A celebration of the life for Sr. Virginia McMonagle, RSCJ, takes place at today’s 12:15 p.m. Founders Chapel mass. Sister McMonagle passed away Easter Sunday at age 91. She was a beloved teacher, administrator and friend of countless students, staff and more in the USD and Academy of the Sacred Heart communities. Among her greatest achievements was her instrumental role in the 1987 founding of the Ste. Helene Orphanage and Père Damien Hospice in Haiti. She worked at USD from 1978 until 2002. Admired for her keen intellect, abiding compassion, native wit, and true caring, Sister McMonagle’s legacy is the invaluable impact she had on literally thousands of lives throughout her long and prodigious life. The following is an excerpt from Father Rick Frechette’s eulogy said at Sister McMonagle’s funeral mass on April 27 in Oakwood, Calif.:
Once, on arriving in Haiti after a long trip from San Diego, when I remarked that her trip must have been tiring, she smiled and quoted the Irish saying, “The road to a friend is never long.”
As we offer this mass for her eternal rest after 91 years of life, I remember another quote from the psalms: “Seventy is the sum of our years, or eighty for those who are strong. Most of these are emptiness and pain. They pass swiftly and we are gone.”
This psalm could never have been written by Virginia. Even though she surely knew her share of emptiness and pain, by her life she showed us the truth of her Irish wisdom. When the road is the sum of your days, and the friend to reach is God, you sail through nearly a century of life like a magnificent shooting star, bringing light and hope, peace and joy, all along the way.
With joyful memories of Virginia’s life, with gratitude to God for her vibrant faith, desiring to be blessed with the same joyful and generous love, we accept her death and celebrate her entry into fullness of life. This is right and just.
But it is also right and just that we take to heart the lessons that Virginia’s life has taught us, summed up so well in her Irish wisdom. Virginia made distances disappear through friendship. This is what she spent her life doing. If the road to a friend is never long, then make friends with everyone. You will make distance and time disappear. You will make walls crumble.
Through the lifelong weaving of friendships, Virginia evaporated the distance between Forest Ridge and El Cajon, between Seattle and San Diego, and between San Diego and Port au Prince. This is what she did.
This is a great work, and it brings you to “heart knowledge” of the world’s problems, and to personal friendships with people crushed and weighed down. You absorb and share the shock and the suffering, in friendship and solidarity. When you do this, and because you have removed the distance between yourself and the world, you can no longer say, “I didn’t know” or “I don’t care.” It becomes impossible to say these things.
Virginia added another dimension to her great work of friendship. It had to be fun, it had to be adventurous, it had to be open to miracles.”
Photos courtesy of University of San Diego Archives