Early on June 4th 2019 our dear Sr. Maura O Connor passed peacefully into the arms of God. Maura’s brother, Fr. Tom O Connor and our sisters in Rush had accompanied her over these last few quiet days, as communications lessened and Maura gradually withdrew from us. The Sisters and her brother Tom were with her and had been supporting her in a special closeness for the past couple of weeks. What a grace to have had Maura with us for the final stages of her journey….What an amazing grace to have Maura called to heaven on June 4th 2019 when in that day’s Gospel Jesus’ words speak to us of her last moments: ‘Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son. So that your Son may glorify you; and through the power over all humankind that you have given him, Let him give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him’. John 17:2
Since coming home, having handed over the responsibility of leading our Institute to Sr. Christiane, Maura has quietly become part of our ‘Inter Isle’ Province… in the communities of Mount Tallant, Clontarf and finally in Rush. Maura accompanied us, lived side by side in community, offered her presence and help in the very ordinary bits and pieces that arose around the house. Maura the same Maura who wrote ‘One Bread one Body’ for the opening to our General Chapter on the Eucharist, the same Maura who left our shores for India.. where she lived in community, took particular responsibility in the field of Education, as Provincial of Delhi Province and then to Rome for the General Chapter where she was elected to be on the General Council when Alma became our Superior General. These were the post Vatican II days and what solid leadership we had during those times. Then Maura herself was chosen to take the helm from Alma and lead us for the next 12 years. Now we have the privilege of sending Maura on her final journey.
On the evening of June 6th gathered in our Chapel in St. Joseph’s Convent Rush we received Maura back to us. Fr. Tom blessed her body and we prayed in gratitude for her, asking Eternal Peace. Already relatives and friends were gathering to join us and this continued throughout the evening. This beautiful tradition of ‘Wake Keeping’ opens up avenues of relationships, togetherness in sadness mingling with the inspiring memories of Maura’s life. In the to and fro of visitors we seemed to be journeying through the nooks and crannies of life those little precious times known to a few. As we reached back into the very beginnings of our fmm life in Loughlynn where Maura and Tom had lived there was a feeling that we were back there once again enjoying the hospitality of the O Connor’s home. We could not have asked for a more beautiful June morning. The congregation gathered in St. Maur’s, the Parish Church in Rush. As the magnificent voice of Margaret Brennan lead the singing ‘Christ be before me’ sisters from Sri Lanka China, Myanmar, Korea and South Africa carried Maura forward for this celebration of her life.
Fr. Tom celebrated the Eucharist with concelebrants including his Regional Superior and confreres from the Kiltegan order, Frs. John and Paddy Byrne from his parish in Port Laoise and Fr. Richard Kelly OFM a close friend of all in Rush. Sr, Mary Dornon, our animator in Rush community, welcomed the congregation, extending to all, including those who joined from around the world via the parish webcam a ‘cead mile failte’, one hundred thousand welcomes. The Liturgy was carefully crafted by Fr. Tom who wanted this to be a celebration that Maura would want, no long eulogies recalling all Maura had done, no symbols, just the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It was the utter simplicity of the liturgy which inspired the concluding words of Sr. Marie Therese our Provincial. ‘Simplicity is truth and Maura’s life was truth. The truth that was very close to our foundress, Mary of the Passion: ‘Once again my beautiful Trinity, the charity of truth and the truth of charity’. Speaking on behalf of the Province and the whole Institute she expressed gratitude to the community in Rush, to the carers who walked with Maura through those mysterious moments of aging, ever attentive and gentle’.
The concluding words were taken from a message to the whole Province from Sr. Francoise Massy, significantly sent from Aleppo where Francoise is visiting the sisters.
‘To-day, with all the fmm in the world I am united with you to give thanks and celebrate the gift of Sr. Maura to the Institute, to the church and to the mission. Her priority, her courage, her faith and her spiritual depth made of her leadership, a support, and light to generations of fmm and inspires us still as we live the present. She knows to-day the joy of contemplating face to face the one to whom she was totally given. May she rest in peace and intercede for us. With my affection’ Francoise Massy fmm.
Marie Therese then asked us to take a moment of silence, be with Maura as she enjoys the glory of God, what was Maura for me?. She concluded, ‘Now we send Maura forth into the heart of her beautiful Trinity, we send her forth in simplicity in the charity of truth and the truth of charity’. Once again the voice of Margaret Brennan called us forth singing the Hymn to ‘Our Lady of Knock’.
United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta Province