Eulogy for Alma McManus

delivered by Helen Coldrick, RDC

 

We’ve come together this morning to celebrate the beautiful life and legacy of Sr. Mary Alma.

Her name, the feminine form of the Latin word “almus”, was given to her on the occasion of

receiving the habit of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion. That was   exactly 61 years ago.

 

“Almus” or “alma” means nurturer, one who nourishes, who helps other to grow and to flourish.

As young religious, we were encouraged to practice the virtues associated with our religious name.

Easier said than done, to be sure, especially for those whose patron saints were martyrs!

 

But in Sr. Mary Alma’s case, it was as if name and novice had been made for each other.

Her spontaneous generosity, her remarkable energy always at the ready, a sense of humor that could

bring joy to the grimmest task, above all her unfailing kindness : these were  the gifts that, as a young

religious, she brought to us – the members of her religious Community , and later to those she would be

called to serve - among them, the children of St. Bernard’s School, and then of Our Lady of Sorrows,

where she would be appointed Principal; the Sisters with whom she experienced the joys and

challenges of convent life ; and for the past four decades, her university  students and colleagues.

 

In recent years, Alma adapted with alacrity to the changes in teaching methods wrought by the techno-

revolution – and ushered in by the Macintosh!  As something of a “luddite” myself, I often

thought that while her students gained in time and efficiency from her online classes, they lost 

something of importance – direct and frequent contact with a remarkable personality.

 

But in her “time-is-no-object; can-do” fashion, she continued to identify students who needed an

Intervention, whether for personal or academic reasons, to help and encourage them, to awaken them

to their own gifts and talents. Last evening’s testimonials gave memorable witness to that!

 

To be sure, Alma was not above having favorites, notable among them her beloved nieces, grandnieces

and nephews.  Many of their names ring like those in the baptismal records of a village church in County

Roscommon or County Fermanagh – her parents’ ancestral homes: Katie, Brendan, Connor, Maeve,

Shane, Olivia,  Kathy Ann, John, Eileen and Luke; Ann, Patty, Jessica and James, Kathy Ann, John, Eileen –

and Brigid!

 

At the vital center of Alma’s personality and character  were remarkable resilience, and a saving sense of

humor with just a tincture of wryness. But I venture that at her heart’s core was the quality of 

empathy – the moral foundation for compassionate action . Today, leadership courses are advancing the

case that this is  also one of the most important qualities for effective leadership, and for most

beneficent forms of  human interaction.  Corporate leaders  are being

advised  to highlight this quality among their hiring requirements.

 

That said,  Alma did not need her degree in Counseling Psychology to know the importance of empathy

In human relations, nor a bookshelf  of tomes on the topic to explore its implications. She knew and

practiced it instinctively. One might say she had the virtue of empathy in her DNA, sanctified by her

vowed following  of Christ.  In this context, we recall the words that have inspired persons of all

religions, and none:

           “Therefore, all things whatsoever you would that others should do to you, do you

              even so to them. For this is the law and the prophets”. 

“The Golden Rule”, of course. But also the law of compassion – divine compassion – and the law by

which Alma strove to guide all her interactions.

 

Calm and intrepid, she faced down her illness for endless months, all the while mindful of other Sisters

who were coping with their own challenges. She cared devotedly for Sr. Miriam Moran, her

dearest friend and mentor, and maintained  close contacts with  relatives and colleagues. She

continued to teach until just a short time ago.

 

But then came the evening of life.  Time to let others tend to her. Time to say with Jesus:

“Consummatum est”.  It is finished.  Time to await the resurrected life that is Christ’s promise and our

hope.

 

Reflecting on that greatest of all mysteries. C.S. Lewis wrote: “Then the new earth and sky . . .  will rise

 In us as we have risen in Christ. And once again, after who knows what eons of the silence and the dark,

the birds will sing and the waters flow, and lights and shadows move across the hills, and the faces of

our friends laugh upon us with amazed recognition”.  “Guesses”, he continues, “of course, only

guesses”.

 

If they are not true, something better will be. For “we know that we shall be made like Him, for we shall

see Him as He is”.  Until then, dearest Alma.