Le­gions of past pupils re­mem­ber Sr Lelia as a foun­tain of wis­dom

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - NEWS -

THE late Sr Lelia Boyle, of Pre­sen­ta­tion Con­vent, Castleis­land, used to say that a per­son needed only five books in life – a dic­tionary, an at­las, a cook­ing book, a prayer book and the Good News Bi­ble.

She’d list them out on the fin­gers of one hand and then she’d laugh with the great­est glee if you could re­peat them back to her. It was a list worth mem­o­ris­ing be­cause, armed with even some of the knowl­edge in those five books, you wouldn’t go too far wrong.

At her fu­neral last month, her other say­ings and many words of wis­dom echoed round the church in Castleis­land.

She made a gen­uine and last­ing im­pres­sion on her past-pupils,who spoke about her with deep af­fec­tion. When she died on Mon­day, 28 Au­gust, they posted a se­ries of warm and heart­felt com­ments to pay trib­ute to a woman who de­voted her life to her vo­ca­tion and to teach­ing Home Economics and Re­li­gion at Pre­sen­ta­tion Sec­ondary School in Castleis­land.

“Rest in peace, Sr Lelia,” wrote one for­mer pupil. “You were an amaz­ing woman ahead of your time. You taught us so much about life. I of­ten re­fer to things you said to us about life.”

An­other re­called how she used to say that the way to a man’s heart was through his stom­ach, but it was wrong to be­lieve you could change some­one by mar­ry­ing them.

Oth­ers said her class was their favourite in school, although she was a teacher who had no favourites. “Ev­ery­one was the same in her eyes,” wrote one past-pupil. She “gave us plenty of ad­vice even though at the time we took no no­tice but re­alised in later years what she had to say was very true”.

As for­mer pupil May Stack put it: “Sr Lelia didn’t wear pearls. In­stead, she dis­pensed pearls of wis­dom and knowl­edge to gen­er­a­tions of stu­dents.”

She had many pearls of wis­dom and many pithy say­ings, for in­stance: “Never wear patent shoes un­der a skirt!” and “Dark eye­brows and fair hair are a sure sign of beauty”, but what stands out in the mem­ory of her for­mer pupils most is her warmth, gen­tle­ness, gen­eros­ity, wis­dom and play­ful sense of hu­mour.

Sr Mary Buckley at Castleis­land re­calls: “Past-pupils are al­ways singing her praises for the lovely way in which she pre­pared them for life. They ap­pre­ci­ated her words of wis­dom dur­ing the quiet hours of needle­work classes where she spoke to them like a sec­ond mother and pre­pared them for what­ever jour­ney life was to hold for them.”

At her fu­neral, past-pupil Cathy Mur­phy O’Shea said she had some beau­ti­ful mem­o­ries of Sr Lelia in Home Economics. “She taught me ev­ery­thing I know about cook­ing and sewing, but most of all she taught us about life. She re­ally was ahead of her time. I re­mem­ber she told us that mar­riage might not be for ev­ery­one – she said she had cho­sen to be­come a nun, and oth­ers might fol­low dif­fer­ent paths, and to be open to that.”

Sr Lelia kept up con­tact with many of her for­mer pupils. She wrote to sev­eral of them and many oth­ers vis­ited her later in life at the con­vent.

She was an avid let­ter-writer and, at Christ­mas, she got many cards. “Lelia had a wide net­work of friends. She had a fan­tas­tic mem­ory and could re­call all the names of the pupils, their par­ents, their grand­par­ents and some­times even the great-grand­par­ents,” Sr Mary said.

First and fore­most, how­ever, Lelia was a woman of prayer. Names of peo­ple who asked for prayer were listed in a lit­tle notebook and daily re­mem­bered. As the years went by, the list grew as many parish­ioners and past-pupils sought prayers for var­i­ous in­ten­tions to help them through life’s tough chal­lenges.

Lelia also told her rel­a­tives that she re­mem­bered them daily in her prayers; she went through ev­ery name in her ad­dress book and prayed for each per­son listed.

