December 5, 1913 - March 31, 2013
Good evening. We gather tonight to celebrate the life of Sister Neri Jennings, to remember the gift she was to her family, to the Sisters of St. Joseph and to the people of God and to confirm our belief in the promise of eternal life that Sister Neri now enjoys.
The events of Holy Week - the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus comprise an important point in time. Everything in Jesus' life that came before these events and all that came after was defined by this time and all was transformed. As we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday, Sister Neri's life was transformed. Every aspect of Sister Neri's life that occurred during the last 99 years and four months years came together on Sunday afternoon and her life was transformed.
The promise of eternal life given to Mary Rita Jennings at her Baptism was fulfilled on Easter Sunday. In the section of our Constitution on the vows which we heard this afternoon as we welcomed Sister Neri back home to Bethany we were reminded that "we have been called by our Creator for a radical following of Christ rooted in our Baptismal commitment. We respond to this loving call by professing vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience relying on God's grace". As a Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Neri responded to God's loving call. Relying on God's grace throughout her religious life, she deepened her relationship with God, her Sisters in Community, and her family and with all God's people to whom and with whom she ministered for over 80 years. Will we ever forget her ever present, beautiful smile, her ability to make us comfortable when we were in her presence, her constant expressions of gratitude, her love and devotion for her family? I don't think so. By responding to God's loving call Sister Neri's life changed, our lives changed .Sister Neri was transformed. Our lives were transformed.
In our Liturgy this evening we will hear readings from the prophet Isaiah, from St. Paul's letter to the Romans and the Gospel of St. John. The Prophet Isaiah proclaims "I have called you by name, you are mine." No matter what happens in life you are mine .My love will sustain you. Your life will be changed, you will be transformed. St. Paul in the letter to the Romans poses the question "What shall separate us from the love of God?" and the answer is NOTHING! No trial, or tribulation, no sadness, no distress neither death nor life. In all these trials we will be the victors through God who loves us". All of us experience these challenges in our lives as did Sister Neri. These circumstances will change our lives but they do not separate us from the God who loves us. We are transformed by them.
In the Gospel this evening St. John tells us "eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" Tonight we give thanks to Sister Neri, who by her teaching and the example of her life , shared her Faith and helped so many know God and His Son, Jesus. Our lives once again have been transformed.
From 1933 through 1995 Sister Neri was missioned as a teacher at schools in the Archdiocese. Her last mission was at the Gate of Heaven School and Parish in South Boston. She ministered in the school and parish for over 35 Years. Imagine the influence she had on so many young people. How many lives she transformed! Neri was loved by the people of Gate of Heaven. Gate of Heaven Convent and School was the considered the second foundation of our Congregation, a beloved mission of any of us who ministered there. In 1995 when the Convent was closing Sister Neri was among the last four sisters to live there along with Sisters Amadeus, Bellarmine, and Barbara Galvin. It was with great devotion that they humbly served the people of Gate of Heaven. In a letter to the parishioners the Pastor at the time said "Words cannot adequately express the gratitude due to the Sisters for their years of dedicated service to the Lord and in particular to Gate of Heaven Parish totaling 110 years of service to our Parish and generations of parishioners."
Over the last few days I discovered something about Sister Neri that I'm not sure too many of us here this evening knew. She was a published contributor to the Catholic Digest. Among her papers was a clipping from the Catholic Digest which she submitted in 1989 under the title "A Very Wrong Number ". This story attests to her marvelous sense of humor and her ability to bring a smile to our face.
"In our Convent, Sister was preparing her pies for the evening meal. As she opened the oven door the spring broke and the door fell off with a loud bang.
The next day I called the gas company to come repair it. A service rep answered and said "May I help you?" "Yes," I said, "I'm from the Gate of Heaven and our door fell off." Before I could explain further, the person laughed and said, "That's a good one – Door falls off the gate of heaven!" Sister Neri, CSJ – Catholic Digest
In death we return this life of ours to God who transforms the existence we have known into new life in God's own dwelling place. Tonight as we pray, we return Sister Neri to the God she loved who has now transformed her into new and eternal life.
In the very act of remembering we often find ourselves smiling. I invite anyone who wishes to share a memory or a thought on how Sister Neri touched your life or perhaps transformed your life to please come to the microphone so that everyone in the building can share in your memory.
Sister Neri, we celebrate and honor your life as a Sister of St. Joseph. We thank you for the joy and happiness you brought into our lives. For that and so much more we are grateful.
Given by: Patricia E. McCarthy, CSJ