Friday, July 6, 2012
And Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Her
We lost a dear friend last week.
Sr. Helena Fox, PBVM was a Presentation Sister.
We were lucky enough to have her working in the Diocese of Juneau for a little over 10 years.
She was born in Ireland and taught in Irish schools for many years, until she had the opportunity to come to Juneau and serve in the Tribunal office.
She was such a lovely person! Very gentle, kind and a bit puzzled by Alaska and Alaskans.
She especially loved Charles, who took Irish language lessons from her for many years.
When she first came to Juneau, we invited her for dinner and then an Irish music concert. I had been told that she didn't like spicy or exotic food, so I made Clam Chowder.
After dinner, we were at the concert and another friend greeted us and asked Sr. Helena how she enjoyed her dinner.
"Oh, t'was lovely!", she replied.
"What did you have?", the friend asked.
Sr. Helena paused for a moment and then said: "I don't know, but t'was lovely."
During the concert, the singer sang a song about the San Patricios, the Irish soldiers who fought in the Mexican war, and how they were lured to change sides because the Mexicans, who were Catholics, offered the Eucharist. They also had beautiful, dark haired women and the soldier in the song fell in love with a Mexican woman and went to the other side.
Sr. Helena listened to the song and then turned to Charles and said: "Just like another Irish lad I know!"
Charles asked what she meant and she said: " You're an Irish lad and you did the same thing - you fell in love with a beautiful Mexican girl!"
When Phoebe was a baby, Sr. Helena would see Charles walking with her in the stroller and said: "Oh dear God, would you look at her! Oh sweet Jesus, she looks just like her Mammy! Oh dear God!"
She left Juneau in 1997. We missed her so much and were really glad to be able to visit her in Ireland in 2006. She had returned to Cork, where she was working with elderly chronic inebriates and with Polish immigrants. She took us out to lunch and while were were walking to the restaurant, we were constantly stopped by drunk old men, who would greet her enthusiastically and would call out as we walked away: "God bless you, Sister!"
On our next to the last day in Cork with her, we asked if we could see her once more before we left. She said that she couldn't, as she had to work the next day. After we said goodbye, we watched her square her shoulders as she walked away, wiping away tears. We all knew it was that last time we would see her.
She lived a life of service to the People of God, to children, to those struggling to find their way out of darkness, to immigrants, to the poor.
We loved her so much.
She was in in her 90's when she died. Nobody knew her exact age (well, her family did, perhaps) because she never shared that information with us.
She will be missed.
Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord.