Sister Mary Patricia CHN
Reflections and Prayers at Sister Mary Patricia's Funeral
17th September 2019
Wow – what a day – we are celebrating the life of an amazing and very special person. As a community, we have been overwhelmed with cards and letters of appreciation of Mary Patricia – some friendships going back over 70 years - and we are so grateful. As you will all know – Mary Pat was very organised – she had chosen the hymns and readings for this service – all of them reflecting something of God’s love and care – she knew herself precious in the sight of God (as Isaiah speaks) – she hoped and sometimes glimpsed the vision of Revelation’s new heaven and new earth – an end to mourning and crying and pain and the promise of the gift of the water of life – and in John’s high priestly prayer the ultimate vision of God’s glory – and her own response to making his name known.
Patricia, as she was then, was born into a loving family 88 years ago, the youngest of 3 siblings. She went to school at Abbot’s Bromley, trained as a Froebel teacher and worked for UMCA as their children’s secretary.
Sister Monica tells the story of going to a big meeting in London when she was about 12– along with other children from her church in Devon – the purpose being to present purses of money they had collected for children in Africa. Monica remembers that on the platform was Princess Alexandra (dressed in coral) and another lady dressed in turquoise, both looking absolutely stunning. Years later Monica was regaling Mary Pat with this saga and Mary Pat informed her ‘I was the lady in turquoise!’ ‘And you had a beautiful hat on’ said Monica – ‘It wasn’t a hat said Mary Pat - it was half of my bikini!!’ She always looked immaculate – She was so creative. She had a good social life and, I understand lots of boyfriends!
But God’s call was greater. Mary Pat was in her late 20’s when she came to Malvern to test her vocation in the Community of the Holy Name – and was professed as a sister in 1963. Her CV (as we call it these days) is impressive. She had already worked for a missionary society and became a Mission Sister within CHN in the fullest sense possible. I think she was a bit of a trail-blazer. In her early years there was parish work and cooking in Coventry, parish missions in various parts of the country, time as Guest Sister then Sacristan – parish work in Digswell in St Alban’s diocese and then at Malvern Priory – warden of Chester Retreat House – parish work in Basildon – and back to base in 1981 to be the Assistant Superior. Mary Pat was elected Reverend Mother (as I think we still called her then) in 1984 and completed 2 terms of office during which she was instrumental in getting us moved from Malvern to Derby in 1988-90. She then spent a year in Lesotho making habits – 2 years in Keswick – 2 years at Lambeth Palace and eventually back to Derby where, amongst other things she had pastoral care of the ‘old sisters’, was novice guardian for a time and was always there when a job needed doing. She was invited to other Anglican communities as part of a visitation team – or to be around as a ‘listening ear’
As you see from all this – Mary Pat was incredibly versatile and seemed to be able to turn her hand to anything – she had a real creative flair – not only hats from bikinis but flower arranging and jewellery making and creative writing and knitting for charity. But her great love was for people - and she had a real pastoral heart – as is evident in the presence of each one of us here today as our lives have been touched by her ministry and her love. She was a people person but she was also a prayer person – for her prayer was at the heart of everything – Sister Carol recalls a conversation with Mary Pat’s mother who told her ‘I can tell that Pat is praying for me even if she is a 100 miles away.’
After the death of Aunt Diddy – the family’s matriarch, Pat stepped up into that role. She loved her family and was very proud of all of them. But over the last few years she did have some hard and sad times – particularly with the terminal illness and deaths of her sister-in-law Lucy and then her 2 siblings David and Jean – and there was a bit of a roller coaster ride for herself over recent months after her stroke (from which she did seem to make a remarkable recovery) and her final illness and time in hospital. She was ready to die – I think Jean and David were both 88 when they died – and she was pretty sure she would go to glory at 88 too – and she was right!!
Here are a few of the comments in the many letters and cards we have received.
Clarity, good judgement, sense of humour
A tremendous and constant support to her family
A nun who was lively and intelligent – said a university student.
A loving caring person even when we were young.
A wonderful spiritual companion – a good listener and wise guide.
Special person with a quiet dignity
Warm and attractive in looks and personality.
Kindness, compassion, gentleness, beauty and loveliness – what a legacy for the world.
Of course we all have our own memories of Mary Pat – personally, I found her to be a great encourager, always interested in what I was doing in my parish ministry – keen to pray for people about whom I had concerns - and always ready with a shot of ‘instant starch’ if any of us seemed to be flagging a bit.
Sister Diana then invited the congregation to spend a couple of minutes in silence to reflect on their personal memories of Mary Pat.
Father in Heaven we thank you because you have made us in your own image and have given us gifts and talents with which to serve you. We thank you now for Mary Pat – for all she meant to each of us - for the years we have shared with her – for the good we have seen in her and the love we have received from her. As we honour her memory, make us more aware that you are the one from whom comes every perfect gift, including the gift of eternal life in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
Meet us in our sadness and fill our hearts with gratitude, with joy and thanksgiving. Give us now the strength and courage to leave Mary Pat in your care – confident in your promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN
We shall rest and we shall see – we shall see and we shall love – we shall love and we shall praise – behold what shall be in the end and shall never end.
Mary Pat, May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rains fall soft on your fields and until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Thanks be to God
Sister Diana CHN