MASS OF REMEMBRANCE FOR SISTER IMELDA CAREW AND SISTER PAULA BUCKLEY OF THE PRESENTATION SISTERS
Homily notes of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Saint Pius X, Templeogue, 17th September 2014
We gather to remember in prayer the religious life of Sister Imelda Carew and Sister Paula Buckley who died tragically just one month ago.
We come in prayer to be with the entire Congregation of the Presentation Sisters. We come as friends or as fellow religious. Bishop Eamonn and myself and many priests represent the Archdiocese of Dublin where both sisters carried out much of their ministry.
We give thanks to God for their life and witness; we commend them to our God who is full of mercy; we reflect on the word of God and on what we can learn from how both sisters lived their faith in the God of love.
In the first letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul writes that we should be in “no doubt about those who have died, so that we do not grieve like others do, who have no hope”. That said, Paul advises us to “comfort one another with these words”.
We come here this evening to comfort one another as we remember the sudden death of Sister Imelda Carew and Sister Paula Buckley, tragically drowned one month ago. We want to bring comfort and prayerful solidarity to the entire congregation of the Presentation Sisters, who are still in shock. We want to bring comfort to the families of both sisters, to those who had worked with them, and those who had encountered them in any way along the path of their pastoral service within the Church.
As Christians we are called to comfort one another in the face of death. The comfort we are called to bring is not just human or psychological. It is the comfort of faith, which enables us to address the shock of death differently.
We can speak of death, we may have assisted someone who was dying, but personal experience of death is an unknown to us. None of us has experienced death and none of us knows what eternal life is like.
What can we say from our faith about death? For the Christian death is not the end. Death is not the end because Christ through his death and resurrection has changed our understanding of death. Without Jesus’ resurrection, it is not that there would be no eternal life, but life itself would be an empty experience. Life’s meaning is determined by the fact that life endures beyond the present moment; life’s meaning then is best interpreted through an understanding of the things that endure. Our first reading reminds us what the things that endure are: “faith, hope and love and the greatest of these is love”.
Love is the key to understanding of what both this life and eternal life are about. There is a sense in which there is a continuum between this life and what is to come and the key to that continuum is love. The love that we show and the good we do in this life accompany us through death, as we encounter Jesus face to face and as are our life is transformed in that encounter.
Eternal life with Christ is the transformation and purification of the goodness that is in us, into a happiness which we can only find in being with the Lord. The foretaste of that communion with Christ is the Eucharist, where the saving love of Jesus is re-enacted and made present. Eucharist, where the self-giving love of Jesus Christ is made present, is the pledge of eternal life.
And here we discover in faith another dimension of eternal life which we learn fro our faith. Eternal life is not simply an individualistic experience; eternal life in Christ is a life of communion. The eternal happiness we attain is a communion with all those who are saved. The risen enjoy the vision of God in communion with all the saints.
Again part of our comfort this evening is the realisation that the communion which Sister Imelda and Sister Paula lived in their religious life while they were with us, continues into the next life. The care that they shared with us remains and indeed if anything it is deepened and is enriched now through the purifying vision of the Lord.
Our humble human love is the very essence of what we hope for in Christ. Our new life after death is human, but it is not just the fruit of human activity. It is the generous love of Jesus Christ which restores us to the perfect dignity in which we were originally created.
Religious life must be lived in that spirit of anticipating – no matter how flawed our human situation – that ideal of communion in love which is the original calling of each person.
We pray that Sisters Imelda and Sister Paula experience that redeeming encounter with Jesus Christ and experience a happiness and fulfilment which is never possible amid the compromises of this life. Now in the presence of God they will be purified and transformed and completely fulfilled in their humanity. This purified love can now be a powerful influence in helping us who remain to continue on the path of love and of communion, knowing that for us too that love will be recognised by God at the moment of our death. Mary is the model of faith and is the guide on our path. ENDS