Homily: Funeral Mass - Sister Gerard , 2014

Sr Gerard 350pxFUNERAL MASS
Sister Gerard
20th February, 2014

There is something unusual about this Funeral Mass - for most here would have only had limited contact with Sister Gerard and perhaps for some you, you may not have met her or even seen her. Nonetheless, you have come here to join your prayers with those of her Community of Saint Clare of the Holy Ghost Monastery and the Church of the Diocese of Sandhurst, in gratitude for her life and work and to give praise to God.

The history of the Monastery here records that on the 18th June, 1965 eight Poor Clare Colettine Sisters arrived in Australia to establish this community.  Of these eight sisters, six were choir sisters and two were extern sisters.  Sometime later the two extern sisters returned to Sri Lanka.  The founding Abbess, Mother Bonaventure, appealed for more sisters from the Sri Lankan Community and in response, Sister Christopher and Sister Gerard volunteered, arriving on the 24th October, 1968.  Sister Gerard had been professed on the 20th March, 1965 and spent the last forty five years as a loved member of this community.  In similar fashion and with similar affection, Sister Christopher continues in prayer and service in this community.

Within her religious community Sister Gerard served as cook, portress, laundress, altar bread baker and cutter.  Her interests were knitting, crochet, making cards and gardening.  She was always a diligent religious, loyal and concerned for her sisters in the community – a quiet achiever.

To understand the significance of Sister Gerard and her life, we must first understand her vocation as a contemplative nun.  In the readings chosen for today’s Funeral Mass, we see the Prophet Isaiah looking forward to the banquet of rich food on the holy mountain where the mourning veil will be removed and the shroud enwrapping all nations. Death will be destroyed, shame will be overcome; in fact, the Lord in whom we have placed our hope will grant us salvation.  Saint John in the Second Reading has a vision too which focuses on God and his great love for us and Saint John looks forward to seeing God as he really is. The Gospel passage reveals that this richness of God is bestowed upon us through God’s choice of us, and through this choice of us, we are destined to share in His life for eternity.

The belief that God has chosen her to share in his love, urged Sister Gerard to accept His call to serve as a Poor Clare, in witness of God’s love in the world.  This vocation is to be part of a community, committed to prayer, service within the community, a life of poverty and anonymity.  In entering the Poor Clares, Sister Gerard made the sacrifice to a large degree, of giving up her family, by coming to Australia this sacrifice was made more extensive, as distance allowed for few visits from family and no visit to Sri Lanka for Sister Gerard were possible.  Despite this sacrifice, Sister Gerard’s family kept in touch and remained always close to Sister Gerard’s heart.  We are united with them in prayer and offer them our sincere sympathy on their loss of a sister and aunt.  

The faithful living out of this vocation, like all Christian vocations, is made possible by God’s love and strength and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Prayer and openness to God’s grace is essential.  

Today we give thanks to God for the life of Sister Gerard, as a Poor Clare, for the witness that her living out of this vocation faithfully, has shown.   Through her goodness and service of the community, she has given witness as a religious for forty-nine years and not least of all, her prayers have won graces for her community, her family and friends, the Church, the wider community and particularly the Diocese of Sandhurst.

I am deeply grateful to the Community of Saint Clare here in the Diocese of Sandhurst, for their presence, witness and prayers, the significance of which I cannot over-estimate, but I am saddened that with Sister Gerard’s death we are faced with the possibility of losing this source of powerful intercession from the Diocese.  I ask that while giving praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for the life and vocation of Sister Gerard and the Poor Clare Colettine Community, that we pray earnestly that sisters will come and continue this important work of prayer for the Church and the world.  We sorely need these contemplatives within our Church and world.  

In life Sister Gerard prayed continuously for us, the world and the Church, we pray and trust, that in eternity she is in the presence of God where she will continue to bring to Him our needs, the needs of the world and the Church.

Lord, we give praise and thanks to you, Almighty God, for the life of Sister Gerard, we commend her to you for her goodness and pray that her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through your mercy may rest in peace.  Amen.


Bishop Leslie Tomlinson