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margaret-vincent-dockerySister Margaret Vincent Dockery

1925 - 2016

Born: 29th October 1925

Entered Religious Life: 6th February 1950

Died: 10th December 2016

 

The following Reflection was given at Sr. Margaret Vincent Dockery's funeral
by Sr Mary Benton RSC

in the Hospice Chapel, Harold’s Cross on 13th December 2016

Good morning to everyone.  I have been asked to say a few words about Sr. Margaret Vincent (Aunty Frances as she is know to her family}, and whilst it is not usual for me to speak at funerals, I am happy to do so on Sr. Margaret Vincent’s behalf and I will do my best to portray her as I knew her.

I do believe that the readings today were aptly chosen and they do indeed portray aunty Frances, Sr. Margaret Vincent and reflect her life.

The first reading is taken from Job 19 and it reflects Job’s declaration of faith and his utter conviction that he shall behold God.   This reading reflects Sr. Margaret Vincent’s life too.  She had a deep faith that was nurtured by her daily attendance at the Eucharist, her presence at community prayers and also her own personal prayer and private and personal devotion. She was a woman of Dignity who always treated people with respect and kindness and she was practical and down to earth. She truly believed that “our Redeemer lives and that she too, in death, will be welcomed by God and see him face to face”.

The book of Revelation 14.13 tells us: 
‘Blessed are those who die in the Lord, they are blessed indeed, for they will rest from their hard work and their good deeds will follow them”.  Reflecting on Sr. Margaret Vincent’s life – her life in ministry and community - I have no doubt that she was deeply committed to both.  She was a distinguished nurse and brilliant tutor and many will remember her to this day and beyond it. When she completed her ministry in nursing she was appointed to the Mission Effectiveness Team to promote the mission and core values of the congregation in our healthcare facilities.   This she did very effectively and with great skill. Her commitment and dedication to this ministry was outstanding.  I learned so much from her myself and when I was in doubt about issues in healthcare Margaret Vincent was the one I confided in and she set me straight! Another ministry that Margaret Vincent was involved in and was dear to her heart was the Catholic Nurses Guild and she was committed and dedicated to this ministry.  Margaret Vincent worked tirelessly right until the day before she died. Yes her good deeds will follow her and our God will indeed welcome her to eternal life.

In John 14 we read:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God… I go and prepare a place for you and I will come back and take you with me that you also may be where I am” During the last few years Sr. Margaret Vincent’s sight failed and this made life difficult for her.  Nevertheless she was determined to keep going and she came to work four days a week.  When she could no longer read or write clearly because of her failing sight she still helped in the office and did many jobs for us that she could do like shredding and tidying - tedious jobs but she was happy to do them.  She also spent time listening to CD’s on Spirituality and Scripture., prepared music for Liturgies and practiced the organ to play by ear as she could no longer  read the music. We were aware of Margaret Vincent’s vulnerability so we ensured that she was not left alone in the office and we always looked out for her. She worked until Thursday when Sibeal drove her home and on the way she asked Sibeal to take her to the chemist to return medications that she no longer needed.

I am sorry she was in pain before she died but again she was not one to complain.  The miracle was that God took her home quickly and she did not suffer.   Margaret Vincent will be happy that she was able to work until two days before she died.

You, her family meant a great deal to her and she loved you and would speak of you with affection.  She loved her visits home to Elfin, visits from her nieces  and going to lunch to her sister-in-law Noreen.  She also spoke highly of her own community and the many sisters who journeyed with her through life.  She was grateful and appreciated the many kindnesses she received particularly latterly when life was difficult for her.  She is now with God, with her parents and brothers who have gone before her and all her relatives and friends.

Yes we were saddened and shocked at the suddenness of her death but happy for her that her suffering was short. 

Sr. Margaret Vincent we leave you in God’s hands now. May you rest in peace.  May you be enfolded in God’s love and 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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