Sr Columba Byrne CHF died September 27 in her homeland, Ireland. School teacher Mary Lochan remembers the Holy Faith Sister with fondness.
Kindness, warmth, goodness, beauty, and friendship are enduring realities and blessings that enrich our lives beyond measure, and that was Almighty God’s gift to Trinidad and Tobago in Sr Columba Bryne.
Over 16 years ago, I had the tremendous good fortune of meeting Sr Columba for the first time when I was a teacher of religious studies at Providence Girls’ Catholic School. At that time, Sister was serving as Directress of Catechetics in the archdiocese.
I think it is true to say that for my secondary school colleagues and me, Sr Columba became a driving force in religious education at that level. We deeply admired her zeal, commitment and love for the Church, her reverence for all, her deep humility and genuine warmth, her knowledge and clarity of insight, and the methodology of life – faith – new life that she presented us with, was both transformative and inspiring.
Soon enough Sister encouraged us to “cast out into the deep” and attempt to create student workbooks that could be used from Forms 1 – 6. It was a very daunting experience at times and the going was sometimes very slow. There were difficult moments, when we felt ourselves floundering like Peter and the apostles, battered by the wind and waves.
Could we really infuse the lessons with the truths of faith and the life-giving messages they were meant to have? In those moments, and so many more Sister was Jesus reaching out, holding our hands, encouraging, guiding, and lifting us up once again. Indeed, we celebrated and rejoiced when the workbooks were finally completed and approved by Archbishop Edward Gilbert.
The English novelist and poet, George Eliot said of friendship: “A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” Those lines gently sum up Sister, the humble, gracious and loving person who also became my friend.
I will always remember with delight her golden brown wavy hair, her cheery Irish brogue hailing us out, her understanding and deep compassion for human frailty, her indefatigable efforts at nurturing catechists and Catholic teachers in our journey of faith, sharing the life-giving drama of salvation, and teaching us ways to deepen and sustain our relationship with the Lord.
Saying goodbye was heartrending on both sides when Sister eventually decided to return to her homeland a couple years ago. But much greater than the sorrow we felt at parting was the joy of knowing her and becoming friends, and the enormous gratitude we felt to Almighty God and her religious Congregation. Sr Columba not only taught us about her beloved Lord, Jesus Christ, but she followed him closely and mirrored to us His beauty and goodness.
We take comfort in the hope that one day we shall all see Sister again and enjoy her friendship.
Dearest Sr Columba, we pray fervently, “May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs come to welcome you and take you to the holy city, the new and eternal Jerusalem.”