HOLY SOULS – Day 14

HOLY SOULS – Day 14

 Sr Mary of the Blessed Sacrament   Monica Mary Finnegan

Monica was  born at  Consett, County Durham,  the second  of  seven children, in December 1912. She was still very  small when the  family  moved to  Aberavon in Wales  on account  of her  father’s employment, and  it was  here  that  her  three  brothers  ( all destined to  become  priests  in the Westminster Diocese) and  her two  younger  sisters, joined the  happy  and  united  family  circle. She seems to  have  become the  natural family  ring-leader, as her elder sister, Mary,  was delicate and  also  docile to  Monnie’s  leadership!  She had  a  particularly  warm  relationship  with  her brother Joe, next after  her in age. Many were the  escapades  and  pranks they  got  into , or  led the others  into, in the  carefree   days of  countryside  and  seaside  around them. Then  later  in life, when  both  followed their  respective  vocations, the  bonds between them  became ever deeper, without ever excluding  any  of the others.  In fact,  Monnie  took  quite  a  responsible role,  in helping her  mother to  care  for the  babies as they  arrived, and she  loved  each  one  all through  life.
She had a solid  education  in the Village  School, to  which  they all walked  daily, whatever the  weather.   Meanwhile they  never  lost  touch  with  their  relatives  back in The  North, at  Roker in Sunderland, where  their  maternal grandmother  and  other  relatives still  lived. When she  was about 17,  Her mother’s sister,  Auntie  Lily,  asked  for  Monnie to  come  and  live  with  her  and  help  look after  Grandma,  so  off she went. The  old lady died  not  long after, and  Auntie Lily  by then  in her  40’s,  felt  drawn to  answer  a call to  Carmel. She  applied, and was accepted   at  Notting  Hill, and at the  same  time  suggested  to  her niece to  consider  a vocation as well.  The Carmel  at  Bridell  had just  been  opened  in  1930,  so in 1931, the  young  postulant, not  yet  twenty,  was directed there. Her  health  was  not  very  robust, and the house  was still  very bare and cold.  There was  plenty  of hard work, both in the  house and the  garden. Sr Mary  of the  Blessed Sacrament most outstanding  gift  proved to  be  her  artistic  skills, especially  in  designing exquisite  illuminations for  cards,  addresses, and so  on.  She  also  became adept  at  black-and-white  photography with  equipment  donated by  her  brother Fr. Joe.  A close alliance was also  formed  between the  Carmelites and  the  nearby Abbey  of Caldey. As they began to   promote their  various  natural  resources, especially  herbs, Sr  Mary  of the  Blessed Sacrament  led the  way  in making  lavender sachets, and  similar  handicrafts  which  could  be sold  in the  Abbey  Gift  shop for their  mutual  benefit.  Meanwhile  her  lovely  singing voice and aptitude  for  plain chant   were   invaluable  as the   sisters   enriched their Liturgy. Sister  became  Subprioress,  and was well  qualified  for   this  role. After  many years the  viability  of the  community  in this rather remote Welsh Carmel became questionable, and  in 1973 Sr  Mary  of the Blessed Sacrament  asked to transfer to  Notting Hill, where her  old Aunt Lily –Sr Mary  of the Holy  Ghost – was  a  valiant  member of this  community.  It  must  be said that  Auntie was  NOT thrilled at the idea  of  her  niece  joining  us  for  fear that  she  might  have  too  many  revealing  stories to  tell  about their early life!
The transfer cannot have been easy   – is  it  ever?-  but  sister  set to work   with  characteristic directness   and generosity.  Her  talents were  once again  put to  full  use, and every year, almost  until  she reached her   late  70’s, there were   dozens  of  beautifully  hand painted  illuminations  in place  of honour at the Community  Feast. She also  took  over the  tunic Office,  as well  as  being a willing sharer  in all the  usual domestic tasks almost  up  to  her 80th birthday.  She died peacefully in her 97th year.

The Christmas cards this year are the art work of our dear Sr Mary of the Blessed Sacrament