17 May 2022

Sr Finian Hegarty: An Appreciation

'Finian bloomed where she was planted'

The late Sr Finian Hegarty

The late Sr Finian Hegarty

There was sadness in Inishowen and beyond at the passing of Sr Finian Hegarty, Sisters of Mercy, Grange Inch Island.

Sr Finian died at Nazareth House, Fahan, last Thursday.

She was the dear sister of Joe Hegarty, Grange, Inch Island and will be forever missed by her brother, community of the Sisters of Mercy, nieces, nephews, her extended family, friends and neighbours.

The much loved Nun entered the Convent of Mercy in Pump Street, Derry, on the first day of May 1958 and her first Professional day came three years later in 1961.

Afterwards she spent time at both the Moville Convent of Mercy, where she was active in the local Legion of Mary, and the Convent of Mercy in Buncrana, where she also acted as a supervisor in Scoil Mhuire.

She was one of the first residents to move into the Taobh na Cille retirement complex in Moville when it opened at the end of August 2007 and on May Day 2008 she celebrated a half century of service to her order with a visit to the International Flower Show at Loreto House, where special guest, Daniel O’Donnell, presented her with a bouquet of flowers in honour of her significant milestone.

Sr Finian's Requiem Mass took place on Saturday (November 20) in Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Inch, followed by interment in the adjoining cemetery.

Speaking before Sr Finian's funeral, in a video message, Donegal singing star, Daniel O'Donnell, said: “I just want to send my sympathy to Joe and all of Sr Finian's family. She was a great friend to me and indeed to all of our family.

“My mother loved her very much. She used to visit her often when she was in Inch with her own mother and she never came home without baked bread. We will never forget Sr Finian. May she rest in peace. God Bless.”

Addressing the mourners at Sr Finian's Requiem Mass, Reverend Fintan Diggin, CC, Fahan, Inch and Burt, said Sr Finian belonged to a family [The Sisters of Mercy] founded by Catherine McCauley, in a time when there was poverty, injustice and ill treatment, especially of Women, in Ireland, in the mid-1800s.

Fr Diggin added: “Sisters of Mercy take a vow to be at the Service of people. Finian, when she was professed, bought that vision of life. Her life was dedicated to service, educating people and doing her best to bring Christ to the community that she served.

“Those of us who would have known Finian, would know she brought Christ to people in the gentle breeze that was her life. People were attracted by her gentleness, her humanity, her friendship, her sense of joy, her sense of faith. Those were the gifts Finian had, as everyone who met her would know.

“For Finian, it was all about what Jesus said in today's gospel. 'My aim is not to do my own will but to do the will of the God who sent me.'

“Finian lived her life, carrying that out as best she could. She was a representative of Christ on Earth, bringing him to everybody she worked with and worked for and today we ask God to reward his faithful servant with the gift of eternal life for all her goodness on Earth.”

Sr Margaret McConalogue reflected on Sr Finian's life, following Communion.

Sr Margaret McConalogue recalled how the young Brigid Hegarty, only daughter of Patrick and Sheila, grew up in the beautiful locality of Inch Island.

Sr Margaret said: “She was surrounded by lake and sea, woods and hills and, of course, an abundance of wild birds, both native and migratory. 

“Many people travelled far and wide to spend a day here with nature. Brigid, and her brother Joe, in common with many of you gathered here today, have had this every day and you delight in it all. Who could not be aware of God's presence in creation in a place like this? 

“A religious vocation, to dedicate one's life to the service of God and his people, doesn't come from nowhere. It is planted deep in the Soul, it is nourished and developed, often unconsciously, in the context of family and faith community. Brigid and her brother Joe were blessed to have been formed in a very happy and grace-filled home, with parents who loved them and loved God and followed his ways. 

“This sense of belonging to a Parish community that is nurtured and practised, where the values of caring and looking after each other in good times and bad was another big plus for Brigid. In fact, she had time and opportunity in this lovely place to be grateful for all of this and to wonder about God's designs for her young life and she responded generously. 

“On May Day, 1958, Brigid entered the Sisters of Mercy in Pump Street. This was was the Centenary year of the Apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, to whom this Church is dedicated. She was given the name Sr Finian, and after the required time of preparation and formation, she took final vows as a Sister of Mercy in 1963. 

“She spent her early years a professed Sister in the Pump Street community. Later in Thornhill, Moville, Buncrana and latterly, the Nazareth House in Fahan, where she was very happy living closer to home. 

“Finian had a gift of being able to bloom where she was planted. In each of these communities, she gave 100%, whether it was preparing delicious meals for the community or ministering to the youth or elderly around her in the wider community. She had a variety of pastoral roles in the schools of Thornhill and Scoil Mhuire, Buncrana and visited the elderly and the sick, where she brought her own unique brand of hospitality and kindness to all. 

“Her love of people, her approachability, her ability to listen well and deeply, and then to bring all the different intentions of the people to God in prayer where her outstanding gifts and she drew many great friends who loved her and cherished her companionship to the end. 

“Sr Finian was by nature a gracious and gentle person, yet she loved the craic, a great céilí where she sang and danced the night away. She was a great Irish dancer. 

“When she was in Moville, she knew all of her fellow residents by name. She knew their cares and their troubles and many turned to her for prayer and support. Finian was a woman of great prayer. She loved to sing hymns in the Church choir and she remembered all the words. She even prayed the Rosary on Highland Radio with the sick and housebound. That was Finian. Full of fun and laughter. Singing and listening to music and singing with it. Especially listening to her great friend, Daniel O'Donnell. She wasn't just a fan, she was a great friend. 

“No wonder he telephoned from New York yesterday to express his sympathy to Joe, as did Margo and Shaun Doherty, formerly of Highland Radio, who is now studying in Rome, all deeply saddened at Finian's leaving us. 

“Life was not easy for Finian, in spite of her cheerfulness. Suffering and pain were a huge part of her life and determined everything she undertook. Sr Finian's greatest ministry, her mission, may well have been her acceptance of her suffering, her courage in facing her very serious health issues and dealing with them as best she could, without complaint or grumbling. She exemplified for all of us that beautiful prayer for serenity. 

“Sr Finian knew all about surrendering to God for her knees hit the floor many times.

“Those of us who knew Sr Finian, could see that was how she lived her life. Her motto at First Confession was, 'My Lord and my God' and that was her guiding light throughout the whole of her life. 

As we kept watch with her in the final days of life's journey, as she waited for her loving creator God to call her home, we noticed the deep peace and serenity of that waiting and I myself wondered if we might not have been blessed to have our own Little Flower in our midst, who knows?

We, the Sisters of Mercy of the Northern Province, wish to thank all who helped us celebrate Finian's life and death today. We celebrate her life with great thanksgiving. May her gentle Soul rest in peace,” said Sr Margaret.

Sr Finian Hegarty: Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis. 

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