bridge building

Sep 19, 2021


It was a privilege for me on Friday to celebrate the Funeral Mass for Sr. Leonie O’Neill. Leonie lived a long and full life celebrating her ninetieth birthday earlier this year.

I first met Leonie when as a young priest I decided to use spare time in a small rural West Coast parish to study communication. Leonie taught me that good communication is bridge building and we live in an age when bridges need to be built.

In 2015 Leonie was the adjudicator of the scripture reading section of the annual Bishop Lyons Public Speaking competition (for students of the Catholic High Schools of the Christchurch Diocese), exactly 70 years after she as a high school student took part in the very first Bishop Lyons competition.

As he invited Leonie to speak the rector of the host college, Justin, suggested that Leonie’s words should be “bottled” so that they could easily be passed to future generations.

When Leonie then spoke she told the students gathered that they had spent the weekend focussing on their own words in debates and speeches. She then continued explaining that the Word of God is different since the Word of God builds the ultimate bridge, the dialogue between heaven and earth, God and people is built by the Word of God.

“…You are allowing God to use your mouth to speak God’s words. It is not about your words at all. This is God’s Word that you are speaking. You are doing “a beautiful thing for God.” When the Word of God is spoken aloud, effectively, through preparation, audibility, and ministry, this Word has the power to change people. The faith of everybody in the room is increased, even though we may not be aware of this increase. After hearing the Word of God we leave the room as changed people.”

You can listen to the homily at Leonie’s funeral at this link or by clicking on her image below.

And to hear the Homily Studio reflection on today’s scriptures featuring Kath Petrie, John Kinder, Triona Doocey and Merv Duffy SM click on this link or the second image below.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you, John, for your insightful reflection this morning.

    The beautiful photograph of Sister Leonie O’Neill, RSM, featured recently on her Requiem Mass Booklet is familiar to me. Perhaps I was privileged to meet her, at a distance, on an occasion whilst I was a staff member at Villa Maria College for some years. Without doubt, I ‘bottled’ her impression and prized her indelible memory.

    Hours before New Zealand went into Covid-19 lockdown we celebrated the opening of the Upokongaro Cycle and Pedestrian Bridge in my home town, Whanganui. It spans the Whanganui River from Upokongano (Eastern side) to Papaiti (Western side) a symbol for crossing and travel, the passage to reality in life.

    I relate to metaphors because I know they are deeply meaningful and purposeful for myself and my clients as they help us all to understand intangible concepts like ‘self’, feelings, emotions and behaviour.

    Sister Leonie O’Neill inspired me with her giftedness to be a ‘a people bridge’ to help us all to understand the complexities of Life and Love, of Heaven and Earth. Her exceptional gifts of communication and loving kindness epitomized our individual call to encourage, motivate and appreciate our relationships and inter-connection with humanity and our God.

    Rest In Peace, blessed Sister Leonie O’Neill, RMS. ❤


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