October 31, 1924 – March 16, 2015
“On this mountain, God will prepare for all peoples a banquet…” These words from Isaiah you will hear in the first reading of the Funeral Mass tonight for Sister Eleanor K. Shea. For as Sister Eleanor slept in her room at Bethany, God beckoned to her in the early morning of March 16th and lead her to a place of peace, love and plenty.
On September 8, 1948, Eleanor Kennedy Shea left her parents and five siblings in Peabody (and I am told to be sure to say the town correctly –Pea-body) to enter the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Since that day Sister has devoted in the last 67 years to fulfilling the Consensus Statement of the Sisters of St. Joseph. “Stimulated by the Holy Spirit of Love and receptive to its inspirations, the Sister of St. Joseph moves always toward the love of God and love of neighbor without distinction, from whom she does not separate herself”.
Leaving the Novitiate as Sister Agnes Helena, Sister Eleanor’s early life in ministry was spent as an elementary and high school teacher in various Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. Selected in 1961 to attend Cardinal Stritch College, Sister became one of the reading specialists at St. Joseph Educational Clinic, and upon completion of studies at Boston University, Sister Eleanor was certified to become a clinician, and later at Aquinas College in Newton, their Director of Counseling.
These later places of ministry found her living at Maria Convent, a residence and recipient of a gift she never anticipated. It was there that she met Sister Philomene, a woman who would become, for over the past fifty years, her most cherished friend. Together they lived religious life and shared in every day moments, each enriching one another with their love and care for each other. Joining them, when she was missioned to Maria Convent was Sister Marian Bartho. Marian became Ellie and Philomene’s companion. Together they shared in adventures of joy and pleasure as well as situations of sadness and challenge. For the past fourteen years the employees of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center have observed Sister Philomene and Sister Eleanor working in the office of the Delegate for Religious assisting Sister Marian in her projects. This of course we know had to end because of unforeseen circumstances. How timely it was last Sunday afternoon when Sister Marian walked into Sister Philomene’s room, and saw Ellie sitting with Philomene, none of them realizing that this was to be their final visit together.
In the beginning of Chapter 21 of the book of Revelation we read, “I saw the holy city”. For the past two years as I began to minister to Sister Ellie K. Shea, it appeared she seemed to become aware that a horizon was coming into her lifetime. My visits to her, here at the Motherhouse, and also recently in Bethany saw her in prayer. I imagine Ellie spent much time communing in prayer with her God. I also felt that she talked with God, sometimes with great force, as she was unwillingly noticing the changes in her physical being, and not wanting them to occur. However in 1948, Ellie had dedicated her life as a woman religious to follow God’s way, and to trust God in whatever God wanted of her, in her ministry as well as in her daily life. This was apparent in her persona which was that of a gracious lady, her mannerisms and diction transmitting her family heritage and her pride as a Sister of St. Joseph. Often as she walked among us at the Motherhouse, we were the recipients of her tender smile and the gentle waving of her hand.
I am certain if Sister Eleanor K. Shea (Sister Agnes Helene) could speak to us tonight, she would utter the words of tonight’s Gospel: “Do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith in God”. Her words would express that she was grateful that God has prepared a place for her, and that she is delighted now to be in a place of eternal joy and peace, in the presence of a loving God to whom she communicated so frequently during her ninety years of life.
Sister Eleanor K. Shea’s sudden death is a great loss for her brother, Chet, the Shea family, Sister Philomene, Sister Marian Bartho and for our Congregation. We, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Boston, give thanks for the gift of Sister Eleanor K. Shea- Sister Agnes Helene, for these past 67 years.
I now invite Judi Cronin Flaherty to come forward to share some reflections for the Shea family.
May you, Sister Eleanor K. Shea (Ellie), rest in the peace God has prepared for you. We celebrate your life and thank you for your presence in our lives.
Given by Gail Donahue, CSJ