Sr. M. Carmel Daly OP in memoriam

Sr. M. Carmel Daly OP (1919-2010) døde lørdag den 17. april i Stone, England. Store deler av hennes liv (siden 1953) tilbragte hun i Bodø og gjorde der stor pastoral innsats. Spesielt var hun engasjert omkring ungdomsklubben i "Barnevennen". Hun ble begravet den 23. april i Stone. Generalpriorinne sr. M. Pauline Burling OP, som også har tilbragt mange år i Bodø, holdt i rekviemmessen den følgende minnetale over sr. Carmel - her gjengitt på engelsk.

Our Sister Mary Carmel, Gabrielle Carmel Daly, was born in Dublin on 9th April 1919. She was the eldest of seven children born to Anne Christina (rather Violet or Mamma) and Hubert Daly. According to traditional Catholic custom she was baptised a few days afterwards, that is, on the 14th April 1919 in St. Joseph's Church and confirmed in 1930 at the age of 11. With a date for First Holy Communion sometime between 1925 and 1930, she was fully initiated into the Catholic Church. Although the celebration of the sacraments are important milestones in Christian formation, much, if not most of the training happens in the family. The Daly parents must have worked hard and succeeded in giving their children a sound grounding in the faith and, no doubt, her remaining brothers and sisters can supply details to illustrate this. Sister Mary Carmel herself was always grateful for this gift; and to many of us she seemed to rely and live by her solid Irish faith until the moment of her death.

At the age of 20 Gabrielle Carmel Daly entered the Novitiate in Stroud on 1st September 1939, the date the Second World War began with the invasion of Poland. It must have taken some courage to leave her home country at this particular juncture when travel in Europe became dangerous. I'd imagine that during the war years feelings of being cut off from her loved ones in Ireland must have been intense. In an interview with a journalist 50 years later she held that she only left home because `God called me into his service so that I could try to be of some good for others. For that's what it is all about: to put into practise what we have received in baptism - on the model of Jesus Christ.' Sister Mary Carmel's whole period of formation in religious life took place during these war years and the celebration of her clothing on 14 August 1940 and her first profession on 15 August 1941 must have been simple. In contrast, there must have been great rejoicing when Sister made her final vows on 15 August 1945, c. three months after victory day in Europe.

Shortly afterwards Sister was assigned to Brewood, where she taught infants in our convent school; one of them being Fr. Sandy Brown con-celebrating with Fr. Jonathan today. Sister Mary Carmel stayed in this pleasant Staffordshire village until she was moved to London in 1950. As a Dubliner she preferred a place with `some go' and `a bit of colour', which our convent in Portobello Rd. provided, especially on market days.

However, Sister Mary Carmel's greatest venture started in 1953, when she was chosen to be one of the four pioneers to found a convent in Bodö in the Arctic of Northern Norway. In the fifties the sisters sailed from Newcastle across the North Sea and along the Norwegian coast which was a journey of 5 days. It was unknown yet beautiful territory for our first four sisters, who were charmed by the colourful houses of the city of Bergen, the beauty of the mountains and fjords and the sheer vastness of the Northern landscape. Many Norwegians were intrigued by these foreign looking ladies, but only the more daring among them ventured to address the sisters in English. However, after the sisters arrived in Bodö and settled in their little convent, making contact with the population was a feature of their outgoing apostolate. So when the doorbell rang at diverse hours the sisters were ready to show people into the little chapel and talk to them about their way of life. The majority were children and young people who became good friends of `de engelske nonnan' [the English nuns]. In 1953 the Catholic Church was very much a novelty in Bodö, because the parish, then consisting of the priest and two Catholic families with a number of children each, had only started the year before. Sister Mary Carmel was most eager and quick to learn Norwegian, so as to understand the people better and communicate with them in their own language. Before long she was in charge of the small hostel for young girls and a few years later she established a very successful youth centre which offered diverse activities: practice sessions for at least 5 music bands who were always preparing and giving concerts, judo, ballet, drama but also homelier pass times such as stamp collecting and leather work. The other sisters in community contributed to the youth club with their skills besides establishing and running a kindergarten. At the same time the sisters looked after the parish priest and the little parish. For their work with the young people of Bodö the sisters were awarded the town's cultural prize in 1971.

It must have been hard for Sister Mary Carmel to come back to England in 1968 not knowing at the time that she would stay there for 10 years. From 1969 - 1975 she served as prioress of Harpenden and was instrumental in moving the community to a smaller house, which eventually was handed over to the Bushey Dominican Sisters. Then she was made Prioress of Erdington but felt obliged to resign after 6 months because of serious internal difficulties. She later told me that this was one of the hardest missions in her life, which, however, brought her closer to Christ. A few months later she became Prioress of Brewood, where she was entrusted with another difficult task of closing the convent in 1978.

However, the same year Sister Mary Carmel was elected Prioress of Bodö. She may have had some reservations about the latter appointment but she certainly was glad to be back in Norway, because as she once said, "Norway made me!" Very quickly she perceived the new pastoral needs and engaged fully in the apostolate travelling by car, boat or plane in all weathers so as to reach isolated Catholics. It was this demanding work of evangelising and catechising, which the present Bishop acknowledges in his letter of condolence. Especially from the eighties onwards the Church grew more rapidly as Catholic immigrants spread widely over the vast region in the province of Nordland [North-land]. By the time the sisters left Bodö over 400 Catholics were registered. Already in 1981 the sisters moved into the newly built convent `Mariaklosteret' and thanks to Sister Mary Carmel's organisation and hard work it was a smooth transition. Life in the new convent became even more apostolic as from then on we were able to arrange lectures, various discussion groups and accommodate people coming from afar for instruction.

Sister Mary Carmel suffered much from arthritis which did not improve in the cold and wet conditions of the Arctic. After two sisters from the Philippines arrived to strengthen our mission in Bodö, it seemed right to her to ask for sabbatical leave, which she spent with the Contemplative Dominicans in Oslo from 1993 - 1995. It was a time of reflection and prayerful liturgies much appreciated by Sister after all those years in a small and busy community. In the autumn of 1995 Sister Mary Carmel returned to Bodö for another 2 years, but in 1997 she came back to England for good and lived for 7 years in our convent in Ealing. As her infirmities increased she needed care and so she came to Stone in 2004, where she was looked after lovingly by the staff in our infirmary. After a fall in July last year, which left Sister Mary Carmel more or less immobile, Sister moved to St. Mary's Home, where she also received much help and many kindnesses. Often her sense of humour and quick responses cheered those caring for her: `After all, I have always had the gift of the gab, - we all had it - but Lilly is best.'

In spite of increasing forgetfulness Sister Mary Carmel was alive and interested in all matters concerning the family and news from Norway in particular. In January this year she became fully aware that her life was ebbing away, saying among other things:

18th January 2010: `I thank God - I had time to rebel and time to repent. - He knows me - I trust. He is there' Who? `God, - God is good.'

19th January 2010: `I must be on my last lap now.' `I want to reach it!' What? `Heaven, of course!' `Am I dying?' Not yet. `I wish He would get a move on!'

15th February 2010: `Pray for me that I will persevere to the end! I cannot do much now. Will you give me a Rosary?'

30th March 2010: `I didn't know it (dying) would be so hard. Pray for me.' `Thank her (Sr. M. Fintan) for her prayers and ask her to keep them up.'

So we'd better do the same, that is, say prayers for our Sister Mary Carmel and keep them up.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace! Amen.

KI - Katolsk Informasjonstjeneste (Oslo) (26. april 2010)

av Webmaster publisert 26.04.2010, sist endret 19.01.2011 - 15:59