Sr Norah Friend - Eulogy

We are all gathered here today to honour before God the memory of Sr Norah Friend and these thoughts I would like to share with you have been gathered from many a person – and I thank them for their help.

It is an honour indeed to speak about a person born before the start of the First World War; not many people are given such a long life, nor have many people lived a life so fully.

Norah was born in December 1913 in Poole, Dorset; the daughter of a sea captain.

Her mother died when Norah was very young and her love and attachment to her father was very strong.

She was raised an Anglican and at the age of 21 became a Catholic. She may well have been influenced to become a convert by seeing Daughters of the Cross because her conditional baptismal certificate comes from the chapel in the Seminary at Wonersh. Here our Sisters were doing sterling work for the Seminarians at that time.

The myriad of gifts that God blessed Norah with were evident from an early age. She was a prefect and Head Girl of her school, her reports there speaking of “ thoroughly conscientious young girl” – and, almost a premonition of her abilities in later life, the report goes on to state “ I feel that she is fitted for any work which she guarantees to undertake”. High praise indeed.

Norah went on to do teacher training at University College Southhampton again excelling all round – and in their reference they use a lovely unusual phrase “she has a freshness of outlook both within and without the classroom”. Indeed, as well as an exemplary academic record full of praise, she was able, wait for it –  to belong to the net ball team, played tennis, hockey, cricket and rounders; and yet had the time and energy to attend meetings of:- 

  • Britain’s Conservative Club
  • English Association
  • League of Nations
  • Geographical Society
  • Education Society

Nor does it stop there- she had time for her hobbies- sketching and handicrafts. All this did not hinder her from gaining a teaching certificate in English, History Art and advanced Handwork. It almost makes your breathless to say all this let alone realise she did all this!!

What physical energy and robustness of constitution was hers; this was apparent throughout her very long life- again from her University records she had “ an alert manner and is full of vitality”.

All that vitality and enthusiasm was then gifted to the Lord via the Daughters of the Cross; entering as she did at the age of 24.

Her teaching gifts were well used and she taught in Carshalton, Bury, Blackley and went on pioneer our first house in America, in Tracy. Here her considerable administrative talents combined with a steely determination to see the best in religious education for the children under her care, saw her appointed to the role of superintendent of schools for the diocese of Stockton.

It goes without saying her established leadership skills were recognised by the Congregation and she was a Superior, Assistant Superior or Councillor for 44 years of her religious life in a number of houses.

However, here we will switch the emphasis to Sr Norah as a person.

Big in physique, and big in kind-heartedness. A friend to many. She was both generous with the  use of own time and the putting of her varied and valuable talents at the disposal of others. An example of her bigheartedness occurs when a young Superior in Blackley. Sweets were not freely available at that time to the Sisters and were considered a rare treat. Sr Norah would announce at a meal that that afternoon she would be out of her office, and that she had noticed that on the shelves jars of sweets had accumulated over months from well wishers. On return she expected empty jars- and empty jars most assuredly she got.

Her exceptional skill was as a home-maker. She felt strongly that the greatest asset the congregation had were the Sisters – not the works nor the buildings as important as these were. The Sisters worked hard in the Lord’s vineyard and at the end of the day she felt they needed not any luxury but a comfortable place to come back to. She used her talents in her painting, sewing and cooking to affect this. Her skillet pan for making pancakes remains with us but the immense energy she exerted in producing those delicious treats in vast quantities is not something that she has been able to hand on, sadly.

A natural teacher, and that way inclined, she would very happily hand on her knowledge and skills.

She was still doing cash accounts, at her insistence, at the age of 92. She then with grace handed them on to me, with many a useful tip that I have faithfully followed to this day.

There was often a smile in her eyes and laughter on her lips but she was exacting, and could appear dictatorial. But that steeliness of character soon melted and a twinkle would appear in her eyes.

I end with our last memory of her. About couple of years ago we had a Jubilee and thereafter raised a glass to the Jubilarian. Sr Norah was oblivious of her surroundings but not of the joy of the occasion and, unprompted, raised a glass herself.

I have not got a glass to raise to honour you; but I honour you before God and we thank God for what you were a- truly wonderful example of a devoted Daughter of the Cross. Blessed by God in so many ways and living the long life He had given her with panache and total commitment to His will until her weary eyes closed for ever, only to open now to the glory of God.

Thank you, all of you, for coming this day, with all your own lovely memories of Sr Norah. Thank you.

Especial thanks to the Sr Mary Agnes and her whole community here in Haslemere. You are truly inspirational and fulfil our charism to the upmost. 

To the staff in Marie Therese House, your reputation for compassionate, loving care is so well known and greatly appreciated throughout the Province. May God bless each one of you.

Sr Caroline Campbell

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