Homily of Bishop Denis Nulty at the Funeral Mass of Sister Imelda Carew

18 Aug 2014

Our scripture this Sunday afternoon leaves us in that space somewhere between the last line

of Ecclesiastes and the opening line of John’s gospel.

Let’s recall the Ecclesiastes line, we’re very familiar with the Old Testament refrain of the time for birth and the time for death, but maybe we become comatose and lose that last most moving line: “[God] never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what he does”[1].

And with it let’s remind ourselves how John’s gospel begins: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in me.[2]”

I don’t need this afternoon to refresh your minds on the suddenness, the swiftness, the speed at which Imelda and Paula went back to the Lord last Thursday night.

Very much included in the embrace of our prayer this day is the third Presentation Sister who was on that trip to Inch Bay on the Dingle Peninsula: Sr. Mary Hanrahan.

There are many people in today’s congregation who knew Sr. Imelda much better than I did, I simply can only imagine the depth of your grief and the loss you feel this August evening.

I think if we reflect on those lines from Ecclesiastes we realize that there is indeed a time for everything, but its timing is completely outside of our control.

Enjoying the peace of the evening time and the beauty of that place in the Kerry kingdom; letting ourselves go in the freedom of the purest and freshest water … aren’t all religious and priests called to let go, how often Imelda and all of us heard those words in Luke’s and Mark’s gospel: “take nothing with you for the journey”[3].

Last Thursday both Imelda and Paula were called to the ultimate understanding of letting go, knowing that that going was into the freedom and the peace of God’s presence.

For colleagues, family and friends that ultimate letting go is a huge ask in terms of the shock factor, the stunned reaction, the search for meaning and words.

And so often death robs us of much more than the loss of someone we have loved, we have cherished, we have appreciated … their death robs us of our own sense of security, our own future plans, our own sense of place and presence.

It’s only in Him we can find words that offer comfort and consolation: His message not to fear in John’s gospel; His reassurance of our being led, being supported by rod and staff and being comforted in our psalm, offers huge hope.

It is in that earlier text reference from St. Mark, just before the instruction to take nothing with them for the journey, Mark tells us the twelve were sent out “in pairs”[4].

And didn’t Imelda and Paula go to meet Him as a pair last Thursday evening?

From one kingdom into another!

And what was last Thursday evening; it was the vigil of Mary’s feast of the Assumption into Heaven.

In our sadness and brokenness, we have much to give thanks for this afternoon.

Thanks to Imelda or Eileen as she was known to her family for responding to her vocation call to become a Presentation Sister and follow that vocation call in the many facets it would express itself in her life.

Thanks for saying ‘Yes’ so often to the different elements of that call – her days of post-primary science teaching in Clonmel, in Durrow and in Heywood.

Thanks for saying ‘Yes’ to keeping to the fore the issues of justice and human rights in her years at the Presentation Order’s Justice Office right here in Mountmellick.

And thanks for saying the biggest ‘Yes’ of all, in more recent times by taking on the mantle of leadership in the South East Province – leadership in a period of change and transition – leadership when the solid foundations of yesteryear are up for debate, dialogue and discussion.

Religious life so often is about service to God’s people – for Presentation Sisters, it is keeping Nano Nagle’s education and justice lantern lit; but Imelda was invited to go further and offer service to the congregation she loved in embracing her leadership role.

There is something very appropriate about her return to Mountmellick for burial this day.

It was in Mountmellick, up at Kirwan Park in the Presentation Order’s Justice Office with key links to the Worldwide International Presentation Association which works on behalf of both the Irish and English Provinces, that Imelda got to know and love her neighbours and friends and they her.

Today they will miss her deeply.

Her involvement with Mission Alive Mountmellick,  the Mountmellick Development Association and the Primary School’s Homework Club means the void left behind is huge indeed.

Her wish to be buried here among you the people of the town speaks for itself.

She treasured three communities; her family, the Carews with nieces and nephews married in all parts of the world; the Presentation Sisters and the people of Mountmellick.

No doubt at this very time she is tuning not into St. Joseph’s Church but Croke Park, cheering on her heroes – the great Tipp forwards -Bonner Maher and Lar Corbett!

I’m told she had a picture of Mahatma Ghandi hanging in her room, underneath was the inscription: “live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever”.

Imelda did both and we can be consoled she was richly rewarded last Thursday evening.

The light from Nano’s lantern and the outstretched hands of Our Lady of the Assumption carried her on her way.

Ár dheis Dé go raibh a h-Anam uasal.

Venerable Nano Nagle, pray for us.


















[1]Ecc. 3:11

[2]Jn. 14:1

[3]Lk. 9:3; Mk. 6:8

[4]Mk. 6:7