October 16, 1916 – March 16, 2014
For the past few months each time I visited Sister Julia Ford, she would grasp my hand and tell me to pray that God would “take her”. So last Sunday morning, Julia’ loving God, grasped her hand, and gently guided her home to her eternal reward. Those who loved and knew Sister Julia’s desire, especially Sister Philomene and Suzanne Kearney, although they were sorrowful at her death, could almost see Sister Julia, smiling with great delight as she took God’s hand.
On the title cover of Sister Julia’s Golden Jubilee booklet were inscribed the words, “In Celebration of Peacemaking”. These words seem to epitomize the life of Sister Julia Ford – Sister Agnello, as she was known by many of us during her 80 years as a Sister of St. Joseph. Truly she did live the words from our Constitution, “We strive in every aspect of our lives to be for others a visiblesign of God’s presence and active love.”
For many years as a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Julia served the people of God in active ministry. Then in 2008 Sister began her residency on the “hill” first at St. Joseph Hall, and then here at Bethany Health Care Center. Sister Julia’s missioning letter for both residences communicated that she was entering into a mission of prayer and companionship for other residents.
Now what did these residents, staff and visitors to St. Joseph Hall and Bethany Health Care Center observe within these buildings? They saw a petite, gracious lady, always dressed with bright colors, slowly walking, and in later years, with her walker, exhibiting a gentle smile of greeting, never betraying that her poor eyesight may not tell her who the person in her view was, or her hearing, so low that the occasional response from the other person not quite heard. All on the “hill” witnessed Sister Julia as a woman with a congenial demeanor, a gentle listener, and one who was humble in her brilliance.
Our Constitution states: “In accordance with our tradition, we engage in spiritual and corporal works of mercy, so that justice and peace, freedom and human dignity may prevail.” Sister Julia (Agnello) began her ministry as a teacher in elementary and secondary Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. After further education Sister was hired as a professor at Regis College in Weston and on the Framingham campus. Sister Julia was asked to be one of the intercommunity Supervisors of the Catholic School Office to work with the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1979 Sister Julia was installed as the President of Aquinas College in Newton. In each ministry Sister Julia Ford (Agnello) exemplified excellence in professionalism, devotion to education instruction, possessing an ever- generous spirit toward enriching the lives of others. Sister Julia was continuously establishing the goals of advancing the self-esteem of students, attempting to enable people to develop their gifts and talents, while modeling a peace- filled manner that conveyed that all could be accomplished, if one recognized the dignity of each person as a child of God. Sister Julia instilled these behaviors in part from her studies at Catholic University, being one of the first sisters to study (outside the diocese). It was here at Catholic University, and in her former places of ministry and convent living, that Sister Julia made lasting friends and established deep relationships that endure to the present day.
In 1973 Sister Julia was given a citation of merit for,” highest qualities of devotion to education, for her outstanding achievement as an educator, which enriched the lives of her colleagues and brought honor and credit to the profession”. Interestingly, years later Sisters in the Scholasticate tell thestory that it was Sister Julia Ford, who through her educational presentations to them, and her directives for professionalism as a teacher, these guidelines gave them the ideals and norms to adopt as they began their ministry as religious educators. To this day, Sister Julia’s ever-generous spirit is being remembered by them, and I am sure by all educators whom Sister Julia formed.
In the reading from Ecclesiastes which we will hear at today’s Liturgy, there is a phrase… “Find joy in our labor: this is a gift of God.” Truly Sister Julia Ford taught us this was true. Sister had many diverse labors in which she found joy, touching the life of numerous diverse people. Her spirit was one of joy. She radiated peace in all she did, and in the doing, inspired her constituents to be peace –filled. Another phrase from Ecclesiastes says,” God keeps us fully occupied with the joy in our hearts”. In past days when you saw Sister Julia Ford, did not her smile and gentle voice allow us to see the joy of life in her heart!
We give thanks for the gift Sister Julia Ford was to her family, her CSJ family, her colleagues and her friends. We are grateful to Sister Julia Ford for answering God’s call, and offering her life to the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She is now united with her God, who gently grasped her hand and guides her home.
Given by: Gail Donahue, CSJ
Sister Julia requested there be no reflections from people present at her Funeral liturgy. However, there are two people very dear to Sister Julia who would like to share some thoughts about Sister…. Sister Julia’s niece, Patricia Mulcahy, and Suzanne Kearney. So I know Sister Julia would not mind if I asked Suzanne and Patricia to come to the podium.