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andrea-nagglerSister Andrea Naggler

1950 - 2015

Born: 29th June 1950

Entered Religious Life: 14th October 1968

Died: 14th December 2015

 

Homily given by Sr Josephine McDonal at Sr Andrea’s Requiem Mass on 16 December 2015

We are in the heart of the Advent season and in a way we can already hear the song  the Angels as the shepherds kept watch on the lambs and sheep on the hillside: ‘Glory to God in the Highest’ they sang  ‘and peace on earth for all those pleasing Him.’  
So in a very real sense, peace is the first gift that Jesus brings us.

Today’s Gospel reminds us of the last words of Jesus in the Upper Room, His last gift as it were to us.

‘Peace I leave you, my peace I give you – not the kind of peace the world gives but a sacred and enduring peace.  So don’t let your heart be afraid or troubled any more.’
There are echoes or reminders of this in the first reading as the prophet Isaiah tells us of God’s tenderness and care.  God does not grow tired or weary. He gives strength to the wearied and the powerless … those who hope in Yahweh renew their strength and soar like eagles.
Today we celebrate the life and death of Andrea and rejoice with her too as she has received such a special gift this Christmas ~ the peace of Christ that will endure forever.

She was born in Austria 65 years ago, and entered from Bath in 1968.
She trained in St Vincent’s Hospital and in Cappagh, nursed in St Vincent’s Hospital, Harold’s Cross, Marycrest in California  and then to St Patrick’s in Cork from 1983 – 1991.

In the late 1980’s she developed MS. So really for over 30 years she lived and struggled with MS ~ just about half of her life. In Cork she coped and battled as long as she could and even went around her ward in a wheelchair.  What courage and grace that took. In 1991 she went to Linden for 6 years ~ her active ministry in healthcare now over.

From there she went to Lakelands for 9 years, then briefly to Loyola and finally here to Harold’s Cross for 7 years.
It was extraordinary that she who was a beautiful pianist, singer and trained ballet dancer became more and more physically handicapped.  Through all these years Andrea coped valiantly, did all she could to help herself with exercises and massage and keeping as active as she could.  But in all she was so uncomplaining and courageous; she smiled a lot and was always full of peace.

It must have been such a struggle for her over these latter 30 years or more, but now that struggle is over ~  and she is enfolded in the peace of Christ forever.

Andrea had a simple and deep faith as she came to terms with her life situation.  She had a strong devotion to Padre Pio for years and it lasted to the very end.  His biography was always beside her and became quite tattered.  ‘My friend’ she used to call him and his statue was on her bed table in front of her as she lay dying and in her hand she clutched a small picture of him. Both of them suffered something of the passion of Christ with love. Another book she had close to her was ‘The Imitation of Christ.’

In the second reading from Paul to the Philippians we read:  ‘Our homeland is in Heaven and from Heaven comes the Saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus, and He will transform these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body.’

Andrea’s waiting in now over and our faith teaches us that her body, her wrecked body in so many ways, is transfigured and transformed into, as Paul says: ‘copies of His glorious body.’

There is sadness in Andrea’s passing for all of us, the memories, the parting, the good byes, the loss, the sadness, the strong reminders that we have not here a lasting city but are on a journey, a pilgrimage ~ all of us ~ to our true homeland in Heaven where Christ is waiting for us as He waited for Andrea but her waiting now is over.

She has been given the best possible gift for Christmas ~ the lasting peace which only Christ can give.
This is the time for giving and receiving gifts.  Perhaps we can ask Our Lady to bring us the beautiful, special gift of the peace of Christ this Christmas for ourselves but also for our communities, our families, and for the many who are suffering untold things in so many parts of our world.

We pray for Sr Andrea ~ may her gentle soul rest in God’s peace forever.



 

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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