Eulogy for Sister Marie Kennedy
A warm welcome to Marie’s religious family, her own family and friends as we gather to farewell a very special person, Marie Therese Kennedy RSCJ. Thanks to Principal Maureen and her team we can meet here. And it is Cup Day. Well, no, actually” it’s Xmas Day, the fact no bishop ever knew…the time before the big race out at Tangmalangaloo “ (John O’Brien, alias Mgr Hartigan ) Marie would like us to remember that Mgr Hartigan was the chaplain here whom Mgr Crennan replaced back in the early fifties. And so it is quite fitting to have with us to-day yet another luminary in the person of Mgr Tony Doherty. And when she takes her final journey to the cemetery,, she’ll pass by the Bungalow where she lived before going across the road to Claremont in 2009, and then the former Chaplain’s villa, now home to the Archives, Provincial and School. So it can be a real celebration of life, because afterwards guests can repair to the TAB at Rose Bay Hotel and then to their respective Melbourne Cup luncheons It’s easy now – you just go to a screen with the field, and touch your choices. St Madeleine Sophie said when times change, we should change with them. In Marie’s day the Cup was always special. She would be cutting out the horses from the paper lift-out, make 4 piles one for each nun, and then ceremoniously do the draw with Mary Roberts. Mary the bursar minds kitty – $8, $2 from each of the 4 nuns. We get 6 horses each. Off she goes to prepare the feast – cheese slices on saos and something a bit better than coffee or tea – and all is ready. Marie was so thoughtful and generous always. Big rollers over at Claremont…hope Marie advises Ash Barty now that she’s in the money, because Marie never missed a Davis Cup rally in the summer. Yet she kept backing the Footscray Western Bulldogs – for Melburnian fans never acclimatise to Sydney…even I’ve had to morph from a Rabbitoh to a Rooster and I never watch it. We can share Marie’s
exaltation at reaching her long-awaited banquet in heaven.
But Now – back to Marie and her beginnings – Baptised St Mary’s Ridge St Nth Sydney 1927, Primary School there and Secondary at Monte Sant Angelo, Nth Sydney. So Marie’s great faith was nurtured first in her strongly Catholic family and then with the Sisters of Mercy. Whenever we drove from the motorway into Cameray Marie would become nostalgic about loved places of her early years removed for the freeway. After a secretarial course at Miss Hales in 1944, office work in Sydney then a severe illness in 1948, came her contacts with Fr Golden SJ, brother of our Sr Sheila Golden RSCJ. He guided her into the Society in 1949, …1st Vows 1952 here and profession in Rome 1959.
Now we must enter Marie’s educational labyrinth through her amazing career –She didn’t need teacher training for she had the gift naturally, but went on to acquire it and then -BA, English and History majors, Dip. Ed. Hons in Australian and American history, Theological degrees from Colleges in Boston and Melbourne, and lastly and later a Degree in Information Management/Archives from Univ. NSW. And Teaching WHERE? Everywhere – No time for dates so just places – K.Pk, Braybrook (time of the sheds) and later at Christ the
King, Chisholm with the Canadian Brothers, Duchesne, Kincoppal (Deputy for a time), Newton County Day School (Boston), Stuartholme, Sacre Coeur, Melbourne. Publications? Duchesne Jubilee history , Histories of Sancta Sophia and of Erskine- Provincial Archivist after Sr Barlow, Class Patron at Barat-Burn, CCD at Sydney Boys High School, U3A, Archives for Melbourne Franciscan Monastery, Sancta Sophia, FMM, Director of Associates, and after a fall in 2016 resident at the Little Sisters at Randwick. What a grace for her to be under their wonderful care and able to attend daily Mass. On Cup Day I know they’ll be having cakes, maybe a hat parade or karaoke or both. Teaching others unto justice for 70 years, from the 50s almost to the 2020s, all ages from Year one primary to U3A. And even this last year correspondence to the Associates, and a former Watsons Bay prayer group, and Barat Burn Year One..And you couldn’t visit her at certain times at Little Sisters, because of chaplain Fr Greg McEnally MSC’s Scripture talks.
