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brigid naultySister Brigid Naulty

1935 - 2017

Born: 10th July 1935

Entered Religious Life: 29th June 1960

Died: 18th December 2017

 

The following are the two the eulogies given at Sr Brigid's funeral. The first by Sr Rita Dawson RSC Provincial Leader of the English/Scottish Province and the second by Sr Brigid's nephew, Robert Heuston.

Sr Rita:
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I wonder what he will have to say to me? How often do we ask ourselves this question as I am sure Brigid did during her own reflections on life? Will he say 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful in small things. Now Come and share your master's happiness.
Matthew 25:21

Brigid Naulty was born in Co Meath to loving parents, Mary Anne and John Naulty and was the only survivor of triplets. Her other siblings were sisters Sheila and Kathleen both deceased and brothers Johnny and Benny also departed RIP.

Robert her nephew who was very devoted to Sr Brigid and is with us today. Brigid was very close to her family and enjoyed her holidays immensely each year.

During her childhood Brigid enjoyed a healthy outdoor country life and developed a love for farm animals. Nevertheless, her early school years must have been somewhat difficult as she was very short-sighted from birth. Her love of the countryside was still evident, when at Art classes in later life she preferred to paint ‘real’ animals to something abstract.

Her prayer life developed in her happy home and as a very young person she made her first attempt to follow a Religious way of life. This did not work out for her and she only stayed six months.

After some years back at home she was attracted to the Religious Sisters of Charity and as they say, the rest is history.

Sr Brigid’s first ministry was in catering at Mount St Anne’s, Milltown. After two years she was transferred to the English/Scottish Province where she has remained for the rest of her life.

She has moved house three times. Brigid loved cooking and spent nineteen years Catering in Sowerby Bridge and a further twenty-five years Housekeeping and Visiting the Elderly in their own homes in Bristol. She did some home visits to local parishioners and these people confided in her sharing their personal problems.

She had a natural ability to draw a community together by her interest in each one and their Ministry.

She also had a good sense of humour and one day when a sister fell on the kitchen floor her remark was ‘well you have plenty of padding so you should be all right’. She enjoyed the simple things in life. Brigid always loved taking a picnic out and loved long drives in the summer which was not as easy for them in Brigid’s time as it is for us now. She also was very quiet, loved Irish music and had her Radio set to RTÉ always.

In 2009 she retired to Hackney, gradually becoming more dependent on care.

While she enjoyed listening to music she also very much looked forward to receiving the RSC newsletter and being informed on events throughout the Congregation.

Brigid’s life was a simple uncomplicated life one which had its own challenges which she bore bravely but we know she is now resting in peace with the Lord whom she served so faithfully.

I should like to thank all of you for your attendance here today, particularly Brigid’s nephew, Robert, who was very devoted to Sr Brigid and she loved his telephone conversations each week and of course his visits to her.

On behalf of the Congregation, Robert and the Hackney Community, I should also like to say a very special thank you to Father David Evans not only for his presence here today but for all the support he gives to this Community throughout the year.

Our very sincere thanks to all of the staff on the Care Floor for their tremendous care and love shown to Sr Brigid, especially during her final weeks.

A special thanks to Sr Geraldine and Sr Helena for the beautiful care and support to Sr Brigid over many years. Also to the Community for their visits and prayerful friendship.

I should like to say a special thanks to Sr Mary Christian, Congregational Leader, for being here with us today and I do not know how Sr Mary keeps up with all of the travelling but we do appreciate very much your presence here with us today. Also to all the Sisters who have travelled to be here with us in thanksgiving for Sr Brigid’s life and her dedication as a Sister of Charity.

In Philippians 3:13-14, “Let go of what has gone before and press on to what is ahead. Brothers and Sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Do not be afraid about the future - instead, give everything over to God in prayer.

Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. We have so much to be thankful for; the beauty of the surroundings we have here and the wonderful care given to each of us every day.

As we come to the end of the Christmas season and we reflect on the trust and the hope that the Kings had on following the star, each of us has our own personal star guiding us – the star of prayer, love, friendship, support…the star has a different name at different times. We should be grateful for our own star – and be grateful that you have been a star for so many other people each day of your life. In the book of God, each of us is a star.

May Brigid now Rest In Peace.

Robert Heuston:
Sisters, Father David, Carers, Friends of Sister Brigid.
I would to thank all those who are here today and who have organised the Requiem Mass to celebrate the life of my beloved Aunt Sister Brigid.

Sister Brigid or Aunt Bridie as she was affectionately known by myself should be very proud of her life's work and achievements.

A loving daughter to her deceased parents Maryann and John and sister to her deceased siblings Kathleen (My Mum), Sheila, Benny and Johnny, Sister in law to the deceased Joseph (My Dad) and Christian. She was loved by all.

Sister Brigid was born in the Royal County of Meath and grew up on the family farm. A devotion to God brought her to the Religious Sisters of Charity starting in Linden, Blackrock followed by Milltown. In the UK Sister Brigid formed a positive part of the wonderful communities in Sowerby Bridge, Bristol and in recent years in Hackney here in East London.

Sister Brigid was a huge part of my life for over 40 years. My Aunt, My Friend and one of the greatest supporters. Birthdays, First Communion, Confirmation, School Holidays, College Graduations, when my parents were ill, when I needed support. Sister Brigid was always there for me.

The Summer visits each year to Limerick and County Meath were always joyous occasions. With my Mum and Dad, there was much adventure whether it be trips to Kerry or Cork Galway or Knock in County Mayo. Great times and great Memories. The weekly phone call was never missed when we chatted about so much over the years. Sister Brigid also loved her radio and it kept her in touch with all that was happening in Ireland.

Sister Brigid fought a good fight throughout her 82 years. Born a triplet and the only one of three who lived she suffered with declining eyesight for much of her life. But Sister Brigid lived her life by making best use of what she had and didn't complain about what she hadn't. That was Sister Brigid. It was who she was and what she stood for.

In recent years her health deteriorated significantly and she was confined to bed for much of her days. I was pleased to be able to come to Hackney particularly over the last 3 years to visit and where I have always been warmly welcomed by the Community here.

On December 18th 2017, Sister Brigid sadly passed away. I was fortunate to be able to see her and say goodbye before she died.

May I take this opportunity to thank the Religious Sisters of Charity, Carers, Doctors and all others who have cared for Sister Brigid in her latter years. Also for the kindness, support and welcome always given to me.

Thanks also to Father David for the Requiem Mass, Father Peter St Joseph's Hospice Chaplain for anointing Sister Brigid before she died and the Funeral Directors for all their support and in particular affording me the opportunity to see Sister Brigid in Beckton yesterday morning.

Today the last of the Naulty family will be laid to rest. It is a very sad day for me. But Today is not about me. Today we celebrate the life of a wonderful person who brought so much to her religious community and to her family. Thank you Sister Brigid. My Aunt. I will always remember you and be thankful you were part of my life.
May you 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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