Loss, tragedy and love

Today the Sacred Heart family around the world is mourning the loss of one of our sisters in a very shocking, tragic and globally significant disaster. Phil had come to Europe from Australia for a short sabbatical time. Along with RSCJ, alumnae and colleagues from around the world she attended the Janet Stuart Centenary conferences here in England, catching up with several good friends in the Society. She then travelled to France, visiting our foundress's resting place and making a retreat at her birthplace. And finally, refreshed in soul, mind and body, she boarded flight MH17, believing it would take her home to Australia... and instead found herself being taken to her eternal home, deep in God's Heart.

This morning there were tributes and condolences on Facebook and Twitter from so many people whose lives she had touched. Somewhat ironically, Phil had been on neither, yet this was where so many came to express their loss, as well as their appreciation of all she had given them. And interspersed with these messages, of course, have been news stories and speculation around this event and its possible consequences for the world in all its fragility and pain.

I too posted the news on our website and on social media, aware of the deep significance of typing the words we pray with and for all those affected... In any other tragedy those words would express compassion and solidarity in spirit; this time, they express our union in loss and mourning, the anguished solidarity none of us would ever want to experience. I had only met Phil maybe four or five times, but I too feel that loss. I can still remember the fax she sent me for my first vows, staying up late to ensure it arrived at a reasonable time on the morning of my big day. It is in these little things that our lives become inextricably intertwined, and we live and deepen our Cor Unum.

So many of the tributes to Phil speak of her gentleness, peacefulness, love and kindness, and the enduring power of these qualities is what we need to hold on to, even as we struggle to comprehend her shocking, violent death. I am reminded of a homily I heard a few days after the attack on the Twin Towers, about how the last instinct of the passengers, knowing they were about to die, had been to phone home with messages of love. The enduring power of love, not hate, is what we need to remember.

At today's Mass at the chaplaincy the celebrant, mindful of so much conflict throughout the world, used a Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation. The words of the preface were an especially powerful reminder of the need to have faith, and to pray and work by whatever means possible for communion and reconciliation. And so tonight I pray...

...By your Spirit [may] you move human hearts that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries may join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power [may] it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect...


  1. Thanks you, Silvana, for finding words to express what is in so many of our hearts. Margaret Phelan, RSCJ

  2. As one who was scheduled to be on a flight that crashed but changed plans at the last minute, I offer my prayers and condolence to Phil's numerous friends and sisters. Mary Alice Teller


    It is written that in heaven, there would be no more tears,
    For one who dreams of making it there, after so many years,
    Will be in a crowd, giving glory, as the Lord is praised.
    In a chorus of majestic musical voices, is raised.

    The sight of the King, and all his prophets, and apostles, in view
    All his saints, and martyrs, who died, and knew,
    He made a home in his kingdom, his eternal love he would give
    For this is the place our heavenly bodies will now live.

    As the sounds of billions of voices, sing in this great place here
    One soul looks on, and in one eye, comes a lonely tear.
    Out of gratitude, and repentance love, for being allowed to stay.
    Then an angel came, and wiped the tear away.


    Poem and prayers by
    Paul Michael Phelan, CFP
    Friend of a Cousin who knew her.

  4. Thank you all for your comments, prayer and for the poem. Our international website reminds us of the need to re-double our prayers for peace and conversion of hearts, even as we grieve... http://rscjinternational.org/news/prayer-peace-continues


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