground: the place where Mary Aikenhead spent the last years of her life as an invalid – a woman whose vision, courage and practical common-sense gave birth to our Congregation and to our long and graced history of service of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.Today we are celebrating the life of Sr. Joseph Helen, a woman who cherished that charism, serving those in need with fidelity and generosity, and who also spent the last years of her life here in the Hospice.

 

The readings this morning are both comforting and challenging.In the Gospel Jesus speaks of himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.He invites us to put our hope and our trust in Him and in His promise to be with us, steadily and constantly as we try each day to walk his way, to speak his truth, to live his life.It is an apt description of the life and commitment of the woman whom we are remembering here.

 

In her 103 years of life, Sr. Joseph Helen lived through historical and global changes that are impossible for us to imagine.She experienced seismic shifts in Church and state.She witnessed wars and famines on a world scale.Through all of those yearsshe remained steadfastly faithful to the constant core of who she was as an RSC.She was born Dorothy Cunningham in Ballacolla in Portlaoise on 1st July 1908. She was an only girl, with one brother, and was much loved by all.Her childhood and youth reflected the calm ordinariness of children’s lives at that time.Following her degree studies she spent some months caring for her mother who was ill and then secured a job teaching in Mountjoy St. School in Dublin.Her father was not impressed!His comment on hearing of that place was:“It doesn’t sound like much of a job but you like working for the poor and you’ve always been good at it”.She remained there until she entered the Sisters of Charity on 5th October 1931.

 

In the first reading we are told that God gives strength to the wearied; that those who hope in Yahweh will soar like eagles, run and no grow weary, walk and never tire.That was so true of J. Helen throughout her active life.She was missioned back to Mountjoy St. after her religious profession and taught there for 12 years.Following a year’s further study in Scotland, she went to teach in a Secondary Modern school inWalthamstow in England for a year.And then came the call to be one of our three founding Sisters of the Zambian Region, or Northern Rhodesia as it then was.

 

In 1948 they set sail, travelling for four weeks by boat – The Athlone Castle -rail, bus and lorry before arriving in Chisekesi Siding on a dark morning on 28th October 1948. Sr. Helen kept a diary of the journey which was printed for the 50th anniversary and which gives a fascinating insight into their journey and how they coped with, what was for them, such a strange and almost ‘alien’ environment.

 

One can only imagine the anticipation and anxiety, the challenge and the loneliness, the wonder and the doubts that marked that journey and her first months in Zambia.It was a place and people that she came to love and cherish.She committed herself to the education of girls and brought the gift of knowledge and freedom to countless women who still remember her with gratitude and appreciation.There are many past pupils with sad hearts in Zambia at the moment – their sadness at her passing tempered only by their gratitude that she is free from the debilities of her age.And that mourning is echoed this morning among our sisters there in the Region and here in this Chapel in the sisters who lived with her and shared her life for those 30 years.

 

Her first 15 years in Zambia were spent in the Teacher training college run by the Jesuits and began her work in promoting the education of girls – beginning with the setting up of a girls secondary boarding school in Roma in Lusaka.Nine years later she was appointed Regional Leader and on Independence day 1978she was conferred with the Order of Distinguished Service for 30 years of outstanding service to the people of Zambia in the fields of Education and Social work.

 

While she was a formidable woman in many ways, with high standards and expectations, her devotion to her religious life and her commitment to education was recognized and appreciated by all who knew her.She was a strict disciplinarian, spoke the truth without apology and demanded very high standards.At the same time her heart was compassionate and her generosity and hospitality were known and appreciated by all.

 

Like all of us, Helen has known suffering and joy, tears and laughter, pain and happiness, loneliness and friendship.And she had strong relationships with herfriends – too numerous to mention – but exemplified in the love and devotion of Sr. Mary Bernadette Collins and Catherine Fallon.Up to the end she valued and enjoyed her relationships with her nieces, nephews and other family members and followed their lives with interest, with love and with prayer.

 

In 1978 she was missioned to Ireland and worked on our Constitutions.Subsequently she was appointed as local leader to our community in Crumlin before her appointment to our Provincial Leadership team and consequent arrival here in Our Lady’s Mount in 1981.

 

Sr. J. Helen’s commitment to Mary Aikenhead's charism was single-minded and she never compromised on that.The second reading confirms her attitude to life:nothing outweighs the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus. It is only through Him, with Him and in Him that we can find life and happiness and fulfilment.Rooted in that conviction, she endorsed and embraced anything that served the people for whom she cared in a better, more dignified or respectful way.

 

She suffered in her growing debility and weakness these last years and all of us – family, community, friends and colleagues - were saddened as we watched her suffering and her struggle to cope.In spite of the wonderful, caring staff who surrounded her and the sisters and friends who were her constant support,she had difficult and dispiriting days.Yet she never gave up .Her faith in Providence was the touchstone of her life.In the midst of all her pain and letting-go she was confident that he was with her, holding her, comforting her and in the end, calling her to himself.And when that call came, sheyielded her spirit to the Lord, peace-filled, calm and trusting - blest with a death that had no struggle, no pain, no fear.And perhaps I can end with some words of hers, written in the diary of which I spoke, on her arrival in Chikuni:“Now that we have reached our Promised Land we must thank God and Our Lady for our very pleasant and on the whole easy journey which we have had . . . . “Those words echo, not only the journey to Chikuni, but her life journey, now at its end as she moves, we believe, into the fullness of the Promised land of God’s life and love.

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