Called to Eternal Life

Sr. Mary Elizabeth McManus

Sister Mary Elizabeth McManus nèe Susan McManus

Sister Mary Elizabeth McManus nèe Susan McManus

Born:: Cavan, Ireland, 3/11/1913
Postulancy:: Hastings, England, 23/3/1937
Novitiate:: Hastings, England, 18/3/1938
Ist. Profession:: Hastings, England, 19/3/1940
Final Vows:: Hastings, England, 19/3/1946
Died:: Sturry, England, 29/6/2012

Susan McManus was born on 3:11:1913 accompanied by her twin sister Maggie! They were ninth and tenth children to Brigid and Michael McManus who lived in Edenmore, Co. Cavan,  Ireland.  Imagine what it must have been like in Ireland to raise three boys, Phil, John, Eddie, and eight girls, Mary Jane, Ellie, Brigid, Lizzy, Annie, Maggie, Susan and Alice the last born.  When Susan was about twelve, her mother died and her father had to raise the children alone. What a great sorrow that must have been for him and his children!  

Their farm was up in the mountain where there were no modern conveniences and certainly no grandeur.   The nearest church was St Patrick’s about eight miles away. In those days of strict fasting before Mass, an eight mile walk to church in all kinds of weather would have been physically demanding! It was the stuff of character building and certainly a test of faith!  

One family story is told of Susan and her sister Alice. Their little friends who lived close by would come to the McManus well at the bottom of the hill for water. Susan and Alice got the idea to start charging 6 pence for the water. It’s a standing joke in the family that this was probably the first water charges in Ireland!  (Alice, Sr. M. Ignatius was also a Sister of Our Lady of the Missions. Sister died in Dublin in 12th February 1979.)

Susan’s story moves on to the time when her youngest sister Alice decided to become a member of the Congregation of our Lady of the Missions in 1934. Susan followed soon after in 1937. At First profession Susan took the name Elizabeth.  She helped to take care of the orphans in Deal during the war. This was followed by years of being responsible for the ministry as Sacristan in many communities.  Elizabeth’s skills and aptitude as seamstress were put to good use.  Perfection, dedication, and meticulous care of all things to do with the sacristy were values she lived each day especially when it came to the celebration of the Eucharist.  When she had completed her work, she continued her life of prayer in the silence of the chapel.  By nature she was very quiet; knew what she wanted and stubborn in holding on to her ideas. No one could shift her as someone said!

She had a great sense of humour.  A story is told of her when she lived in the Leyland community. A well known Irish singer, Val Doonigan was to be in concert in Preston.  She loved comical shows and wanted to be in the audience even though in ‘those’ days it was not the ‘done thing’. She coaxed a parishioner to take her and two or three other Sisters to the show.  To get her there was no problem but when the concert was over, she would not go home without shaking hands with Val Doonigan and have a chat!

Those who knew her well described her as being very patriotic! In the days of strict rules in the convent living, a picture of Éamon de Valera, one of the dominant political figures in twentieth-century Ireland, hung behind her bedroom door!  She loved reading books but her favorite was ‘The Ireland’s Own’ a weekly magazine with Irish stories and jokes that nurtured her sense of humour!.

Many years ago, Sr. Elizabeth had hip surgery which was not a success.  She needed the support of a special shoe. Further to this she developed heart problems that necessitated her becoming a resident in Euphrasie Barbier Care Home where she could receive the care and attention she needed.  In 2010 when St. Anne’s, became a community of Sisters from St. Joseph’s Deal and  Euphrasie Barbier Care Home under the name of St. Anne’s Community, she became a member of that community.

Loving care encouraged her each day. Daily Mass and reception of the Sacraments of reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick were such a comfort to her.  “When is Mass?” was the question often on her lips. Her presence in the chapel in her special wheelchair was the journey she appreciated each day.  Even though she could not hear, she would raise her hand in a gesture of praise and her loud ‘Amen’ was her expression of deep faith.  The sign of the Cross was her unspoken mantra!  She was a Sister who bore her suffering with patience and always expressed her gratitude for all the care she received. It was a journey of surrender.

When the Carers gave her medication she always signed herself with the Cross as she received her tablets or drank her medicine!  Early in June it became evident that Elizabeth’s health was declining. The doctor visited and the Staff was told just to keep her comfortable. She continued to join the community in the dining room and community room. Two days before her death she showed signs that her leaving would be soon.  After Mass on 29th June a Staff member came to us to tell us that Sister was getting weaker.  Fr. Stephen King OFM who had just celebrated Eucharist with us, went to her room and anointed her. She was conscious but weakening. Her last words to us were, “Am I alright”? She was reassured that she was ‘alright’!  Those of us who were with her could see the little tear and her breath fading as at 8.52pm she was gently drawn into the great mystery of death into the Eternal Presence God.  

On 12th July the Sisters gathered in St. Anne’s Chapel for the funeral Mass.
With hymns and the sound of Annunciation Peal of Bells of Avignon we celebrated Sr. Elizabeth’s life in the company of many Sisters, together with her niece Bridie and husband John who came to represent the McManus extended family. Fr. Stephen finished his homily with the words that he reassured her with a few hours before she died, “Yes you are alright, Elizabeth!” Her final resting place is the Sturry cemetery in the company of all the Sisters who have gone before her in the peace of Christ.

May she rest in the love and peace of God.

I am the resurrection and the life.

Those who believe in me,

even though they die,

will live, and everyone

who lives and believes in me

will never die.

(John 11:25-26)