Sweet to Remember Her Who Once Was Here, Who Went Away is Just as Dear! My Cousin Sr Teresa AC
- Sweet to Remember Her Who Once Was Here, Who Went Away is Just as Dear! My Cousin Sister Teresa of Avila AC. And what a coincidence-we both were born on the same date, 18th March, but different years- she was born on 18 March 1938, and me much later? She passed away on 18 April 2021 at the age of 83, at St Agnes Convent, Bendore, Mangaluru.
Mangaluru: “Gone is the face we loved so dear, Silent is the voice we loved to hear; Too far away for thoughts to reach, sweet to remember her who was here, who went away is just as dear. Sadly missed- My Dear Cousin Sister Teresa of Avila AC., who passed away at the age of 83 at St Agnes Convent, Bendore, Mangaluru. The blow was hard, the shock was severe when I got the sad news of her death from Sister Lydia AC, the Superior at St Agnes Convent. I did not know her death was near, but God knew she was suffering and the hills were hard to climb, so he closed her weary eyes and whispered “Peace be thine”. I miss my cousin so dearly because she was warm and quick to make everyone feel comfortable. She had a special way that warmed the hearts of everyone who knew her and the qualities that made her the wonderful person she was have left us all with many beautiful memories. She touched the hearts of many through her politeness, graciousness and friendliness. She was very close to our family, and her company when she visited our house made us Happy and Holy!
Sister Teresa was a great religious woman. She was a person of courage, strong faith, values, ideals, love, and years of wisdom made her who she was. She always stood up for what is true and what is right and knew what is truly important in life. I feel that my cousin was indeed a blessing from God, and I always respected her with love and gratitude. She has helped us shape our family, our ideals and beliefs, and through her example of steadfast, fervent and humble and friendly touch, Sister Teresa was an inspirational role model for our family, relatives and friends. Her prayers and blessings have always kept our family in good health and success and have kept us as a God-fearing family. Every time she visited my home, Sr Teresa gave me so many prayer books and rosaries, my half portion of the cupboard is full of her religious mementoes.
Sister Teresa had shown her special love and care to my Mom when she was sick, and above all Sr Teresa has always kept our family members in her prayers, and also through her care and love. Sister Teresa’s spiritual life bears witness to the joy of loving, the dignity of every human person, the value of little things done faithfully and the surpassing worth of faith in God. We simply adored her qualities and ideals, thereby accepting her as a role model in our lives. My elder brother Joe was very close to her and often visited her at the Convent to check on her health. I feel sad and sorry to say that my brother Joe who was so close as a Brother to her, missed paying his last farewell respect to his Dear and Loving Sister Teresa since he had left for the USA a few days ago. Really Unfortunate and sad!
The year 1960, a maiden of tender years knelt before the altar of God to receive the habit of the Sister of Apostolic Carmel. On that day she began the period of preparation that was to culminate a year later, in the furnace of her love for God that triple band of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience around her heart which was to bind her henceforth irrevocably to God. Let us not imagine that, that sacrifice cost her no struggle. I dare say that the struggle was as great for her as it has been for so many others. I dare say that the bright, happy world, the world of ease, the world of prosperity and of pleasure came to her that morning and pleaded with her. Yes, it cast itself down before her and begged her not to forsake it. But this valiant woman spurned its solicitations, she turned her back upon it even though it contained a father’s love and a mother’s tears. And she turned to Christ, her heavenly Bridegroom and said: “Thee alone will I love. Thee alone will I always serve.” That is the sacrifice that Sister Teresa of Avila of Jesus, my dearest cousin made 61 years.
Sr Teresa of Avila AC (Seated Second from Left)
Sister Teresa lived for 61 long years under the rule of Apostolic Carmel Congregation, true to her vows, true to the spirit of the Founder of AC congregation, true to her heavenly Bridegroom, Christ Jesus. With her parents deceased, and also many of her relatives dead and gone, I and my family members were the only ones left who had been very dear and near to her. Sister Teresa’s mom and my mom were sisters, and that’s how I am related to her. And what a coincidence-we both are born on the same date, 18th March! There has always been a special bond between Sister Teresa and the members of the D’Souza family. Sister Teresa has been part of our family all these years, she has joined in our celebrations and events, she had joined in our fun and frolic, we have shared our joys and sorrows, we have shared our news and views, and we have forged a bond that time cannot erase, and we share a secret smile that the world will never understand. Sadly missed, now.
