The following eulogy for Sister M. Irene Fugazy, SC, was offered by Sister Dorothy Metz, SC, at the Mass of Christian Burial in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, Mount Saint Vincent.
Good Morning and welcome to this celebration of the life of Sr. Irene Fugazy. We, Sisters of Charity, welcome in particular Sr. Irene’s nieces and nephews and their families. Thank you for the gift your Aunt Mildred has been to us during her 82 years as a Sister of Charity. She is an icon and a legend in our history even as she is in your family history,
While I am delivering this eulogy, I am indebted to Sr. Dominica Rocchio who provided much of the content about Sr. Irene’s long and rich life.
In St. Matthew’s Gospel we read:
“No one lights a lamp to put it under a basket They put in on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before other, that they may see your good works and give praise to your Father in Heaven.”
That is exactly who Irene was — a light that drew and empowered students, friends and colleagues. Sr. Irene had a generosity of heart that embraced challenges as opportunities; welcomed success and dealt with failure. In every situation she was gracious and had a delightful sense of humor.
For forty years she was the traditional sister who taught elementary, high school and college students and even seminarians, inspiring them to achieve their highest ambitions.
When she finished her Ph.D. in French, Mother Loretto Bernard assigned her to Elizabeth Seton College to be the Director of Public Relations and Development. Irene said her immediate response was, “Mother, I don’t even know what that means.” To which Mother relied, “You have been doing it all your life.” And so she embarked on her second career and did it well.
In 1972 she accepted the challenge from the Archdiocese to become the Director of the Instructional Television Program. This was a job made in heaven for Sr. Irene even as she said, “I know nothing about TV.” But her PR work in Seton College prepared her for this new ministry. She became comfortable heading an instructional television system that reached a larger viewing area than any other closed-circuit system. Ever the teacher she was always mindful of her colleagues and the interns, whom she encouraged and supported. She quickly scaled the steep learning curve from not knowing much about TV to becoming proficient and innovative. She was the first woman recipient of the University of Dayton’s Religious Communication Award in 1988.
Now aware of the power of media to shape attitudes, she collaborated with Sister of Mercy, Sr. Rosemary Jeffries, to create MIRA, Media Images and Religious Awareness to counter shallow images of nuns in film and on television. MIRA gave awards to women who portrayed positive images of Sisters such as Vanessa Williams, Susan Sarandon and Ann Dowd.
In 1994 Mount St. Mary College in Emmitsburg awarded her the John Dubois Award in honor of the College’s Founder for her dedicated service to the Archdiocese of New York and tireless efforts to promote the life of Elizabeth Ann Seton.
In later years Irene said ITV was her most satisfying ministry because she was there from the beginning and involved in its growth and expansion.
After serving as the Director at ITV for almost twenty years, Irene went on to her fourth ministry becoming the Director of Special Projects to promote St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Having been so involved in the preparation for Elizabeth’s canonization and now so knowledgeable about the use of Media, she put all resources to work to make Elizabeth known and loved. Through the efforts of Sr. Irene’s brother Louis, the artist Joseph Dawley accepted the commission to paint two official portraits of Elizabeth as Wife and Mother and as Foundress.
In 2009 the Federation of the Sisters of Charity celebrated the Bicentennial of Elizabeth Seton’s arrival in Emmitsburg and the start of the Sisters of Charity, Irene was among those awarded the Seton Legacy Award for embodying the characteristics of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in her life and work. At age 90, Irene was still being remembered for her outstanding contributions. That is not surprising since she led her last tour to Baltimore and Emmitsburg at age 88!
Sr. Irene was of Italian and Irish descent; her paternal grandfather was born in Genoa, Italy, and her maternal roots were from County Cork, Ireland. In 1999 Sr. Irene was an Ellis Island Medal of Honor recipient, which celebrated these roots and called attention to the outstanding accomplishments of spirit and hard work that made the American Dream a reality for so many immigrants.
In retirement at Mount Saint Vincent Convent, Sr. Irene kept a lovely notebook and pen, which she used to write about her grandfather Louis who had done so much for Italian immigrants in lower Manhattan. She wanted to be sure the family history was passed on.
Being part of a loving family was integral to Sr. Irene’s life.
All of you, nieces and nephews and your families — and their families — filled her with love. That love overflowed to her many friends. You may recall these Sisters: Matthew, Anne Mary, Elizabeth Marian, Genevieve, Evelyn, Eileen, Helen, and Miriam Dolores among others.
And there were her four-legged friends. Perhaps George and Zoe were the most prominent. Irene’s friend Jane Scott provided all the assistance and backup to make this possible.
To paraphrase the lines of the poet, Mary Oliver:
When death comes, I want to say
All my life I was a bride married to amazement.
When it’s over I don’t want to wonder if I made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.
Sr. Irene did not visit this world, she was not a bystander, but rather a smart and generous woman who embraced the life of a Sister of Charity, followed in the footsteps of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and let her light shine before others so that they might see her good works and give praise to her God.
Sr. Irene, may you rest now in the company of your God, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and your beloved family.
Dominica Rocchio, SC
Dorothy Metz, SC
What a beautiful tribute!