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mary-bernadette-collinsSister Mary Bernadette Collins

1923 - 2016

Born: 6th November 1923

Entered Religious Life: 1st February 1943

Died: 20th October 2016

 

When the news of Sr Mary Bernadette’s death reached Zambia many of her past pupils wished to relay to the Sisters of Charity the influence she had on their lives.  Here are the many wonderful tributes received from Zambia:
Heartfelt condolences on the passing of Sr Bernadette, a sister I remember with fond memories. Though she was the Headmistress at Roma Girls Secondary School, which I attended 1975-80, when I think back, she was also a "mother".

The values, good behaviour, aspirations, confidence and esteem building, to name a few, were all instilled by, and in the school Sr Bernadette was headmistress of. We have a lot to be grateful for.  Though saddened to see her go, my thoughts and prayers are with you and her family, and I know, someone so special will not be forgotten.  Till our Lord Jesus' second coming, May Her Soul Rest In Peace

Blessed are those who die in the Lord so that they rest from their labours, for their good deeds follow with them. Rev 14: 13. MHSRIP.

I was a student of Sister Bernadette at Roma Girls Secondary School in Lusaka, Zambia.  She taught us Math and Religion.  She was a genius in Maths and I always wondered why it was so easy for her while I struggled.  On the whole, I have fond memories of her and I will always cherish her contribution to mother Zambia through the education of us girls, who are now holding positions of power at all levels of government and the private sector to improve the lives of people and our communities.  We could not have done it without the Sisters of Charity. May Her Soul Rest In Peace.  THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

Greetings in the name of the Lord.  My condolences Sister Bernadette was like a mother to me from grade 8 to grade 12 that was in 1983. Roma girls school. I know that she is in heaven as she was such a caring and lovely person always looking out for all the students. She will forever have a place in my heart. MHSRIEP

I just though I should email you some words and memories of the girls from Caritas convent in Kabwe ' 1988-1992 intake 'Sr Bernadette was such an inspiration, a mother, loved her gentle and positive spirit. A good leader, the best headmistress. Taught us to read and get meaning from the films we watched. A gentle lady. Loving and concerned with the learner and their needs. Also a disciplinarian. She did so much for us as young girls growing up in Zambia, if it wasn't for her and all the other Sisters of Charity , we wouldn't have achieved all we did . She did a great job , the intake of 1988- 1992, has produced, teachers, lawyers, bankers , accountants, engineers etc . She would have been so proud of the work she did. Lastly thank you for having me at the funeral today.

My heartfelt condolences to you and the Sisters of Charity on the loss of Sr Bernadette, my former headmistress.  The best way I can describe what she accomplished while she headed Roma Girls Secondary School is that everything was in place and worked very well.  At that time Roma was a boarding school.  I had great teachers (Sr Bernadette taught me RE), the school results were always tops at the end of every school year.  As pupils we were well behaved (overall) and we had a good diet.  I left Roma Girls a well adjusted person who went on to obtain a university education and got a job in a leading bank.  All this is a testament to the strong and effective leadership that Sr Bernadette provided when she was headmistress.  She instilled in me (and I’m sure my former classmates) values which have continued to guide me to this day.  Thank You and farewell Sr Bernadette and may your soul rest in eternal peace.

My dearest Mother, throughout my five years at Roma Girls you disciplined me, taught me the values of life, nurtured me and most of all loved me like your own daughter.  You were a mother like no other.  You have and will always have a special place in my heart.  Thank you Sisters of Charity.  Thank You my mother, Sr Bernadette.

My condolences to all the Sisters of Charity and to Sr Bernadette’s family.  I will always treasure and be thankful for all her work in educating us at Roma Girls Secondary School in Zambia.  May her dear soul rest in peace.

The Zambians must have poured Holy Water on her especially Sr Francis Bernadine, she will probably be at the Entrance waiting.

She lived a long and fruitful life. Let us celebrate her legacy.

MHSRIPP.  I remember  her lesson in R.E  ‘Sex is beautiful.  Sex is wonderful.  Sex is God’s gift to man.’ Sr Bernadette licking her lips and holding out her hand.

May her soul rest in Peace.  I was so very fond of her.  The last time I saw her was in 2010 and she was by then bent over when I visited Mother Helen.  At the time Mother Helen was bed ridden.  Although very ill, Mother Helen would make me wave the Zambian flag and sing the Zambian National Anthem every day of my visit at the hospice.  Sister Bernadette was always at her side tucking Mother Helen in and giving her liquids.  Oh Sr Bernadette was like a mother to each one of us.  Rest in peace my mother!

Rest in eternal peace dear Sr Bernadette.  You ran your race and taught us well. We shall forever remember you.

RIP Sr Bernadette.  She had a place in her heart for each one of us.  She was like a mother hen with each one of us under her wings.

I will always remember her teaching us the Hail Mary in French.  It took a whole lesson for her to be satisfied with how we pronounced ‘je’.  We went as far as Je.

RIP Sister Bernadette.

MHSRIEP, woman of substance.  Farewell!

RIP Sr Bernadette …..Woman of discipline and hard work!

RIP Sr Bernadette, Will always be grateful to you.  I am who I am because of you.  Indeed you are Heaven’s gain.

Sr Bernadette only ever had one pair of specs???  Her entire life?

My sincere condolences on the death of our Mother SR Bernadette.  She represented our parents away from home.  Yes she ran a good race.  MHSRIEP.

Rest in peace Sister Bernadette; wouldn’t be who I am without you.

Farewell Sr Bernadette. RIP

Fitting day for her burial; Zambia’s Independence Day.  A country where she spent her working life.  These Sisters came to Zambia in their youth, and spent their lives working in educating our generation.

You are right.  The Sisters of Charity were feminist even before the word became fashionable.  When the girl child was being married off at a tender age they fought for the girl-child to be educated. EROGA’s (Ex Roma Girls Association) it is our duty to continue to advocate and fight for the girl-child in this land of ours!

The news of Sr Bernadette’s death is sad news.  An Angel has gone home.  She was truly an amazing woman and touched each one of our lives in a special way. As a day scholar she was the nun I had most contact with.  May her 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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