The Society of St Margaret
The Priory of Our Lady, Walsingham
Requiem Mass: Sr Mary Teresa SSM
St Mary’s Convent, Chiswick
25 January 2021
READINGS: Song of Solomon 2.10-13
My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. Song of Solomon 2:10-11
It was the easy smile and the sense that I was important that first caught me. It was the mid 70s at the University Church of Christ the King in London. Teresa joined the chaplaincy team, along with Victor Stock, Tony Marks and Aidan Mayoss and the laughter often rocked the refectory bar in the crypt!
Perhaps my best memory of that time, though, was her description of being elected Mother at Haggerston. After the solemn vote she says she went into the Mother’s office, closed the door, lay down on the floor and giggled for half an hour, with her newly-elected assistant mother, in total disbelief. Not exactly the reaction one would expect of the Revd Mother, and probably not one her predecessors would have approved of! But she did, of course, took the Office of Mother Superior very seriously.
Teresa took her faith, her office and her duties very seriously, but always with a ready and infectious sense of humour.
The difficult and complex split over the ordination of women in the 1990s took place whilst I was a vicar in Stoke Newington and saying Mass regularly at St Saviour’s Priory. There was much pain and hurt all around. Teresa made the difficult decision to move from her home in Haggerston to Walsingham. Haggerston’s loss was, of course, Walsingham’s gain. Whilst taking issues of faith and theology very seriously, Teresa held her winning smile and infectious laugh, keeping old friends and making new ones.
Her life was truly remarkable, from being accepted to read history at King’s College London in the late 1940s when few women went to university, from a small Devon village, to surprising everyone – including herself – by devoting herself to the Religious life. From suffering pain and ill health through bone disease throughout her life to riding a Honda 90 motorbike in a habit across London and even down to Devon; from infectious laughter to serious matters of faith and theology; from holidays in Devon to trips to see her sister in Australia; Teresa was an amazing witness to Christ’s love in a broken world.
Her final move to St Mary’s Convent was far from easy. The temporary move became permanent and she longed to go home to Walsingham. I was pleased to catch up with Teresa whilst she was going through a dark period, full of pain, confined to bed and wheelchair, which her faith and worship in the Chapel brought her through.
As we celebrate the Resurrection today in this Requiem Mass we give thanks for a life well lived, which touched thousands of people encouraging them in their faith through passion and laughter. We rejoice in a life which contained struggle, pain and hurt but through which love, joy and hope shone through.
Our reading from the Song of Solomon for me speaks of the hope we have in the Resurrection, the hope we have for Teresa as she passes from this world into the arms of our God of infinite love:
My beloved speaks and says to me: ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
As we commend our beloved Sister Teresa to God’s merciful love, we surround her with our prayers, asking for the prayers of our Blessed Lady, of St Teresa, of St Margaret and of all the Saints of God. But I will end with words spoken after Teresa’s death, for all the young people she inspired, spoken by the young poet, Amanda Gorman, at President Biden’s inauguration last week:
We lift our gaze not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
I believe Teresa would approve of those words. Rest eternal grant unto you, Teresa, and light perpetual shine upon on. May you rest in peace and rise with all the saints of God, in glory.
The Revd Prebendary Dr Neil Evans
Director of Ministry, Diocese of London