Mary I. Shea, CSJ

We remember her in the rustling leaves and the beauty of autumn.

November 14, 1927 – December 4, 2017

 Late Monday afternoon this first week of Advent, we received word that Mary Shea had gone home to God. Someone at that time stated, it was a long journey for her. As I pondered those words, the song “Another You” played like a tape in my head. So, I went to google and discovered that this song was sung by a group from the 60’s called the Seekers (and aren’t we all Seekers).

As I reflected further on the words, I realized that for those with a bit of imagination, the lyrics could be used as a reflection of Mary’s life’s journey…. “There’s a new world somewhere, they call the promised land and I’ll be there someday if you will hold my hand …I need you there beside me…No matter what I do…It’s a long, long journey so stay by my side when I walk through the storm you will be my guide….”

Additionally, reflections during this Advent season focus us on waiting with expectancy, a universal experience; of trusting in God; and of responding daily with gratitude for the gifts God bestows on us. Today, we will hear in Luke’s Gospel, “Rejoice O highly favored one….Do not be afraid.” This young woman in the gospel tried to make sense out of what was happening to her; maybe she experienced more questions than answers, yet, remained open to God’s call and promise; her faith surpassing her uncertainty. Pope Francis states, “Mary’s YES was a great yes, complete, unconditional and without reservation” When we think of Mary Shea’s life are there not some parallels, as she responded to God’s call to her in 1946 and her daily response thereafter?

The first reading for today’s liturgy taken from the prophet Isaiah reiterates the message, do not be afraid, I have called you by name, you are mine…inclusive of the joys and despite the disappointments, health issues, or the like, you are precious to me and I love you. Gratitude is expressed in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Mary, no matter what, was always grateful.

The theme chosen some time ago for Mary’s liturgy was that of Fidelity. In defining this quality, words like faithfulness, belief, support, or commitment, dedication, constancy, steadfastness and other related words such as determination, firmness, dependability, are noted. Imagine one or more of these words describing Mary and the manner in which she lived her life as one of 10 children growing up in Jamaica Plain; as one called and chosen to be a Sister of St. Joseph, following the lead of her sister, Gerry, who was one year and 6 days older; as a community member living the charism of unioning love, and reconciliation; as one living with MS a debilitating illness that never hampered her ability to be of service to the dear neighbor, of getting up early each day travelling to her place of ministry, of educating young people; or in retirement, assisting when and as she could in her quiet, unobtrusive, style not one for wasting time in idol conversation; and in recent years when unable to be actively involved, to be present and aware. Of the Maryism’s or sayings shared with me during the week…the one that perhaps seems to fit her best, “an inch is a cinch, a yard is hard”.  Mary lived her life to the fullest, knowing God was by her side, trusting in God’s infinite wisdom, care, love and constant presence one inch at a time.

I mentioned earlier that Mary was one of 10 children. Her parents, Michael and Mary Shea, left their children a rich legacy: unreserved love, deep faith and growth in goodness. This legacy continues today down to the 4th and 5th generation and perhaps beyond.

Over these past 8 or so years and in particular during these last few years this legacy and the same descriptors of Fidelity, dedication, constancy, faithfulness etc. extends to Mary’s family and dear friend as they companioned her.  The love and care shown to Mary by her sisters Gerry and Barbara, Mary’s dear friend Pat and also Mary E who accompanied Barbara, was a blessing that was truly reciprocated. Their relationship, attentiveness and friendship helped make Mary’s journey its own reward.

Heartfelt gratitude is also extended to all those who accompanied Mary on her journey, most notably are the staff and residents on the second floor.  The staff’s tremendous care, attentiveness and goodness to Mary were exceptional.

Mary penned a message of gratitude to all who attended her jubilee celebration some years ago.  I think these words are appropriate today as well, “Your friendship, support and companionship over these years are long lasting gifts that I shall forever cherish.”

We are richer for having known Mary and for experiencing her love, friendship and example…perhaps for even enjoying her many maryisms and tasty recipes.

We thank God for having given her to us for these 90 years, 71 as a CSJ, and for having called her home to himself. As John Donne states and I paraphrase “Lord may Mary sleep in peace and wake in your glory”.

Roseann Amico, CSJ

December 8, 2017