The Gift of Years

On 15 November Sr. Paul (Mary) Gravin celebrated her 100th birthday. And since the joy of one is the joy of all we – her family, sisters, her blood family, to the third generation, and friends – celebrated with her.

Saturday, 8 November at 10 a.m., saw her in Tougher’s in Naas surrounded by almost 80 well-wishers for what was truly an agape, a love feast in thanksgiving for God’s boundless love for Sr. Paul. Though physically bowed under the weight of her years, she was unbowed in spirit greeting all with her loving and lovely smile. Her brother Patrick, also a religious with the Christian Brothers, and with the sum of 96 years, was the chief guest.

The Eucharist, at which several priest friends, concelebrated, was presided over by Bishop Denis Nulty of the Kildare and Leighlin diocese. Bishop Denis is no stranger to the Newbridge community and would not have missed the occasion such is his appreciation of the life vibrating within the convent walls. Love, communion and blessing were themes that ran through the different parts of the Mass. The bishop’s homily was light-hearted in keeping with the prevailing atmosphere of simple joy. Before the final blessing, Sr. Frances read a message from the General Leadership Team.

Communion continued with food and companionship at the excellent festive meal, at the end of which the birthday cake was cut. Before that, however, Sr. Esther took the guests through a well-researched account of Mary Gravin’s Birth Family Story and Sr. Paul Gravin’s Holy Family Story. To read a version of this on our website, follow the link… Another link worth visiting displays some of Sr. Paul’s paintings, a talent she developed in her later years in Newbridge. Several were sold at exhibitions and the proceeds went to the Holy Family Pakistan missions.

Not surprisingly, energies began to flag after the meal but they revived miraculously at the sound of music. Sr. Annie had brought her accordion and soon had everyone, including Sr. Paul and Bro Patrick in their wheelchairs, singing along.

There is a time for everything under the sun so, when 4 p.m. came, it was time to leave that place and Sr. Paul, who had remained serene and smiling throughout.

The actual day of her birth is 15 November and it remained for her to have a quiet celebration in the intimacy of her community. Not surprisingly, news had filtered out to the students of Holy Family Secondary School. The school choir, whose members had on other occasions come to entertain the sisters, asked to come and sing for Sr. Paul.