Mary (Sadie) McDonagh, Honorary Member of the SMA, was buried after Requiem Mass at the St Joseph’s SMA Church, Blackrock Road, Cork in 1 February 2012. The Principal Celebrant and Homilist was the SMA Provincial Leader, Fr Fachtna O’Driscoll SMA, assisted by Fr Colum O’Shea SMA and Fr Tommie Wade SMA, PP. The MC was Fr A J Butler SMA and the Choir was led by Fr Denis Collins SMA.
Wisdom 3: 1-9
1 Thess 4: 13-18
Luke 23: 44-46. 50. 52-53. 24: 1-6
“Anois teacht an Earraigh beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh,
Is tar eis na féil Bríde ardóigh mé mo sheol.
Go Coillte Mach rachad ní stopfaidh me choíche
Go seasfaidh mé síos i lár Chondae Mhaigh Eo.”
le Antaine Ó Raifteirí 1784-1835
Apart from the Easter Octave itself, it is hard to imagine a more ‘resurrection-tinged’ day to be buried than the first day of Spring. La Fheile Bride, St Brigid’s Day – secondary patron of Ireland. Signs of new life are budding up all over nature. Such signs support a faith position that attests that in human life, too, death signifies a change rather than an end. On this day we gather to pay our final respects and bid a fond farewell to a gentle and much loved lady, Mary Sadie McDonagh. Sadie was a much valued honorary member of the Society of African Missions. Her companions gather round her mortal remains today to pray her home to God. Sadie, we ask you today to pray for us, as we believe you are now closer to the Father’s side.
Our readings today are full of resurrection promise. In the Gospel just proclaimed we see the women on the way to the tomb to pay their respects to the dead body of Jesus. But we can only imagine their amazement and fright when they discover not only is the stone rolled away from the entrance but in fact there is no body remaining inside the tomb. They don’t know what to think. Terrified, they lowered their eyes. Then the two angel-like figures speak to them: ‘Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? He is not here, he has risen.’
This is a key statement of faith for all Christians. Jesus has risen from the dead. This was the confirming deed for all the kingdom values that Jesus had been preaching and living throughout his earthly life. All the old ways of living are no longer valid: only the ways of the kingdom should now be lived by those who claim to be Christian. Sadie lived these values to the best of her ability in a very quiet way throughout her life. She was never pretentious or dramatic about this. She wasn’t a woman overly given to piety. Yet, she was a woman of sturdy faith. Her child-like faith sustained her. Eucharist, the rosary and other traditional devotions were her staple diet of nourishment.
Though Jesus’ resurrection has more to do with the confirmation of the Kingdom of God than being necessarily a guarantee of our own resurrection, nevertheless we Christians do believe, as St Paul attests in our second Reading this afternoon, that we will rise from the dead on the last day. In our creed we proclaim our belief in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. We are counselled today by St Paul not to grieve for the dead like people who have no hope. ‘We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him,’ Paul says. He goes on to describe how it will be for believers on the last day. And with such thoughts as these we should comfort one another.
So today we believe that Sadie’s soul and spirit lives on and that we should not look among the dead for someone who is alive. Our hope is that we ourselves will join her one day in one of those rooms in the Father’s house.
Our opening reading is a very familiar one on funeral days. ‘The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God, no torment shall ever touch them’. I don’t believe there is a person in this church this afternoon would argue with the statement that Sadie was a virtuous woman. I don’t seek to canonise her, as like us all, she too had her faults. But it was hard not to have a warm glow in one’s heart when one encountered Sadie.
That is not to say there was not also a mark of steel about her. As we say in Cork, ‘Sadie was no dah’. She could voice her view or opinion on an issue or a person in very clear and unambiguous terms. Those with any airs or graces were quickly put in their place.
Perhaps it was because she seemed so utterly uncomplicated and easy going that people warmed to her. Her devotion to her little dogs – the latest incarnation being Cindy – spoke of a heart that was open to affection. Such affection was mined in a life of 87 years. Life was not always easy for her. She did have her own tests but, certainly towards the end of her life, she seemed to be a woman of serenity. The reading points to a hope that is rich with immortality. But I believe that in this life, Sadie already realised that slight indeed were her afflictions and that her blessings were indeed great. She enjoyed her few small comforts at Feltrim lodge, her walk to the shop with her dog, her sorties with Sr Rosalie for more serious shopping and, until relatively recently, her pull of a cigarette.
For over fifty years she served in various areas of Blackrock Road for the Society of African Missions. Margaret was her life-long companion but so too were so many Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles. St Columban, Sr De Pazzi and so many others, all of whom know themselves how special they were to Sadie. I believe the affection was mutual. What was really nice was to see how that love and affection remained right to the end.
Sadie served faithfully, too, here in the sacristy of this parish church of St Joseph. Morning, noon and night she attended to her task. How often did we see her, sometimes crouched against wind and rain as she meandered along Feltrim wall, to open or close the church. She witnessed many a marriage, many a baptism, and consoled the bereaved at funerals. Her service did not go unacknowledged: parishioners appreciated her tireless efforts.
In 2004 the SMA was thrilled that Sadie and Margaret were installed as honorary members of the Society. They had been part of the SMA family for more years than some of us had lived. This was the icing on the cake, as it were; a public acknowledgement of real service duly recognised.
So we part today from a colleague and a friend. She will be sorely missed by Margaret and many others both near and far. Our earthly sorrow is real and tangible and must not be minimised. But we grieve in the knowledge that Sadie lived a good and blessed life and the belief that her life has changed, not ended. Again with St Paul, with such thought as these we comfort one another.
Ar dheis lamh De go raibh a hanam dilis.