To live as a true daughter of Charity for a single day demands the special assistance of Almighty God. What a chain of graces then Sister Teresa must have received to persevere for 61 years a true Apostolic Carmel nun. And she always has been true to every characteristic laid down by her holy Founder; and her as a daughter of love, caring and Charity, knew better what that means than I can explain to you. It means to be docile as a child to her superiors; it means to be chaste as the lilies of the field; it means to be as poor as the beggar on the street, who has nothing but what is given to him by another; it means to be strong in faith and hope and love; it means to meditate, to fast and to pray. Sister Teresa has done it, — has done it faithfully before men and angels for 61 years.
To know her was to love her and to root for her. We should all be so lucky to have as many religious nuns as Sister Teresa did. She touched more people in her 83 years of life on earth than most of us could in 100 years. From her family members, relatives, friends to her Community Sisters, no one entered Sister Teresa’s orbit without being inspired by her. Her zest for life and the competitive fire burned brightly to the end. Her confidence and adventurousness were undimmed. She found energy in the face of draining treatments. She maintained a positive outlook in the bleakest of situations. Her old-age illness couldn’t keep her long, but she faced it with courage, grace and dignity.
The best feeling in this world is family. From it, we draw love, friendship, moral support and fulfilment of every special need within our hearts. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, whenever we really need to feel especially loved and cared for, we can turn to family. And Sister Teresa was always a part of the D’Souza family, and we all loved her as our own Sibling. I truly believe that my cousin Sr Teresa is at peace and is united with her dear ones and friends in heavenly bliss. ”We will all think of you in silence. We often speak your name, now all we have are memories and your picture in a frame. Your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. God bless you in his keeping, but we’ll always have you in our hearts and in our memories. You are sadly missed by me, my brothers Joe and Rudy in the US, my sister-in-laws Florine and Alice, my nephews Brian and Adrian, my nieces Dr Viola, Jennifer, Sherine and Julie in the USA; and grandkids Marcus, Annabelle and Alexis. Every time we look at your picture, you seem to smile and say, ‘Don’t be sad but take courage, and love each other for my sake’. We will do that, we promise.“
Before concluding my tribute column, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the D’Souza family to the Apostolic Carmel Congregation Sisters for their love and care shown towards Sr Teresa, and to all the doctors and nurses during her sickness. Thanks also to Fr Maxim Noronha, Fr Alwyn Serrao and Fr Canute D’Souza OCD for offering the funeral Mass, and St Agnes Convent Sisters for all the arrangements made during the funeral. Finally, While I thank Sister Teresa for her loving care, special family bonding, blessings and spiritual wishes all these years she was among us, I end this tribute with a thought-provoking message,
“Dear Sister, as our dear cousin our family love and unity grew up, but never grew apart. You have done great things for other people and you are a wonderful person. You can never know how proud we are to tell others, “that’s our cousin” but we are even prouder to say “that’s our Sister who the Lord”. For all the work, love and goodwill that you spread throughout the AC Congregation and community during your 61 years of religious life, I will always remember you – that’s my promise”.
Eulogy of Sr. Teresa of Avila of Jesus – 18 April 2021 compiled by Sr Olivia AC and Sr Maria Sannidhi AC on behalf of the community of St Agnes Convent :
“My soul finds rest in God alone: my salvation comes from Him” – Ps 62:1
The bride who was in constant pursuit of her Beloved finally met Him in the early hours of this Sunday, 18 April 2021 winged her flight from time to eternity, to be united with the dear departed parents, the dear ones and the host of ACs who have gone before her. Sister Mary Teresa of Avila of Jesus A.C. nee Celine Cecilia Monteiro saw the light of day on 18 March 1938. As the youngest daughter of late Antony L. Monteiro and late Letitia Alvares, she was loved very much. She was baptized on 27 March at St Francis Xavier Church, Bejai, Mangalore. Her two older siblings left this earth in their early teens and she became the only surviving child and her parents priced her very much and accompanied her every moment of the day and provided protection. Her life began at the portals of St Agnes as a tiny tot when she was enrolled to study for the 11 fruitful years up to 1959. Soon after the completion of her SSLC, she heeded the call to renounce the world to dedicate her life to God and His people. She joined the Apostolic Carmel family in 1960. While she made her first commitment in 1963, she pronounced her total commitment at Presentation Convent, Maryhill in 1968.
A few of the candidates to join the Congregation were housed in one section of the hostel, among whom Sr Teresa was one under the direction of Sr. Dionysia. The mischievous nature of Teresa was evident right from the start. Though an only child her parents made a great sacrifice of offering her to the Lord in His service. However, her father was anxious that his daughter should be closer home so he could visit her often. So much so late Mother Theodosia, the Superior General used to say that when it was time for transfers, he used to come to Maryhill, the headquarters of the Congregation, to find out if his daughter had a transfer. Soon after her first profession Sr Teresa attended the Needle Craft training course at St Agnes Youth Occupation Centre, Mangaluru and then completed her TCH at St Ann’s Training Institute, Mangalore in 1965. Equipped with academic and technical qualifications she began her service in the vineyard of the Lord at Annunciation Convent Lady Hill teaching needlework to students.
