Sr Marie Paul
Country of origin:Ireland
With a humble and grateful heart I attribute my wonder-full vocation to the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary. My mother had lost two baby boys before I was born and she told me that when I arrived she prayed to Our Lady saying “This is your child, leave her with me and I will mind her for you”. From an early age I visited the parish church after school everyday to pray at the shrine of our Lady and since this was in the sanctuary, eventually I was powerfully drawn to the Eucharistic Presence. From this time on nothing could ever satisfy me.
Sport was my greatest joy, in fact I received 5 silver medals for camogie and on the very day I was chosen to be goalkeeper for the Dublin team, I was faced with the terrible dilemma to choose between the joy of my life: sports, or the inner magnet pulling me toward the convent. By convent I mean the deep inner attraction of getting close to Jesus, to the love of God. If ever there was a war between spirit and body, well, this was it. I was 21 at the time. The next predicament was to find the religious Congregation most suited to me.
I was introduced to the Divine Master Sisters through Sr. Muriel who was already a member of the Congregation. She explained about the value of Perpetual Adoration for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Now since we have only one shot at life, I thought this would make my life worth while. The added plus was that I loved art and found that the sisters used the medium of art to spread the Good News. The final key that really made me decide on this Congregation was the family spirit, the meekness and joy of the sisters, the community bond and the simplicity of their lives.
Part of my daily work, (which we call “apostolate’ because all our work is offered for the glory of God and for all people) is prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I believe in the power of prayer and I believe that when I am in Adoration Jesus prays in me. My first attraction was toward the cloistered life but I wanted to share my life with other people so, on discovering that Divine Master Sisters’ way of life was contemplative but not enclosed, fitted me to a T. This was a great relief too for my parents and family who were not exactly very excited about my decision but I felt drawn by God to follow my own star. It most definitely wasn’t easy, on the contrary. However, once surrounded by young women who had made the same sacrifice I felt secure.
There are 6 and a half billion peoples on earth and so few who offer their lives for our Lord who cares for all. I believe that, by the grace of God I have chosen to follow the Call and I have chosen well, rather, I have chosen the best. Regrets? Well yes, there are a few. I regret putting off entering so long. Since twelve years of age I felt the Call but kept putting it off. When I was eighteen I almost drowned in the sea in Killiney. After such a traumatic experience I decided to live the rest of my life for God. However, once on dry land, I put if out of my mind. Life was so good. A year later I slipped while climbing the mountains of Mourne. Rather than following the beaten track, I took the shortest way. Close to the summit I slipped and was saved by grabbing hold of a plant. When on top I remembered that heather has no roots. Again I thought my life should be ended, I recognised That Someone was watching over me for some reason. When I was twenty I went on pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick. There is a most spectacular view of many lakes and clouds. It was there that St. Patrick climbed to pray that the People of Ireland would always keep the faith. On the most difficult incline paved with tiny, sharp stones, I jumped onto the boulders to ease the pain of my bare feet, with giant steps all was going well until one of the boulders gave way under my weight. I watched it fall down the side of the mountain. Needless to say I jumped back onto the shingles. On each occasion I promised to give my life to God and I knew that eventually I would enter but it took three more long years before I had the courage to do so. Actually, when a date was set fear of losing my freedom and giving up sport loomed high. Then I went to the doctor and pretended I had pain in my side. He sent me to hospital where I had my appendix removed. The nurses were amazed at my joy but then they did not know that this was my ticket to a little more freedom. Regrets? Yes, I regret not entering sooner. I guess it was a struggle between human desires and the fear of the unknown. One of my favourite Bible quotes is from Psalm 89:
“Lord gives me wisdom of heart that I may know the shortness of life”. And as Jesus Himself said: “With God all things are possible” That’s my scéal. Thanks for listening!
—Dictated to Sr Kathryn by Sr Marie Paul O’Brien November 2013
Remembering Sr Marie Paul O'Brien
In her life Sr Paul was greatly loved and appreciated. She was a unique and most exceptional individual. She was larger than life, a woman whom once you met you never forgot!
In her life, she never lost the individual qualities that God had specifically gifted her with. She was truly a woman with God’s special fingerprint!
Her life was a life of love: love for God, for her Congregation, for her family and friends … for all. In particular, she searched out the “underdog” … those persons who are marginalised or suffering. She knew how to bring peace into conflict and joy into sadness. She knew how to forgive from the heart! She was a lovable person, but at times would drive us to practise a lot of patience!
She had a wonderful sense of humour and would always be ready for a joke, a moment of laughter and fun. Often we would joke about her timetable … when everyone was going to bed she would want to finish her artwork: she was particularly gifted in creativity and used her gifts to the full. Ongoing formation in all aspects was very important in her life … she was always seeking to develop her personality, to grow in her spiritual life, and to learn more.
She was a beautiful person to live with. It was easy to be honest with her and to know that no matter what was said, she would always forgive. She held many precious confidences of people who shared everything with her. She was unshockable! Anything she heard she knew how to keep in her heart and bring to prayer. In later years, her prayer became her life and in the last 6 months since her diagnosis of liver cancer, she became the prayer of intercession.
The most beautiful thing is that she knew how people felt about her and how much she was loved. She did not have to wait until death to realise this.
As a community in Ireland we will miss her. She inspired us, loved us and we know that from heaven she will continue to intercede for us! May her dear soul rest in peace!
—Sr Kathryn Williams