She gave each stu­dent a copy of ‘When I’m a Woman’, a poem she was in­spired to write af­ter hear­ing a ver­sion for men re­cited by boys in Sr Vian­ney’s first class at a con­cert to mark the of­fi­cial open­ing of the new Castleis­land Pre­sen­ta­tion Pri­mary School on 11 Fe­bru­ary 1966.

She ex­plained how that came about in an ar­ti­cle she wrote for the Castleis­land Par­ish news in 2013:

“The next day while I was at pri­vate prayer in the Nuns’ Chapel, which is sit­u­ated at the top right hand side of Castleis­land Par­ish Church, the thought struck me… ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some­thing sim­i­lar for girls’?

“The lines from ‘When I’m a Woman’ came to me there and I wrote them down. It is based on a Thank You Prayer to God.”

When the poem was re­cited at her fu­neral, many in the con­gre­ga­tion knew the words by heart. Sev­eral of her past-pupils still re­cite it with their own chil­dren. It is a poem that cher­ishes the sim­ple things in life and em­pha­sises how be­lief in God and com­pas­sion, love, unity and dig­nity can make this world a bet­ter place. It starts: “When I’m a woman –

I’ll be a Saint if I can.

I’ll rise each morn­ing bright and happy And with courage and con­vic­tion face each day.

I’ll let my heart ex­pand with love

And thank my Cre­ator from above.”

Sr Lelia was born Joanna Boyle on 23 Au­gust 1924 at Kil­lea­cle, Ard­fert, to Pa­trick and Ju­lia (née Leahy) Boyle. She had a sis­ter, Rita, and two broth­ers, Paudie and Wil­lie. She went to the lo­cal pri­mary school in Ard­fert and later went to Pre­sen­ta­tion Sec­ondary in Tralee where she sat her Leav­ing Cer­tifi­cate. She had a prodi­gious mem­ory and of­ten re­called cy­cling to and from school in all kinds of weather.

Her vo­ca­tion was to the Pre­sen­ta­tion Con­gre­ga­tion and she en­tered the novi­tiate in Oak­park, now Col­lis-San­des House, on 24 Septem­ber 1942. She was ap­pointed to Castleis­land in 1945 and went on to qual­ify as a Home Economics teacher at Sion Hill Col­lege in Dublin. She spent all her work­ing life in Castleis­land and was very happy to be able to stay there af­ter her re­tire­ment in 1986.

She never for­got the tools of her trade and spent many busy days and weeks with knit­ting nee­dles, mak­ing Aran sweaters for mem­bers of the com­mu­nity and her many friends. She was gen­er­ous with her time and en­ergy and was al­ways ready to help out with culi­nary pur­suits. The ap­ple tart at Castleis­land con­vent is leg­endary.

The sis­ters of the Castleis­land com­mu­nity re­mem­ber her as a quiet, unas­sum­ing and sin­cere lady who left her mark in life. She was al­ways happy with her lot and en­joyed the peace and si­lence of the con­vent and a life of love and prayer­ful soli­tude with her God.

As she grew older, she couldn’t say enough for the car­ers who looked af­ter her so well. One of those car­ers said she was a won­der­ful per­son inside and out and, even in her nineties, was still teach­ing them how to live in the world. “Words can’t de­scribe the per­son she was. She took the world as it was and taught us so much and how to deal with life. She made us all bet­ter peo­ple.”

Sr Lelia Boyle died in the lov­ing care of the ma­tron and staff of Tralee Bon Se­cours hos­pi­tal shortly af­ter her 93rd birth­day. It was a happy coin­ci­dence that her beloved niece Karen, hus­band Van, grand­niece Kaitlin and grand­nephew Will were vis­it­ing from Detroit. They were with her on her fi­nal jour­ney. They vis­ited her ev­ery year and spent many pre­cious days with her in Castleis­land.

Her pass­ing leaves a void in the heart of her Pre­sen­ta­tion com­mu­nity, her lov­ing brother Wil­lie and his wife Kather­ine, her niece Karen and hus­band Van, her ex­tended fam­ily and in the lives of so many who loved her dearly.

As one of her for­mer pupils said: “Rest in peace, Sr Leila, you will never be for­got­ten by us.”

The Late Sr Lelia Boyle

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