Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mary Greene January 28, 2010

RIP born 1920 and died 2010

All of our words at the funeral Mass ought to focus on the saving power of the Lord Jesus. In the time of loss we seek the comfort of our hope in the Lord Jesus. This hope tells us that life when we leave this earth is not taken away by the power of death but changed by the power of Christ’s victory. Mary with her generous prayerful spirit spoke this truth throughout her entire life. So we can feel confident that remembering her and remembering all of her charity toward us will open us up to this saving power of God. Today we share among ourselves her witness to the Spirit, her love for Jesus and Mary and her confidence in God’s saving power. So we do not hesitate to speak of her.

Mary Greene was among the first to welcome me to the Church of the Gesu parish when I arrived to do parish ministry in 1985. Her faith and charity were already legendary among us Jesuits, among those of us who ministered and lived at Gesu during the second half of the twentieth century including the Jesuit novices who came to live for short periods at Gesu. Mary and her sister Rebecca were the heart of a team that made sure that every Gesu School child had not only a good lunch but shoes on their feet. Mary and her sister Rebecca were the heart of the team that helped with every household task in the large Church of the Gesu and the parish center facilities. Indeed Mary’s daily chores, too, included the care of anyone who was sick, whether it be someone in her family or a parishioner or neighbor who needed care of any kind. Her own home from time to time became an assisted living center or even a nursing home. She never turned away anyone in need. And she often reminded me of whom I should visit with Communion or about anyone who needed our parish assistance.

Everyone who knew her learned lessons about God from her. I remember vividly the day that she came to me to tell me about the death of a former parishioner who had gone astray. Some might think that he ought not have a Catholic funeral in the Church of the Gesu, she told me. She agreed that he had indeed made a mistake but he had done so much for the young people of Gesu and the children in Gesu school. One day, she told me, he, knowing that her own shoes were in bad shape, was looking for her, saw her walking on the street and stopped his car and gave her a new pair of shoes that he had gotten for her. We need to forgive him, she said. When I listened to her, I knew that the Spirit was giving me a life lesson about God’s forgiveness and, of course, the funeral took place in the Church of the Gesu.

And would she not give us some guidance when we were going astray! One day, for example, we were discussing the rosary and I told her that I used the rosary beads frequently but, instead of Hail Marys, I recited a antiphon 10 times for each of the decades. She told me that the Blessed Mother would not like that. I still smile at this…. perhaps at my peril!

One day after she had moved from her home on 18th Street over to senior housing on Franklin Street, I would no longer see her often. The Gesu had closed; St. Malachy’s was a long walk for her from Franklin St. and she often went to St. Peter’s for Mass. She was always up and out for different St. Malachy events or other things but more often than before she would be by herself in her small apartment. I asked her once, “Mary, after all those years of living with other people and constantly out with other people, don’t you ever now feel lonely?” She looked at me with a gentle smile that indicated that I had asked a really stupid question and said, “I am never alone, Father; God is always with me.”

She always prayed for all of us and I know she did simple things for other people down to the last months, simple things like the habit she had of sending me a St. Patrick’s Day card because I had once told her about the only one St. Patrick’s Day card I would always get from my mother until my mother died.

Wasn’t she something? It makes us weep that God has been so kind to so many of us, the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlettered, through this saintly woman. Our remembrance of her supports our faith. Our remembrance of her consoles us. Our remembrance of her fills us with a true hope that we will see her again in God’s good time. A more powerful remembrance of her, indeed the most powerful remembrance of Mary exists in God’s own heart and mind. So powerful is God’s remembrance that she continues to live with God in this new existence.
This procession of mourners is viewing the body of Rev. John J. Deeney, S.J., a Philadelphian and Prep grad ('45) who ministered in the state of Jharkhand, India for over 50 years. He was buried in mid January at a school and church in Chaibasa, part of the native area of the Ho tribal people. Fr. Deeney was the first to work on a Ho-English dictionary. Over 2000 people attended his funeral Mass celebrated with 120 priests.

The lad leaning over the casket may be anointing Father Deeney with oils as is the Ho custom at funerals.

I was able to be present at a Memorial Mass in Philadelphia that was celebrated on January 30 for about 100 family members and friends, most from the Philadelphia area.

We had no marigolds but we did have flowers and we did present a small bag of rice at the offertory procession as is the Ho custom.

See John's obit article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (with a photograph)