Remembering Sr. Marie Paul, pddm
"I have been asked to share a little of my memories of Sr. Paul. Of course, the next few minutes is not going to do justice to the many gems which I carry as treasures as I remember with love Sr. Paul on this her first anniversary.
There is a quote that reads: “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” In true Irish fashion, we would say that Sr. Paul was a character, a character who was truly unique. Over this past year since she returned to God, we have heard so many stories about Sr. Paul. Stories which were also new to us, her sisters. They are stories of all the hidden good which she did, to those who were suffering, to those in need, to those who needed a kind word of encouragement at the right time. She had a wonderful gift of listening and whoever was in front of her at that time was the most important person in the world. To say that she touched the hearts of many would be an understatement…God alone knows how many people she accompanied in life, directly, not to mention the multitudes who were constantly present in her daily Adoration.
I was in Canada when Sr. Paul had been diagnosed with her sickness and I returned home at the end of May last year. From the airport I went straight to the hospice as she was ‘near the end’ or so we thought. The next day I was leaving for Italy for two weeks for a course to get the final accreditation for my studies. Again I went to the hospice to say goodbye to her but she defiantly informed me that she was not dying until I came back. And she kept her word! I arrived back on Saturday afternoon of the 14th of June and was blessed to spend the last hours keeping vigil with her and accompanying her as the Lord came to take her home early in the hours of Trinity Sunday, also Father’s Day last year. Her peaceful passing over into the arms of Jesus whom she loved so much took away any fear that I might have of dying.
Although being very sick, Sr. Paul continued to instill hope and encouragement in others. In the months coming up to my finals, her text messages were almost daily. Again, she always seemed to know when I was homesick or needed a bit of motivation and moral support. The reminder to look after myself and my health was a constant message from her, to honour these gifts which God gives generously. However she continued to remind me too to enjoy the experience and celebrate with ice-cream the little victories achieved, both personal and academic.
Myself and Sr. Paul had a common trait in that we are night owls. Often she would knock on my door late at night to remind me to ‘go to bed’ and yet when I peeped out the door I realised that she was en route to the art room to finish some work project that had been commissioned and that she was anxious to finish. She worked best at night, in the quiet stillness of the dark where she and the Divine Artist would paint many marvels of his glory.
Just as we had common traits, we were very different. Sr. Paul thrived on doing things last-minute, slightly the opposite to myself! One of my earlier memories of helping Sr. Paul in the artroom was for an order for four 10ft Advent banners, handpainted, which were needed for the Saturday evening mass of Advent. The priest was due to collect them at 5.00 pm…at five to five, both of us, wielding a hair dryer in each hand were still drying the paint on the banners. Yet at 5.00 o clock when the doorbell went, the priest was greeted by a smiling Sr. Paul as she presented him with his banners! She always seemed to manage to have just ‘enough’ time to do whatever she needed to do.
Her spontaneity was something too which, whilst moving us out of our comfort zones, didn’t seem to phase her at all. Back in 2004, I remember Sr. Paul driving myself and my Dad to the hospital in Roscommon after my Grandad passed away. On the way home, she stopped the car and offered that I drive home. That was fine…except I couldn’t drive, didn’t have a licence and never even sat in a driver seat of a car! Yet, her logic was, that the road ahead was straight and what better way to learn! I politely declined the offer, much to the relief of my Dad sitting in the back seat who had gone a lovely pale colour as he listened to the conversation! She never lost an opportunity to teach, to impart some words of wisdom to us who were fumbling through life and the various different challenges which accompanied them.
Sr. Paul’s legacy continues in many ways…her artworks here in this chapel, the new building and hospitality centre beside us. It always brings a smile to us when we visit different churches and we can say: “Oh there’s one of Sr. Paul’s banners.” However the greatest legacy is deep in the hearts of each one of us. Yes, there continues to be a huge void in our community and her family which nothing can fill except that trust and hope that one day we will be with her together in Heaven.
Even in death Sr. Paul taught us about life. So we continue to ask for her intercession. We are still on this earthly pilgrimage and she knows our needs and I am sure she would be happy that we continue to remember her in prayer and especially during the celebration of the Eucharist. Each one carries our different memories of Sr. Paul. We thank you for joining with us for this celebration. We would be very happy if you could join us afterwards for some refreshments over in the convent and there we can continue to remember with gratitude Sr. Paul and the gift of her life to us all.
Thank you. "
(Sr. M. Louise O' Rourke, pddm)