Eulogy for Sr Theophane Russell
Emphasis on her life as a Sister of St John of God
Delivered by Sr Pauline O’Connor, Province Leader
12 January 2009
Good afternoon and welcome to this celebration and expression of gratitude for the wonderfully long and blessed life of Sr Theophane.
On behalf of our St John of God Sisters I welcome:
I would like to reserve a special welcome to Sr Theophane’s extended family (that is the Russell and Hardiman branches of the family) present with us today and also to acknowledge the understandable absence of Br Peter Hardiman (a Christian Brother involved in ministry in the Philippines).
It is our tradition on occasions such as these to share some reflections on the life of the Sister who has journeyed with us, and to express fitting appreciation for the contribution that the Sister has made and the gifts through which she has expressed her commitment.
On this occasion I will confine my reflections on Theophane’s life to that of her as a consecrated religious expressed through our John of God spirit, traditions and way of life. There will be other contributions from family later.
Mary Russell was born into a community where the concepts, the symbols and even the fragrance of the Christian tradition were most familiar to her through participation in the sacraments, Benediction and the Eucharist. It was from this background that she decided to give fuller expression to her baptismal commitment as a consecrated religious woman in the Church.
Theophane has said, and I quote “I always wanted to be a nun – never thought initially on what Order perhaps, but then so clearly on a very specific occasion it was made known to me that I was to enter St John of God, – which has been my life – in joy”.
In her reflections on life Theophane talked about the call to a consecrated way of life being a distinct call and wondered in her later years whether people felt that same definite call as she did. The way in which she said this implies she had no doubt about her own call thereby evoking in her an urgency to respond and a depth of gratitude for that call.
She spoke with pride of the fact that Kalgoorlie was blessed with a great number of vocations to the priesthood, and religious life – she seemed to attribute this in part at least to the wonderful schooling and the good grounding in faith which students received – taught as she was by the St John of God Sisters.
In referring to her early years in the St John of God Novitiate – Theophane talked in terms of strict and solid religious training.
During these years she would have learned:
Following Novitiate Theophane experienced that her ministry would depend on the particular community to which she belonged and was ultimately dependant upon the needs of the Church and its people.
In particular terms this meant she initially had:
During all of these years Theophane brought many gifts to her commitment and to her ministering to other people but one in particular stands out – her music, which she had trained in before entering.
It is of interest to note that Theophane spent approximately the first half of her life as a religious in a Church that was Pre-Vatican II and the other half in a Church that changed rapidly and, one might say, for good and for bad – a Church as filled with saints as with sinners, a Church as given to truth as it is prone to error. But, Theophane was clear and constant in her belief that it was in the God of that Church that she placed her hope and her faith.
So, what can we say of Theophane’s life:
Thank you Theophane – Yes, we will miss you.