Written on: July 23, 2010
The following remembrance was delivered by Sister Mary Lee Farrell, GNSH at the funeral liturgy on July 23, 2010
On behalf of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart I offer our condolences to all of you here who are part of the immediate and extended family of Eunice Lalonde and, at the same time, extend our thanks to all of you who have come to be with us today to celebrate her life.
As a Grey Nun community, we were blessed to have her with us for 59 years; this September would have been the beginning of a year of Jubilee for her: a time to remember, to recall, to be thankful for our lives, to share our stories and recommit to the continued development of God’s life in us. How appropriate that the themes of jubilee justice are echoed in the readings chosen for today: right relationships, welcoming of strangers, forgiveness of debts, solace to the needy, care for the poor…. To tell the stories—and, in a sense, isn’t that why we met yesterday, and why we are here today? To remember, to recall, to be thankful for the ways in which our lives intersected with hers, to rejoice in the evidence of god’s life in us and care for us. One of Eunice’s nephews remarked yesterday, “I thought I knew her very well, but everyone who comes here tells me something else wonderful that I did not know.”
As we gather today in this church, each one of us represents a part of that wonderful tapestry that was her life: whether you knew her as favorite aunt or family member, co-worker, counselor, teacher, administrator, ombudsman, client, neighbor, associate, sister or just plain friend, you were a vital part of her life. For whatever thread you contributed to the tapestry of her life, we thank you.
For many of us, the call to religious life is a call to leave the familiar places of childhood and travel to unknown areas and places of service. Eunice heard that call in 1951 and left the country for the busy-ness of bigger cities like Philadelphia and Buffalo. But by 1970 she was giving voice to another call: to return to the North Country and serve in the diocese in which she was born. She wrote in 1976, in the early years of her ministry as assistant coordinator of religious education:
It is my heartfelt and prayerful hope that I will be able to stay here in this diocese…which has one of the best coordinated religious education programs in the country, as well as providing many opportunities for personal growth among the coordinators and among the people (we) serve. …more important, I have come to know the diocese very well, as a people both lay and religious, and as a place. I feel confident and useful here…. I feel too that it is important to the people one works with that the person who tries to create in them a religious awareness and parish involvement will be much more successful if she is willing to share their lot and live among them rather than coming in as a foreigner, telling them what to do, and then leaving….
And stay she did—for over 40 years. Over those years, she continued, in the best tradition of our foundress St. Marguerite d’Youville, to respond to the needs which she saw in the people she lived among. She rode with a rescue squad as an EMT, served on interfaith committees, volunteered with hospice, crisis intervention and the red cross blood bank, participated in and coordinated crop walks for hunger, facilitated a support group for divorced and separated persons, led the council of religious women, had a 25 year career with NYSARC, and completed her certification as a social worker.
Her journey toward certification did not end until 1996. It was not an easy one, but she persevered in her studies, worked very hard, and always found ways to use her skills as a tireless advocate for people who had no voice, and as ombudsman for the poor. Through it all, she maintained a quiet demeanor in a life without fanfare, but marked by a deep and abiding passion for social justice which she shared with Grey Nuns, her co-workers and her small group of associates. Jubilee justice was the hallmark of her life.
We look around this church today and see evidence of a life well-lived, a life which wove a tapestry of people and works held together with the threads of social justice. Each of you is part of it; each of you is testimony to it. Eunice’s time as weaver among us is finished; ours goes on. We pray in thanksgiving for her time with us, and in the certainty that Eunice is at rest, and that you, and all of us, the work of her hands, will continue to prosper. “Prosper the work of your hands, O Lord. Prosper the work of your hands.”
Happy Jubilee, Eunice! Rest in peace!