Farewell to Sr M Bernadette O'Neill
On 28th February, the Chapel at St Joseph’s, Lochinvar was filled to capacity to farewell our Sr Mary Bernadette whose long life came to an end on Wednesday night, 21st February in the Mercy Aged Care facility in Singleton.
The large number of people who attended her Funeral Mass were representative of those whom she loved and served during her seventy-one years as a Sister of St Joseph. Her large extended family came to honour her, the matriarch of the O’Neill family. Present among the nephews, grandnephews, nieces, grandnieces and cousins were her sisters, Barbara and Tess and brother, Jim who had been given leave from the hospital for a few hours to farewell his oldest sister.
As well as being a member of a well-known Cessnock family, Sr Bernadette had taught at St Patrick’s School on Wollombi Road, so many people were there from Cessnock. Kurri Kurri parishioners were there too as for twelve years Sister had been a much-loved Pastoral Associate in the parish. There were people from Charlestown, her home parish during three appointments, the last being from 2001 to 2007. Lochinvar parishioners added to the numbers as well as the Dominican Sisters and Sisters of Mercy, her many friends and Josephite Sisters.
Father Paul O’Neill presided at the Mass together with six priests. The young altar servers, Dominic and Xavier were two of her grandnephews. The Scripture readings and the hymns were carefully chosen to recall her perseverance and trust in the goodness of God. The Gospel of the Beatitudes - Blessed are the gentle, blessed are the merciful – seemed most appropriate. Sr Brigid Linehan in delivering the Words of Remembrance said, “Whether she was teaching in the schools, in pastoral ministry or semi-retired. Bernadette was hospitable, gracious, respectful and always supportive of the priests in the parishes.”
At the conclusion of the Mass the Year 9 students from St Joseph’s College, Lochinvar formed a guard of honour along the cloister and around the circular drive as Sister passed by. Their respectful presence added to the solemnity of the occasion.
After the burial in the Sisters' Cemetery at Lochinvar, the students escorted the guests to the hall, MacKillop Place where the refreshments prepared by the students were available. During the afternoon acquaintances were renewed and a slide show of Sr Bernadette’s life encouraged people to remain and share more memories from her long and fruitful life.