Real historians like Marie deserve primary sources, not hearsay, not collations. So here are snippets only gleaned from the primary sources contributed by RSCJ who knew her well. WHERE from? Everywhere… Rome: a strong, resilient woman, challenged by health concerns, keen interest in world affairs- a warm sense of humour. Melbourne: scene of much of her ministry – vibrant member of the English, History and RE depts. to a considerable intelligence she added a gift for the articulation of the extraordinary complexities of that period of transition from religious to secular authority – and inherited from her Irish ancestors a fiery tongue giving more power of language which sometimes sparked dissenting opinions.. Canberra: Her sharp, clear mind, capacity for friendship, humour, ability to work hard, deep prayer and reflection… my sister, after one of Marie’s U3A talks. ”She made me love Ned Kelly!” Sydney: her gentleness, humour, she is one with God now. The RSCJ candle in the chapel is lit for her. Barat Burn: Sr Marie’s letters and visits to Year One excited the children – who understood how lucky and special they were to receive her love and prayers. Asked why she became a nun, the reply was God had a special calling for her – and God has a plan for each of them too to do wonderful things. Sydney: I admired her resilience and the way she would be part of gatherings no matter what. If she felt strongly about something she could make this known. Sydney Little Sisters, Randwick: I travelled with Marie extensively in Ireland and marvelled at how much knowledge she had of her Irish ancestry and how proud she was of it. Her amazing memory enabled her to share her knowledge of places and events with Karlaminda residents. We were longtime friends sharing interests and adventures. Obviously, we did not always see “eye to eye”, but it never diminished my respect for her, her knowledge and her ability to impart it. I’ll miss her and our long discussions, and admired her coping with the
ever-present pain in her troublesome leg. I rejoice that her suffering is over and she is finally at peace. Sydney Little Sisters staff: a birthday greeting from a Singaporean medical student …Thank you for the love and joy you’ve shown me..your testimony an inspiration..I hope I grow into a woman of great faith like you …and that the Lord will remind you how infinitely loved you are.. Sancta Sophia days: drafts for the Sancta Sophia history could be late coming; but she would take the bus and not taxi vouchers. Once ran out of tape for some recorded oral histories… Sydney U3A: Marie’s early Australian history talks had quite a following at Edgecliff. Ex KRB staff who attended were proud to see the popularity of “our Marie” amongst the wider diverse audience. Watsons Bay parish: Our much-loved Sr Marie with her firm faith and ready tolerance of our failings, brought real Christian love in action to many people and places including Watsons Bay. – our privilege to share some of her long life with her, and have heartfelt, lasting thanksgiving for her mission. Sydney: she loves flowers and garden. She used to do a bit of gardening at Claremont., She told me about the roses in her room. They have beautiful fragrance. Marie a person of prayer. She told me,” I always pray for you”. And that she usually said simple prayers You need to be simple with God. Sydney: I sat next to Marie once and in conversation she casually asked if I knew what the name Kennedy meant in Gaelic. To my shock she revealed it meant “ugly head “We both laughed. Brisbane: Her deep spirituality – a gifted teacher with people of all ages. Creative, a mischievous sense of humour – faithfully devoted to the Associates – kept many projects alive simultaneously. Duchesne days: from one who travelled to school (Stuartholme) with her each day. If she had the car keys there was always a frantic search later of her handbag to find them again – She always had three projects on the go at once. With some garden kumquats, Marie decided to make jam without access to a stove, so undeterred used the frypan. Then she remembered her Vietnamese lady’s English lesson – delegated the task to me and flew out. I had never made jam in my life… In the midst of packing from Duchesne, she was sorting papers, packing clothes, sewing a cushion Xmas present for her sister – when a monster crossword whole page newspaper emerged. She sat down at once to tackle it. The primary sources have said it all – I could add much if it were not Cup day, but offer a cameo on one of our last holidays at Kiama, where a lifeguard got her down to the waves in a mobile beach chair to feel the sea with her feet.. she was ecstatic… And then – Marie’s family – (Trent will give more on that later) Marie had to give up driving because of her poor eyesight, so being around and a driver I could take her to Imelda’s at Northbridge for special occasions like big feasts and birthdays. Imelda’s wonderful cooking, Jack producing his best bottle of white, and Pat and Ray and sometimes Anne arriving with
