31 Jul She Prayed for Everyone
Deirdre spent the last eleven years of her life working in our handicraft center. She loved children, cats, Scrabble, knitting, and painting. She always had a handicraft project going, and though she was generally quiet and reserved, she had a whimsical side which came out in her knitted sheep, shepherds and little people.
She had such a creative drive! Towards the end when she was in the hospital and could not use her right hand, she painted the scene outside her window with her left hand.
It was well-done, and one of the nurses wanted to buy it because she was so struck by the tenacity of this woman who could not use her right hand but still found a way to paint.
Anne Marie Murphy
Deirdre went with me to the hospital when I had my tonsils out as an applicant. I was a big baby when I came out of surgery. My throat hurt and I said to Deirdre, “Hold my hand.” So she did, gently.
When I was falling asleep, I felt her tuck my hand under the sheet and gently let it go. I was all right with that because I knew she was there.
Four or five years later, I was put in charge of food processing. I felt overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure how to do it, how to be present to the people there, which was the most important thing, and still be able to take care of the food.
One day, Deirdre walked in the door, sat at the table, and just started chopping away.
Seeing her there, I suddenly knew that if she came every day, I would be all right. She would be present to the people working at that table and praying for them.
I knew it wasn’t easy for Deirdre to make the trip to the farm due to her physical limitations, but I said to her, “I need you to come every day because I need you to be at that table because I need your presence.”
For the next five years, she was there.
When Deirdre was stationed at MH Toronto, every day at Mass she prayed for “the people who walked by the house.” One person in the house found it irritating hearing it over and over.
Well, I was living in Toronto at the time, and I walked by that house three or four times every day. I’m a fruit of that prayer.
More and more, I became aware of Deirdre’s prayerfulness. Every week until her heart began to fail, about two years ago, three at the most, Deirdre made a poustinia in a tiny cabin on the island by the main house, a cabin without electricity.
I lived on that island, and one afternoon she passed by my window wearing a small knapsack. I saw her take a few steps and then stop and rest. Then a few more steps, and she had to stop again.
I called to her, “Are you all right? Shall I get a car?”
“No, I’ll be all right,” she said. She made it all the way across the bridge that way. Going to that poustinia was one of the last things she let go of.
former director general
Deirdre was in La Loche, Saskatchewan, a northern Canadian village, in the 1970s. It was what Catherine called “a poustinia in the marketplace.” And it was not an apostolate in which you could see fruits.
Years later, when she was back in Combermere, at least every third day, Deirdre would pray for the people there at Mass. Of course those people had no idea that her prayer presence continued.
Then, many years after she had left, in a tragic incident that made headlines all across Canada, a teenager shot several teens in the high school. The town was in mourning.
It is very likely that the grandparents of those teens were among the children who used to hang out in Deirdre’s house. I believe the town was somehow consoled through the prayers that Deirdre had been praying for them all those decades.
When Deirdre was no longer in the missions, her heart continued to be there. After the war in Liberia where we used to have a house, a young man was concerned that because of the chaos of the war, the children in his village had not been able to go to school.
He began teaching a couple of them outside, and eventually started a school.
Deirdre kept writing to him and supporting him and his school in every way she could, including much prayer, often praying for him at Mass.
Had it not been for Deirdre, the school might not have made a go of it.
A number of us working in OLV, our annex for our elderly where Deirdre spent the end of her life, noticed a transformation in her. She had gotten a hold of a novena with the prayer: “Jesus, I surrender to you. Take care of everything.” She also embroidered this prayer.
This brought home to me the challenge of surrender and the value of time at the end of life. With time, God can bring us to transformation and peace.