The Mass of Remembrance, celebrated each year on the weekend closest to All Souls Day, was held on Saturday, November 4th at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. The Congregation gathered to remember thirteen Sisters, four Associates, and five former members. After Sister Jane Iannucelli welcomed family and friends, Sister Mary Lou McGrath read the names of the departed while Sister Regina Bechtle sounded the gong during the solemn ceremony. Father Paul Fagan, CP, presided.
During the Mass, the following reflection was offered by Sister Sheila Brosnan:
We gather together as Sisters of Charity, family, friends Associates, and Companions on this, our solemn day of remembrance. We have all experienced the surprise of death even when it may have been preceded by a long period of either dread, denial or even anticipation of the inevitable. Often in the aftermath of death, grief and sorrow visit each of us, in our own unique way. Sorrow comes to dwell with us quietly. It follows no reliable timeline, and it is not selective based on distance or circumstance.
I remember clearly as a child when my mother received word that my Grandmother in Ireland had passed away. Sorrow seemed to envelop her, along with the thoughts of “what if” and “if only.” We went to Mass and prayed the Rosary but it was clear that her sorrow was very deep and it lingered for a long time. As a family, we sensed that Celtic awareness of a “thin space” between our Mom and our departed Grandmother.
The question becomes, Is there a cure for sorrow?
Could the cure be that immediate sense of relief when someone you love slips away to eternity, seeming to be finally free of struggle and pain? Do we experience the cure for sorrow as we try to assuage our own grief and pain, by taking special care of ourselves, and by distracting ourselves from the enormity of what has happened? Is the cure for sorrow found by stirring the memories of a wonderful past or even a mixed past? Is the cure in pouring over delightful old photographs? Yes and no to all of the above.
As we gather today, we are once again linked in that effort to revitalize the sure and steady lifelines that are available to each of us, especially as sorrow for those who have gone before us, lingers in our midst. In this Eucharist celebration, Jesus invites us to mix memory and desire. We remember, the bonds that we have shared with each of the people who have gone before us We remember the faith and love and joy and sorrow hat has been part of the fabric of our relationship, and the energy that this vibrancy has provided. We are invited to let go of any fear or hesitancy in following our own heart’s desire.
Today, Scripture tosses us many lifelines. The reading from Romans proclaims the power and constancy of God’s love amidst any calamity, be it persecution, famine, nakedness (imagine arriving at the pearly gates with nothing to show for our lives). “If God is with us, who can be against us? And in John,” Do not let your hearts be troubled. “With God, all things work unto the good.” “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want. In verdant pastures, he gives me repose.” These scripture references are not simply fragments of wishful thinking. Each one goes to the heart of the matter. These words go to the very heart of our distress because they deliver the words of God’s comfort and message of love.
The poet Jan Richardson notes that the key to sifting and sorting the ironies of life and death lies in our capacity to offer blessings. She notes that a blessing is sorrow’s most lasting cure. A blessing helps us to open our eyes and hearts to the presence of God in our midst. It fills the thin space with comfort and longing to know God’s love. In essence, Jan considers that the cure for sorrow is hope.
Hope, not someday but today, and every day, over and over and over again. Why? Because It is hope that knows how to sing when there is little cause to sing. It is hope that raises us from the dead, not someday but this day, over and over again.
Is there really a cure for sorrow? Or might it be a precious, forever gift that graces each of us with love and compassion?
Following the Mass, family and friends joined the Congregation to break bread and share stories of their loved ones.
Those remembered at the Mass were:
Sister Margaret Beaudette
Sister Mary T. Boyle
Sister Bernadette Del Frate
Sister Margaret Aileen Fennell
Sister M. Theresa Fowler
Sister Margaret Franks
Sister Joan Glowacki
Sister Cecilia Haley
Sister Marion Halpin
Sister Patricia Lawlor
Sister Loretto John Meehan
Sister Mary Elizabeth Phelan
Sister Marie Schutté
Frances de Frange
Doreen Lyons Gallagher
Frances Darcy (Sister Joan Marie)
Joan Marie Guerrieri (Sister Mary Vincent)
Joan Grumman (Sister Francis Maria)
Rosaleen McKenna (Sister Rosaleen)
Barbara Pitts (Sister Miriam Barbara)
This was a truly beautiful and meaningful piece! Thanks for expressing sorrow in such a deep way. I know that my feelings of grief just seem to morph into different forms; but as the years pass, I also feel a growing awareness of the presence of those I’ve loved so deeply.
Meg Walsh Byrne