the salad or the dessert – at Xmas always a Xmas tree and presents…, and for Imelda’s 90th a whole hall was required for the clan… . I have been very blessed in becoming perhaps by default a part of her dearly loved family. Two further Comments. On friends Sirach 6 14-17 “Whoever has found a faithful friend has found a treasure..and those who fear the Lord will find one.“ Marie found many friends. They are here today. And what of that certain asperity of character- If you listened with Poiroit’s little grey cells you would have detected it here and there. Well Marie to me is a Nathanael type “Here is an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile.” With Marie you got immediate reactions to contentious issues. She could be confronting! She once called me a koala – that cuddly creature Japanese tourists love to be photographed with…but wait – don’t they also eat gum leaves all day long when not sleeping and do nothing! Some backhanded compliment but it still fits me except for the Japanese tourists and I don’t like gum leaves. The old Greek typology of the four temperaments can help us to understand one another. Under provocation, Choleric people can become volcanos and melancholics earthquakes with aftershocks and tsunamis …sanguines and phlegmatics are more benign under stress, the sanguine goes on spreading charm around and the phlegmatic wakes up and asks did we have a problem…Armed with such knowledge very dissimilar people can even become close friends. For truth brings humility, animosity melts and compassion and charity flow for the other – St Madeleine Sophie’s favourite virtues. So we learn to dodge the bullets and withhold judgments. St Gertrude repeatedly asked God to remove her character flaws..but no..they brought her back to Him and kept her close. And for us.
We now are coming out of the labyrinth but by a different route. This Epilogue belongs to the pastoral carer for the RSCJs, Malou Tibayan, or last primary source, who was blessed with tracking Marie in her last week and day. You need to have an Irish sixth sense to grasp what follows – Mgr Doherty will have no trouble. Wed. 23rd Oct. POW level 6 bed 1. Malou beside Marie’s bed. A brown moth landed near her shoulders. Many years ago a huge brown butterfly appeared – 2 hours before her father died. And a brown butterfly appeared the day before the death of another friend. But Marie’s one was a moth, not a butterfly. FF to Sun. 27th. Malou about to sleep when an insect landed on her head – a brown moth exactly like that near Marie. She prayed to see Marie the next day.(Mon. 28th) A Google search for spiritual meanings showed up moths as a harbinger of death in some cultures. Matamorphosis to the butterfly symbolize transformation of our personalities usually because we are going to another stage and need to transform or improve. Mon. 28th. Back at the Little Sisters,.. Malou tells Marie of her leaving soon for the Phillipines. Marie says she is going too…Where? “Not in this world”. Are you ready? ‘No’ ..please ask God on my behalf why He made me suffer so much ..these legs… “Well if we ask God that question, we can also ask God why He let His own Son suffer so much” ‘True you are right” And she smiles. After lunch Marie, peaceful, eyes open, lifted her right arm slowly but looks behind Malou to someone or something else. Twice.. . Next morning she is gone. Providentially
the faithful family visited on Sunday. We began with a poem – another can end it for it fits her like a glove – Edmund Waller. ..”Stronger by weakness wiser men become, as they draw near to their eternal home; Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view, that stand upon the threshold of the new.” .. And now… in Jn 21 Marie, like Peter..forever curious, after being called away – looks back at John – that’s us here…”And what about them Lord” You know the reply, we must wait till He comes. So. What will Marie do up there? Start teaching the angels about Ned Kelly and recite the Boree Log to them? She’s had a week already. But hopefully like her namesake Therese of Lisieux she too will be spending her heaven doing good on earth. She’s helped me put this together for you, her friends. So Marie out of pain now, has much to do up there. For Bourke has had some rain, but not enough. She doesn’t want us sad, but glad. For it’s Cup day and Xmas Day the fact no bishop ever knew – the time before the big race out at Tanmalangaloo.
Cec Amiet RSCJ