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elizabeth-anne-mcateerSister Elizabeth Anne McAteer

1922 - 2012

Born: 14th May 1922

Entered Religious Life: 8th October 1945

Died: 24th October 2015

 

Anne Teresa McAteer, daughter of James McAteer and Elizabeth Donaghy was born in Shannagh, Co. Donegal on the 18th August 1922.  Having received her early education in Loreto College, Falcarragh, she attended Carysfort Teacher Training College, where she qualified as a Primary School teacher.  She taught with the Sisters of Mercy in Baggot Street for a short time.  She entered the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity on 8th October 1945.  Her sister, Sr. Carmel de Montfort, was professed in May of the same year.  She received the habit and the name Elizabeth Anne on 1st May 1946.  She made her Profession of Vows on the 4th May 1948.

After her profession she spent a few months in Cappagh where she was involved in Housekeeping.  She was then missioned to St. Vincent’s, Cork, where she taught in the primary school for three years and in 1951 moved to Gardiner Street.  From 1951 she was engaged in the ministry of primary school education until her retirement in 1987.  With the opening of the first foundation in America she was very excited at the prospect of being missioned there.  She was disappointed that she could not go due to ill health.  Instead she was missioned to Bray where she taught for one year.  In 1955 she was missioned to Milltown to start the school in Farrenboley where a new housing estate had been built.  The children from Farrenboley were taught in the Marian Hall in Milltown for two years.  In 1957 when the new school was ready the classes moved there and she travelled by bus each day.  In 1958 she was missioned to Blarney where she spent six years.  In 1964 she went to Baldoyle and remained in the school there until she retired in 1987.  In 1987 she was appointed Local Leader in Walkinstown. 

Sr. Elizabeth Anne was very caring, kind and thoughtful, friendly and approachable at all times.  She was an excellent teacher who was long remembered by her students.  Recently a former student of hers was enquiring where she was living and mentioned that she had always intended visiting her as she had made a lasting impression.  She served as Chairperson of two of the Primary School Boards of Management and always kept in touch with education, her former occupation.  She took a lively interest in the Social Service Centre in Walkinstown and, while she was able, paid frequent visits to the functions organised there.

In 1993 she was missioned to Airdrie, Scotland where she was engaged in the ministry of Reception and took a keen interest in the fundraising.  She was instrumental in bringing the idea of the ‘Light Up A Life’ Christmas Tree to Airdrie Hospice as she had seen that it was popular in Harold’s Cross. She was a welcoming, gentle presence to all who entered St. Andrew’s Hospice.  During her time in Airdrie she became an ardent fan of Celtic soccer team.  Perhaps some of the excitement and her enthusiasm for Celtic was due to the fact that many of the players had Donegal connections.  The Donegal GAA team was also very close to her heart and even when she could no longer watch games on the television she listened to the radio and was frequently heard to say, ‘Up Donegal’.
Up to about two years before her death she visited Donegal at least once a year.  Early in December each year there was a family anniversary and both she and her sister, Sr. Carmel, always attended.  She had family members who made sure that this could happen. 

Sr. Elizabeth Anne suffered from acute arthritis for many years, but was never known to complain.
 
She retired to Lakelands in April 2000.  For some years she was able to help out answering the telephone.  She also made relics of Mary Aikenhead and cards.  In recent years she became more frail.  She was always grateful for any little act of kindness and her most frequent expression was ‘Thank you’.  She was a woman of faith and had great devotion to the Mass.  Up to her last days she insisted on attending Mass and when she received Holy Communion she responded loudly and clearly ‘Amen’.

Sr. Elizabeth Anne died peacefully at home in Lakelands on the 24th October 2015. Her remains were received back in the Convent Chapel on Sunday 25th and she was removed to Star of the Church in Sandymount on Tuesday 27th for her Requiem Mass which was celebrated by her nephew.  She was laid to rest in Donnybrook Cemetery.  May she rest in peace.

Sr. Joseph Helen Cunningham.

 

We are standing this morning on holy ground: the place where Mary Aikenhead spent the last years of her life as an invalid – a woman whose vision, courage and practical common-sense gave birth to our Congregation and to our long and graced history of service of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable.Today we are celebrating the life of Sr. Joseph Helen, a woman who cherished that charism, serving those in need with fidelity and generosity, and who also spent the last years of her life here in the Hospice.

 

The readings this morning are both comforting and challenging.In the Gospel Jesus speaks of himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.He invites us to put our hope and our trust in Him and in His promise to be with us, steadily and constantly as we try each day to walk his way, to speak his truth, to live his life.It is an apt description of the life and commitment of the woman whom we are remembering here.

