Written on: March 29, 2017
The Reflection given at Sister Elaine’s Funeral Liturgy was written and delivered by Sister Jean Liston, GNSH
Today we “rejoice in the Lord always.” I say it again “Rejoice!” Our loving Sister Elaine is at home with God whom she loved and served so faithfully for 70 years. While we will miss her, we find comfort in knowing she is at peace with her Creator and released from her own body’s confinement.
The readings selected by Sr. Elaine for today’s liturgy capture perfectly her life-giving essence and her loving spirit. The first reading from Jeremiah highlights the call we all receive to follow wherever God leads us. It reminds us to quell the excuses and trust that God will always sustain us.
Elaine responded to her call at a young age. As a child, she was always interested in prayer and learning more about God. That yearning blossomed in her high school years when she became a member of the Sodality at St. Joan of Arc Parish. She enjoyed the sharing among the members as well as their outreach activities.
Elaine’s love for children was evident even as a teenager. On Sundays, she volunteered to babysit the children of parents who were attending Mass. Devotion to God and love of children—where were these gifts leading her?
I first met Elaine in 1961. I was a young Sister at St. Joan of Arc Convent with the occasional responsibility of answering the front door when a visitor arrived. I remember the tall, attractive young lady with a winning smile who came to visit her 7th grade teacher, Sister Frances William. Perhaps this friendly interaction was the beginning of Elaine’s discernment regarding a vocation to religious life.
Elaine entered the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1968. What did she bring? In the letter to the Philippians, we hear a description of the personal gifts with which Elaine blessed our congregation for almost 50 years. Elaine exemplified the call to be kind, gracious, and peaceful – the call to ponder whatever is true, honorable, and just. Elaine learned to ask God for whatever she needed and to be thankful for God’s gracious responses.
In the gospel, we hear Jesus saying, “Let the little children come to me.” Jesus cherished children and so did Sister Elaine. She spent most of her religious life teaching young children and had a special gift for making children, and everyone, know how God loved them unconditionally.
Five of the children she loved dearly are here today – Bobby, Julia, Samantha, Vienna, and Brandon. Aunt Elaine loved you so much. She was always so proud of each of you and was delighted when you came to visit. She displayed the pictures you made for her in her bedroom. Whenever she went to visit you in New York, she brought pictures home and showed them to all of her friends. So you see, we feel like we know all of you.
The majority of Elaine’s many ministries centered around children. I would like to highlight two of them: Project Rainbow at the Drueding Center in Philadelphia and Marguerite’s Place in Nashua, NH. Sister Elaine was the Director of the Day Care at both of these institutions.
One of my favorite memories of Elaine is visiting her at Project Rainbow. I had just moved to Yardley and missed my own interaction with children in school settings. When I had time, I would spend an afternoon with Elaine and the children. We (yes, all of us, me included!) sang, danced, and skipped around the large room. I even remember the song that was part of our dance routine. It was “The Muffin Man.” Remember it?
Following the canonization of St. Marguerite d’Youville in December of 1990, five Grey Nun Congregations made a plan to work collaboratively on a ministry that would serve needy women and their children. A committee was formed and after months of research, the committee recommended to the leaders of the congregations that a residence for women and children be established in Nashua, New Hampshire. Sister Mary Sharon and Sister Elaine were asked to assume leadership of this endeavor. It was with great joy that this ministry was established to honor St. Marguerite.
St. Augustine, a saint known for his wisdom and his writings particularly about friendship, once remarked, “A friend is the half of my soul.” Elaine had many friends, many of whom are here today.
I would like to highlight three of the people with whom Sister Elaine shared a special bond.
Sister Mary Sharon…..She and Elaine had a mutual love and respect for one another. Not only did they share ministries, they also shared their communal life as Grey Nuns. They prayed together, cherished the companionship of one another, and engaged in activities that were always fun. Sister Mary Sharon and Sister Elaine were soul mates.
Elaine’s sister Marilyn was a special friend. In Elaine’s bedroom there is a blue & white vase inscribed with the endearing word “Sister.” This was a gift from Marilyn. Elaine and Marilyn shared a deep love and respect for one another which deepened over the years. They were kindred spirits. They, too, were soul mates.
Sister Mary Charlotte…..For years, Charlotte, Mary Sharon, and Elaine were a unique trio. They supported one another, shared joys and sorrows, and formed an extraordinary bond of friendship. During Sister Elaine’s illness, Sister Mary Charlotte’s love, tender concern, and compassion mirrored St. Marguerite’s words, “Learn from the heart of God, love, tender concern, and compassion.”
“A friend is the half of my soul.” Elaine’s generous and self-sacrificing gift of herself to everyone will always be an inspiration.
In one of my last conversations with Elaine, we were talking about spiritual writers. We both agreed that Thomas Merton had a way of touching the soul. I’ll close my comments today with a quote from Merton that Sister Elaine found especially meaningful.
“Love is our destiny. We do not find the meaning of life alone. We find it with one another.” Elaine, you have reached your destiny. Bask in God’s LOVE! and pray for us.
Sister Elaine Mary Fahey, GNSH, age 70, died March 29, 2017 at Holy Redeemer Lafayette in Philadelphia, PA in the 49th year of her religious life. A dedicated and enthusiastic infant /early childhood /nursery teacher, she was also devoted to providing support and encouragement to new and/or struggling mothers as well as to their children for 40 years.
Elaine Mary Fahey was born to Edward and Julia Fahey on July 6, 1946 in Jackson Heights, NY. Graduating from St. Joan of Arc school and St. Vincent Ferrer High School, she worked for the New York Telephone Company for four years prior to entering the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart in 1968. She earned a BS in Education (summa cum laude) and an M.Ed. /Early Childhood from Temple University.
She taught in the Nursery at Grey Nun Academy, Yardley in the early 1970’s; was Director of the Early Learning Program, St. Elizabeth’s school for 11 years (1975-86); Director, Delmont Montessori House for a year, followed by 5 years as Director of Drueding Center/ Project Rainbow in Philadelphia, PA.
Following a move to Nashua, NH, she became a founding member, along with Sister Mary Sharon Walsh, of Marguerite’s Place which opened in 1992. There, she served as Director of Day Care.
For 16 years she relished helping children to flourish and counseling abused and/or at risk mothers on the art of caring for their children.
Responding to an immediate need of the Congregation in 2008, she was appointed Coordinator/Facilitator of the Motherhouse Community in Yardley. Health issues necessitated her resignation of that responsibility and she moved to Holy Redeemer Lafayette in 2015 where she resided until the time of her death from complications of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Predeceased by her parents, Edward and Julia, she is survived by her religious congregation and her sister, Marilyn Malanga (Vincent), as well as nieces and nephews.
A viewing is scheduled for 9:30 am on Saturday, April 1, 2017 at the Holy Redeemer Sisters Chapel, 521 Moredon Road, Huntingdon Valley, Pa 19006.The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:30 am. Interment will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem, PA.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in Sister Elaine’s memory may be made online to the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, or by mail at the following address:14500 Bustleton Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116-1188.
Funeral arrangements by Beck-Givnish Funeral Homes, Inc.