Remembering Sr Mary Gilbride RIP

Sr. Mary Gilbride was born ‘under bare Ben Bulben’s head’, near the village of Grange, in north Co. Sligo.  ‘The mountain’ as she referred to it, that spoke of ancient myth and more recent fratricidal strife had, I feel, a profound effect on her personality.  For just as Ben Bulben climbs to the sky, yet remains firmly rooted on a solid base, so Mary, while aspiring to spiritual heights, always remained well grounded in the reality of everyday. 

Having been brought up in a very loving family, Mary entered the Ursuline Convent, Sligo, as one of the first graduates of St. Angela’s College.  The College held a lasting place in her affections and she contributed much to it over the years.  In her early days in the Ursuline Mary taught numerous classes and her many talents were employed in various responsible positions.  Mary was very gifted intellectually, had a quick understanding, a great sense of humour and was caring and compassionate towards all. 

 However, it was the advent of Vatican II and the subsequent changes that this brought about in Church, Scripture, liturgy and religious life that allowed Mary’s personality to blossom.  Two of the Vatican II Constitutions resonated with and affirmed the dominant traits of her personality – ‘Dei Verbum’, the Constitution on Divine Revelation, which hoped that ‘veneration for God’s word’ would bring ‘a new surge of spiritual vitality’ to the Church, and ‘Gaudium et Spes’, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, which dealt with the equality of all peoples and social justice.  Mary always had an intense love of the Scriptures as the source of her prayer and action.  This action was based also on a phrase from ‘Gaudium et Spes’ which spoke about ‘the dignity of the human person’.

 Her subsequent life then, whether it was working to better the lives of Travellers on practical issues or by way of amateur dramatics; serving as an innovative School Principal or her years as an inspirational Congregational Leader or as a member of the General Leadership Team; as Diocesan Advisor or as a much valued Board Member of different institutions;  as a devoted member of her family or as much-loved community member, her life was based on the Scriptures and on her recognition and acknowledgement of the dignity of the human person.  These traits have been recognised by all who knew her as her ability to build people up and as her ‘great humanity’.

 In the last few months of her life, while she was suffering from a long, painful and debilitating illness, she continued to have the same interest in the welfare of people and could still enjoy some political jokes.  As the illness progressed and she became weaker, on being asked one day how she was, she said, ‘I am learning more about the Incarnation’.

 Mary, may you now enjoy the vision of that Incarnate God, face to face.