 

In her 103 years of life, Sr. Joseph Helen lived through historical and global changes that are impossible for us to imagine.She experienced seismic shifts in Church and state.She witnessed wars and famines on a world scale.Through all of those yearsshe remained steadfastly faithful to the constant core of who she was as an RSC.She was born Dorothy Cunningham in Ballacolla in Portlaoise on 1st July 1908. She was an only girl, with one brother, and was much loved by all.Her childhood and youth reflected the calm ordinariness of children’s lives at that time.Following her degree studies she spent some months caring for her mother who was ill and then secured a job teaching in Mountjoy St. School in Dublin.Her father was not impressed!His comment on hearing of that place was:“It doesn’t sound like much of a job but you like working for the poor and you’ve always been good at it”.She remained there until she entered the Sisters of Charity on 5th October 1931.

 

In the first reading we are told that God gives strength to the wearied; that those who hope in Yahweh will soar like eagles, run and no grow weary, walk and never tire.That was so true of J. Helen throughout her active life.She was missioned back to Mountjoy St. after her religious profession and taught there for 12 years.Following a year’s further study in Scotland, she went to teach in a Secondary Modern school inWalthamstow in England for a year.And then came the call to be one of our three founding Sisters of the Zambian Region, or Northern Rhodesia as it then was.

 

In 1948 they set sail, travelling for four weeks by boat – The Athlone Castle -rail, bus and lorry before arriving in Chisekesi Siding on a dark morning on 28th October 1948. Sr. Helen kept a diary of the journey which was printed for the 50th anniversary and which gives a fascinating insight into their journey and how they coped with, what was for them, such a strange and almost ‘alien’ environment.

 

One can only imagine the anticipation and anxiety, the challenge and the loneliness, the wonder and the doubts that marked that journey and her first months in Zambia.It was a place and people that she came to love and cherish.She committed herself to the education of girls and brought the gift of knowledge and freedom to countless women who still remember her with gratitude and appreciation.There are many past pupils with sad hearts in Zambia at the moment – their sadness at her passing tempered only by their gratitude that she is free from the debilities of her age.And that mourning is echoed this morning among our sisters there in the Region and here in this Chapel in the sisters who lived with her and shared her life for those 30 years.

 

Her first 15 years in Zambia were spent in the Teacher training college run by the Jesuits and began her work in promoting the education of girls – beginning with the setting up of a girls secondary boarding school in Roma in Lusaka.Nine years later she was appointed Regional Leader and on Independence day 1978she was conferred with the Order of Distinguished Service for 30 years of outstanding service to the people of Zambia in the fields of Education and Social work.

 

While she was a formidable woman in many ways, with high standards and expectations, her devotion to her religious life and her commitment to education was recognized and appreciated by all who knew her.She was a strict disciplinarian, spoke the truth without apology and demanded very high standards.At the same time her heart was compassionate and her generosity and hospitality were known and appreciated by all.

 

Like all of us, Helen has known suffering and joy, tears and laughter, pain and happiness, loneliness and friendship.And she had strong relationships with herfriends – too numerous to mention – but exemplified in the love and devotion of Sr. Mary Bernadette Collins and Catherine Fallon.Up to the end she valued and enjoyed her relationships with her nieces, nephews and other family members and followed their lives with interest, with love and with prayer.

 

In 1978 she was missioned to Ireland and worked on our Constitutions.Subsequently she was appointed as local leader to our community in Crumlin before her appointment to our Provincial Leadership team and consequent arrival here in Our Lady’s Mount in 1981.

 

Sr. J. Helen’s commitment to Mary Aikenhead's charism was single-minded and she never compromised on that.The second reading confirms her attitude to life:nothing outweighs the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus. It is only through Him, with Him and in Him that we can find life and happiness and fulfilment.Rooted in that conviction, she endorsed and embraced anything that served the people for whom she cared in a better, more dignified or respectful way.

 

She suffered in her growing debility and weakness these last years and all of us – family, community, friends and colleagues - were saddened as we watched her suffering and her struggle to cope.In spite of the wonderful, caring staff who surrounded her and the sisters and friends who were her constant support,she had difficult and dispiriting days.Yet she never gave up .Her faith in Providence was the touchstone of her life.In the midst of all her pain and letting-go she was confident that he was with her, holding her, comforting her and in the end, calling her to himself.And when that call came, sheyielded her spirit to the Lord, peace-filled, calm and trusting - blest with a death that had no struggle, no pain, no fear.And perhaps I can end with some words of hers, written in the diary of which I spoke, on her arrival in Chikuni:“Now that we have reached our Promised Land we must thank God and Our Lady for our very pleasant and on the whole easy journey which we have had . . . . “Those words echo, not only the journey to Chikuni, but her life journey, now at its end as she moves, we believe, into the fullness of the Promised land of God’s life and love.

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