She was always gifted with the sense of humour in her talk and her witty answers chased away every gloom when she was in company. It was more evident at St. Agnes where she had the company of a few batch mates, for example, on the festival of Shivaratri, some things would be misplaced to the annoyance of those who were the target. When it was 10 years after their first profession, and along with a few batch mates she led the group to make some celebrative noise and they termed it as the Tin Jubilee when such celebration was not at all in vogue. The community recreations till her last days would witness her wit and the songs of yesteryears bringing back the memory of her youthfulness.
As an orphan’s mistress of Bal Graha, she loved the children dearly. She would cater to all their needs, instil a love for prayer as she collected and distributed holy pictures for them. She was very meticulous and orderly, hence, she would be dissatisfied until all things were orderly and in their right place. Sr Teresa gave her wholehearted service be it as a Headmistress, Sacristan, infirmarian, diarist or even as the bursar. She took great delight to sit at the convent parlour as a receptionist during her declining years while she attracted many towards her with a smile. She would talk to every person who knocked at the convent door, bless every girl who came to talk to her, collect their phone numbers to pursue them as a vocation promoter.
Sr Maria Sannidhi AC
Her love for the Eucharist was great. One could find lots of slips of papers with short prayers which she offered to God at the consecration. She would spend time praying the Rosary the whole day for various intentions. Being a part of the prayer and suffering force of the community she faithfully brought to mind the people listed in papers. She joined the community at St Agnes in the year 2013 from Yesu Prem Niketan in order to avail herself of the privilege of attending daily Mass in the convent. She had the first cardiac attack in 2000 and the second one in 2018. Ever since she took to the wheelchair to attend all the community exercises. Though she had a weak heart her love and concern for the sisters was great. She would enquire each sister about her mission and ensure her prayers with the words “I am praying for you and all your dear ones and students. May Jesus bless you”. She would promptly make a note of their names and include them in the list for whom she would pray daily.
For the last fortnight, the intake of solid food became difficult therefore she was strengthened with porridge and other liquid foods. She was wheeled to the chapel for prayer as well as all the community exercises which she wanted to attend at any cost. During the last days, she persisted in asking to keep her closer to the altar to be united with Jesus. The past week was a more laborious one for her as she ceased speaking. She was given the IV Drip with which she regained some strength and started recognizing the sisters with a sweet smile but it was short-lived.
Her relatives, mainly, her dear Cousins, Alfie D’Souza here in Mangaluru and her two cousins, Joe and Dolphy (Rudy) in the USA were informed, who kept enquiring after her. Sisters took turns to stay with her at night as her condition became precarious. Last night two sisters spent her night with her strengthening her with prayers and hymns. This morning the whole community was attending the Mass at the Parish and some with online Mass, Sr. Lydia, our Superior sat with her strengthening her with prayers. She was privileged to breathe her last peacefully in the presence of our dear Superior, Sr Lydia, who accompanied her in her last moments of this earthly journey and offered her to the Lord in the name of our community.
With the passing away of our dear Sister, we have one more intercessor in heaven. She leaves behind footprints with the spirit of joy, other-centeredness and gratitude for the least service rendered to her. We pray for the grace to emulate her life of simplicity and prayer especially during these anxious days of the Covid Pandemic. We extend our thanks to Dr Alphonsa who certified Sr Teresa’s death and the nurse Vidya for assisting our Sisters during her last days of ill health and helplessness. The community gave her strong support of prayer and assisted in all her needs specially, Sr Agatha Mary, her batchmate showed her special concern for her spiritual as well as physical needs by being at her side most of the time. Our maid, Ms Tapaswini took great care of our Sr Teresa and did much in order that she could get back on her feet.
Our sincere thanks to Fr Maxim Noronha, who administered the Sacrament of the sick a week ago and again who has celebrated the Eucharist today of her last journey as well as the concelebrants for offering this Eucharist. Thanks to our Provincial Superior Sr Shamitha who not only visited her during the past days and came immediately today to pay respects to the mortal remains of our Sister. We express our gratitude to Sr. Maria Nirmalini, our Superior General who made it a point to visit her with words of comfort when she came over for the Centenary Celebrations of the College. Thanks to Fr. Vincent Monteiro, our Parish Priest who visited her mortal remains and prayed for her. Our gratitude to each of you for participating in the Eucharist of the final journey of our dear Sister Teresa May she intercede for each one of us from her heavenly abode.
Seventh-day Mass for our Sister will be offered on 24 April at 6:30 am. at St Agnes Convent Chapel.