by JEFF DILLON
Saying farewell to Sr Anne (Maryanne) Fahy, RSM, at her funeral was not so much of a sad affair but rather a joyous commemoration of her life and a chance for several hundred family, former music pupils and friends to wish her the very best as she set off on her next adventure.
Having adventures was a constant theme of her life that came through in the two eulogies given at the beginning of a Requiem Mass concelebrated on July 26 in the Mercy Chapel in south Dunedin beside St Patrick’s Basilica.
In his eulogy, Kieran Fahy (a relative) said that Sr Anne was noted for her sense of mischief and getting up to high jinks. He spoke of her time growing up in Southland where she had been born on November 30, 1921. Many were the difficulties faced growing up and the efforts gone to by her parents to send her to a school staffed by Mercy Sisters since two of her aunts belonged to that order.
It was in 1945 that she too decided to join the Sisters of Mercy in Dunedin. Mr Fahy recounted the eventful motor trip north. Unbeknownst to the little family group as they headed off, the end of WWII had been declared that morning and as they passed through towns on the main highway north they were greeted by celebrating crowds in the main streets.
In Mataura they had difficulty getting through the celebrating throng and at one point a young local lad thrust a bottle of beer through the car’s open window and insisted that Anne take a swig as part of the celebrations. Having accepted the invitation, Anne commented as they moved on . . . ”I bet he doesn’t know where I’m going”.
Keep going she did. She professed her vows in 1951 and thus began her role as a Sister of Mercy. Mr Fahy noted that Sr Anne (or Sr Maryanne as she liked to be called in more recent years) was an endless talker and loved to watch rugby and cricket. She also loved to have an adventure. Sometimes, when on holiday in Ranfurly or in Riverton, it snowed — so the opportunity to go up a hill and to toboggan down it in full nun’s habit using an oven tray from the kitchen was too much to resist. Sr Anne was very much the life and soul of the party.
Her fellow conspirator in many of her adventures, Sr Regis, spoke with much affection in the second eulogy. She spoke of a vibrant character who could find humour even in the most awkward situations.
Sr Anne’s love of adventure could be seen from an early age and Sr Regis recounted how Anne and her twin brother Mike, when they were boarders at Wrey’s Bush school, discovered they could make their way home using the bridge, but not on top, rather underneath by swinging from one beam to the next across the river. Quite daring for someone who never learnt to swim.
Sr Regis mentioned how one of the sisters had commented “We’ve never really been able to rein her in” to which another replied, “Who would want to”.
Picking up on a comment that Mr Fahy had made earlier, Sr Regis noted that Sr Anne was not just the life of the party — “She was the party!”
Sr Anne loved to dress up. At Sisters of Mercy house concerts and celebrations, Sr Anne would always amaze with her perfect costuming whether it was as a can can dancer, Christine Rankin, The Duke of Edinburgh, Jeremy Coney or Lance Cairns or even the Bishop of Dunedin blessing her fellow sisters in Latin while threatening a 60 minute sermon just to “get you girls back on track”.
Sr Anne was a brilliant musician who taught piano tirelessly and was an organist in many churches in her placements as well as an accompanist for school choirs and concerts.
She was highly intelligent and appreciated great literature and poetry especially the Russian poet, Yevtushenko.
Her talents also extended to her cooking. She was a gourmet cook well before Masterchef and presented her food with excellence and artistry.
Sr Regis noted her total fidelity to the prayer life and ordinary living of a Mercy Sister, stretching out with kindness and rich humanity, imbued with solid faith, she warmed to young and old with intelligence and wit.
The Requiem Mass was concelebrated by Dunedin Bishop Colin Campbell, Msgr Vince Walker, Fr Merv McGettigan, Fr Michael Dooley and Fr Gerard Aynsley.