Death has split up a long lasting west Auckland parish team.
Joanna Matthew, the sister of Holy Family parish priest Fr Andrew Matthew, died on October 25. She was 48 years old and a long term kidney transplant patient.
Miss Matthew was a lay woman of great faith and prayer, and a tireless worker for the Church.
At her requiem Mass at Holy Family parish on October 29, celebrated by Bishop Patrick Dunn, with 18 other priests, Fr Matthew told a congregation of 300 that his sister knew that the worst thing that could happen to any person
was to be disconnected from God the Father.
“Our Church is a Church of hope, positive hope, optimistic hope,” he said. “We are all called to be saints and friends of God. He is still our loving Father, even when we suffer.
“Joanna trusted Jesus and was optimistic to the point that she could suffer her cancer without morphine.” She decided to endure the pain for herself, and for others, saying “pain is painful, but it’s not bad for you”!
Fr Matthew described her agony. “I couldn’t bear it any longer and I went into the next room and prayed before the Crucifix, and I said, ‘Lord, enough is enough! How long’? It was another long hour before she passed away.” Unbeknown
to him, many people were at that time praying a holy hour with Joanna in the spirit of her offering.
Joanna often told her brother: “My cross, is a cross of soft pillows, a beautiful duvet and a mattress, but it’s still an offering.”
For many years she ran the parish sacramental programme. She was also the coordinator of Sunday catechism classes.
Joanna was a serious person who took seriously her obligation to be holy in the world.
Fr Matthew said he would sometimes come home exhausted, “and Joanna would say, ‘Well, just suck it up for heaven’”. As brother and sister working together they had their moments of head butting.
One day he was so frustrated with his sister, he suggested, rather forcefully, she might like to “shift” into another parish, and not remain in his parish. “And quick as lightning, Joanna replied: ‘It’s not your parish, it’s Jesus’ parish.’ I do my work for him, not you!’”
Joanna possessed the gift of reverence of God, piety (belonging) and the gift of wise counsel, her brother said. “I would read out my homilies sometimes to Joanna, and she would say, ‘No, that’s terrible! You need to edit that.”
Joanna was a Benedictine Oblate and part of the Tyburn Benedictine family. Every day she offered the Tyburn prayer of consecration.
Joanna is his hero, Fr Matthew said.
Before she died, they discussed the colour of her coffin. “Joanna was never married, and that is why I bury her in a white coffin,” he said. “Joanna, the teacher to the very end, agreed, ‘White, because I want to show teenagers they can live a pure life in the world today’.”
His sister understood her vocation as a single layperson living in the world, Fr Matthew said. He is a better Catholic and a better priest for knowing her.
Fr Matthew said the mother house of the Benedictine Order in London gave approval for Joanna to be buried at their monastery cemetery at Ngakuru, in the south Waikato.
Joanna Ellen Matthew was buried there on October 30. May she rest in peace.