Sister Francis Rosario Finneran
1920 - 2011
Born: 6th May 1920
Entered Religious Life: 8th October 1945
Died: 20th November 2011
Appreciation of Sr Rosario Finneran
Eulogy given at Sr Rosario's funeral by Sr Anne Lally RSCSister Francis Rosario Finneran entered in 1945 and was Professed in 1948. After spending a short time with the children in Kilkenny she went to Zambia – where she spent nine years (without returning home!). Being the second eldest of a large family of 14, this meant that the younger members of her family were quite grown up when she returned! In 1964 she was missioned to Nigeria, to join Sister Carmel de Montfort in Pacelli School for the Blind, Lagos.
I first met Sister Francis Rosario in early 1977 when I went to Nigeria.
Before travelling, Mother Teresa Anthony briefed me on my new community. She said that Sister Carmel was Headmistress of the school and Sister Rosario ‘taught Braille to the children’. On reaching the school I was quickly amazed and impressed at the real involvement of Sister Rosario. She taught all subjects to the Primary 5 and 6 classes together – usually having about 24 blind children in her class - while the other classes had half that number. She was one of the most brilliant teachers I have ever met! The blind children were all being prepared for integration into public Secondary Schools and all would require boarding accommodation. These boarding schools were highly subsidised by the Federal Government and competition for places was extremely keen. Entrance examinations were held annually throughout the country. Invariably, due to Sister Rosario’s unique teaching skills, most of the Pacelli School children scored higher than the general population and gained admission to Kings and Queens Colleges in Lagos and other reputable Colleges throughout the Federation. The inspectors were fascinated with Sister Rosario’s teaching ability and the speed of the children in grasping concepts – so much so that they asked if they could perform on state television! Most of these children eventually completed their third level education in America, Britain and Nigeria – gaining various degrees. Many are still abroad, working as lawyers, teachers, lecturers, physiotherapists etc. They always remember Sisters Rosario and Carmel and speak of them with respect and gratitude.
There were approximately 100 primary pupils in Pacelli School those days and Sister Rosario had other duties besides teaching! She took responsibility for the whole staff and ensured that they performed their duties well! Her standards were extremely high! Before school each morning the sick children lined up for Sister Rosario, to receive their medication and a decision on whether they were well enough for school that day. I often said to her that she would have made an excellent nurse and I think she would have liked that area too! She nursed very sick children through severe bouts of malaria and other tropical illnesses. She was on duty 24/7 – being called to a sick child at night when necessary, and ready for a hard day’s work next day! All this was achieved in the tropics of Lagos!
The blind children had different sets of uniforms – for weekdays, Sundays, extra special days (when performing in public etc.). Sister Rosario had these uniforms made by the tailor and they had to be perfect!!! When the tailor brought his latest set of uniforms the children were all dressed up in them immediately and stood in one long line. Sister Rosario examined each one for length, finish etc. etc. and unless they were perfect payment was not made! The tailor soon learnt to meet Sister Rosario’s high standards!
At this point you might rightly feel that Sister Rosario had more than enough to do, but she was also responsible for catering for the whole school! She ordered the food and decided on the daily menus. She always ensured that delicate, sick and convalescent children received extra nourishment when necessary.
As you can imagine, Sister Rosario was, of necessity, a great disciplinarian – of the right kind! She was greatly loved and respected by staff, parents and children, because they all knew that she had their interest at heart and had a great love for them.
In 1980 Sisters Carmel and Rosario left Pacelli School, Lagos and went to found a similar school for the blind in Ethiopia. They continued their work for the blind in that country for a number of years and helped many more blind children find their rightful place in society.
Sister Rosario finally retired a few years ago, after a very serious heart operation.
She loved her family and was always worried that she might not have their correct addresses, so that she could keep in contact with them and send them all a Christmas card! She can do that from Heaven now!
Sister Rosario passed to her reward last Sunday morning. I was greatly moved by the gospel of that day and felt it was so appropriate for the Sister Rosario that I knew:
‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
Thank you Sister Rosario for your friendship, companionship and wonderful example! Pray for all of us who are still struggling in this ‘vale of tears’!