Sermon for the Funeral Mass of Sr. Jacqueline Tierney

Sermon for the Funeral Mass of Sr. Jacqueline Tierney

Sermon by Fr. Richard Heilman for the Funeral Mass of Sr. Jacqueline Tierney (Sr. Jacqueline was Fr. Heilman’s grade school principal at the beginnings of St. Maria Goretti parish):

I had the great honor and privilege to offer Mass every Thursday at the sisters’ home, as Sister Jacqueline was homebound. While Sister Jacqueline’s communication abilities waned in her last days, I always received a huge smile when I arrived as we went into our fun little competition: “I love you more. No, I love you more …”

Some of you may know that our family was one of the original families here. While I was two years old at the time, and so can’t recall, mom said that families gathered in the basement of Fr. Schuster’s rectory for Mass while they built SMG across the street.

My Dad’s motto grew out of those early days of building St. Maria Goretti: Faith, Family and Fun.

Why? As a family, we grew to our bigger SMG family as we had SO MUCH FUN working very hard to do all we could to build a beautiful parish. The spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts and ringing doorbells to sell light bulbs to raise funds for our athletic equipment. Our family, and so many wonderful families, literally lived at SMG. We wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

Every morning before school began, the school bell would ring and we would come in from playing outside to line up in size order, before processing into church for daily Mass. Once we were lined up, in came Sr. Jacqueline, and our chant began: “Good morning, Sr. Jacqueline.” We were in awe before our Sr. Jacqueline, while we never stopped feeling her intense love for us.

You see, Sister? With your religious vocation, your religious habit and your position of authority, you were the ambassador; the representative of God for me and so many others.

You taught us the most important lesson of our lives, and it comes from the Gospel you chose for your funeral.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”

Sister Jacqueline, you taught us how important it is to never lose the “Wisdom of the children.”

My sister Judy’s memories: “I have so many memories of Sr. ‘Jackie.’ She came to teach us in her twenties, fresh out of the novitiate. Her and Sister Catherine would get in trouble all the time from kidding around during school. I was never clear who was the teacher and who were the students in 4th grade 🙂 She grew to become one of the brightest, compassionate, honest, and witty people I knew. Always loving. Always forgiving. Always funny. May she rest in peace.”

And there is it. Just like a little kid, Sister, you never stopped celebrating life. I knew where that “celebration” came from. It came from your intense love for God, which you helped to cultivate in me and so many others. I came to discover that with that kind of intense love for God, our everything is to please God, to give Him our very best, and never stop praising Him for all of His blessings. Never stop celebrating life! Never stop lifting others from their worries and burdens. Never stop being the light we are called to be.

This is where the next part of the Gospel you chose comes in …

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Sister, you showed me that the “Wisdom of the Children” comes from finding that little word inside that Gospel: MEEK.

(Explain what meek means. In biblical times, wild stallions were brought down from the mountains and were trained to gallop into battle at 35 miles per hour and come to a sliding stop at the tap of the rider’s heel. They were said to be meeked. Sr. Jacqueline had the same effect on us at the tap of her ring against the pew. You taught that obeying is easy when we love the one we are obeying).

Even as you drew people into your love and peace and joy, you stood as a sign of contradiction for others who found it difficult to be set free from the slavery of a worldly life. But, praise God, so many souls, like me, chose to let you be our primary influencer, and so we said “YES” to your example and teaching to keep our childlike innocence and trusting, and that has set us free.

Because of you, we are FREE to celebrate life in the deepest, most meaningful way. I am eternally grateful, Sister, for giving me the most important lesson of life: Never lose the “Wisdom of the Children.”

I felt inspired to close by sharing the lyrics of a song as I believe it is a fitting tribute to the “philosophy of life” Sr. Jacqueline lived and taught so well. I was in the sixth grade here at SMG when this song was released in 1969.

This is John Denver’s “Rhymes and Reasons” …

So you speak to me of sadness
And the coming of the winter
Fear that is within you now
It seems to never end

And the dreams that have escaped you
And the hope that you’ve forgotten
You tell me that you need me now
You want to be my friend

And you wonder where we’re going
Where’s the rhyme and where’s the reason
And it’s you cannot accept
It is here we must begin
To seek the wisdom of the children
And the graceful way of flowers in the wind

For the children and the flowers
Are my sisters and my brothers
Their laughter and their loveliness
Could clear a cloudy day.

Like the music of the mountains
And the colors of the rainbow
They’re a promise of the future
And a blessing for today
Though the cities start to crumble
And the towers fall around us
The sun is slowly fading
And it’s colder than the sea

It is written from the desert
To the mountains they shall lead us
By the hand and by the heart
They will comfort you and me
In their innocence and trusting
They will teach us to be free

For the children and the flowers
Are my sisters and my brothers
Their laughter and their loveliness
Could clear a cloudy day

And the song that I am singing
Is a prayer to non-believers
Come and stand beside us
We can find a better way.

Sr. Jacqueline, we stand beside you and one another, and we are eternally grateful that you taught us all how to seek the “Wisdom of the Children” and so to “find a better way.”



Funeral Mass – Sr. Jacqueline Tierney – October 20, 2022


Category Heart, Latest Posts, Soul