Most people who enter into religious life would like the words of the sermon on the mount read at their funeral or a memorial Mass like this, they would like those to be the last words, the words that hang in the air, the words that remain and are carried away, the words that really matter and they would wish that these words be remembered. The words of the sermon on the mount very often sum up why a person leaves their home, leaves a set future, leaves all the possibilities of life, for the unknown, a life that gives everything away. Locked into these words are the secret of the religious’ life lives: to be that person who brings comfort to those who mourn, who brings justice to the world, who strives to have a pure heart and is merciful. The words are very often the words that begin the journey, they are the call and in the end the person would wish that is the way would wish to be remembered, how they have lived their life.
In the sermon on the mounts God flips everything over, it is not the wealthy or the strong who are blessed but it is the meek and gentle those who are downtrodden and poor who are blessed. God flips things over and likewise the religious flips things over too. Their life is to comfort the broken, to bring justice to the world, to strive to be pure of heart and gentle and merciful.
We are told that the sermon took place on a hillside or a mountain. It recalls the mountain from which Moses descended with 10 commandments. This time God was making a new covenant with his people and giving them 8 beatitudes to live by. These were to be carried to the world.
Many years ago in a place, just a short distance from where we stand, Ina McPake heard these words and others beside and set her down on a different path in life. She came from a deeply religious family that lived in St Charles’ parish, she was one of 3 people who went onto religious life, the others being John and Martin. At a very early age she left everything to dedicate her life to God and to announce the words of the sermon on the mount. With great enthusiasm, with great energy and with tireless effort all which were marks of her life she started her life’s work.
She joined in 1953 the religious order called the Daughters of Mary help of Christians, better known as the Salesian Sisters founded by Mary Mazarello in 1872 (Ina would die on the anniversary of the death of the foundress). The order is closely associated with Don Bosco and like him founded schools, worked with young people, provided trades for women and men and were particularly active with people in need. The first perpetual vows were taken by a group of sisters in 1875 and the work was to spread to different countries. By the time of her death there were 26 houses and 166 sisters. In 2016 the order has 14000 members and works on 89 countries.
Ina was to teach in schools and to go on to become their provincial and to work on the governing Council in Rome She was to work in different places and people valued her dedication, her hardwork, her wise and good advice and her friendship. She returned to England but her health in a matter of years was to decline, a series of stroke incapicitated her and she was looked after in later years in Oxford.
Like any individual you have your types in religious life. Ina was a doer, she was born to organize. No task too great no task too small in which she didn’t put her heart into. She had inexhaustible energy for things and could be relied in by everyone. Many initiatives were started by her and seen through, many works sown by her have born rich fruits. Much work to bring people together to achieve things are still ongoing and still bearing fruit. Sometimes it is not left for us to see our work, we sow the seeds and others will reap the harvest.
In the course of her life she shared her life with other religious like herself and great bonds of affection and friendship which have lasted their whole lives have been forged. They shared vows together, they belonged to a family together, they worked and lived together. They bonded together to bring the spirit of the beatitudes into the lives of people that they served. Their lives have been spent in a very fruitful endeavor. These have been women of great energy, great character, great dedication and great spirit
For a family who supports another family member in religious life there is great pride in them. So it has been for this family: to have had 3 of their family in religious life has been a rich legacy and an outstanding gift to the church. On behalf of the church I want to recognize the wonderful gift this family has given to the church – today I think of Ina parents and her brothers and sisters and the family that came after. I repeat that it has been a wonderful gift to the church. We think of Fr Martin such a key figure in the life of the Salesian Order and Brother John such a wonderful life and so beloved at Craighead retreat centre as a Jesuit brother. Few families in the life of our diocese have given so many to religious life who have gone to mean so much to so many.
The work is not our own. We don’t do it for personal glory. We are not looking for ay awards, especially not medals in the Queens awards. It begins from his grace is sustained by his grace and remains through his grace. We are only the instruments, the earthenware vessels carrying a treasure that is within. In the end we recognize that we are only the servants of the work.
Today in a way is not a sad day for the Salesian order it is day of great joy. A work that was begun far away here in our own town in St Charles’s when a young girl left her family to join a religious order has been seen right through to the end. He has run the race, fought the fight, kept going to the finishing line. There is no sadness in this but the joy of a life weel lived and which is returned to its creator.
Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven. May the abundant blessings of God reign down on Ina. May the gifts of eternal peace and joy be hers as she leaves us. May God who held her in the palm of his hand protect her and lead her to green pastures and living waters. May she who knew and loved the Lord be ushered into the father’s home in which there are very many rooms.