Columnists

Now I had to be not just a priest but a grieving brother Premium

20 April 2017 | by Richard Leonard

 

Among the hardest things a Catholic priest has to do is to bury a member of his family. While by law or custom most professions are discouraged from looking after their own family, a priest is often expected to minister to his. And on the whole we want to. Baptisms and weddings are joys. Funerals, however, are tough gigs.

I have just buried my 56-year-old sister, Tracey. I have done many tragic funerals – the deaths of children, of suicides, of the victims of car accidents and murders among them – but Tracey’s Requiem Mass was the most demanding of any liturgy at which I have presided. I have acted as the family’s priest on other occasions, empathetically pastoral I hope; but now I had to be not just a priest but a grieving brother, alive to all the history that had brought us to this day, and alert to all the tensions it held.

Tracey’s life and death were more complex than most. After graduating as a nurse in 1981, she immediately left Australia to work with Mother Teresa in the House of the Dying at Calcutta. All up she spent three years in India over two stints, and she loved it. On her return home she ran the health centre at Wadeye, a remote aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. Bush nursing and Tracey Leonard were synonyms.

It was there, aged 28, on 23 October 1988, while doing a favour for some of her friends, that her car broke down. As it was being towed away, her vehicle rolled off the road and hit a tree. Everyone else got out without a scratch.





Register for free articles a month or subscribe now from £53* for 6 months unlimited access to article content.
Subscribe now and enjoy access to all parts of the tablet website, Including its 175 year archive...
Subscribe


Article List


TABLET WORLD…
Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Latest Tweet
Most Read Articles

Anglican orders not 'invalid' says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position 09 May 2017 by Christopher Lamb

Consecration of renegade Anglican bishop not intended to splinter CofE but necessary to preserve its true 'heritage and mission' says breakaway church17 May 2017 by Rose Gamble

Medjugorje report's conclusions could be a 'first' for the church, says Vatican commission member 18 May 2017 by Catholic News Service

Anglican orders not 'invalid' says Cardinal, opening way for revision of current Catholic position 09 May 2017 by Christopher Lamb

Consecration of renegade Anglican bishop not intended to splinter CofE but necessary to preserve its true 'heritage and mission' says breakaway church17 May 2017 by Rose Gamble

Medjugorje report's conclusions could be a 'first' for the church, says Vatican commission member 18 May 2017 by Catholic News Service

Official teaching has changed throughout the whole history of the ChurchPremium18 May 2017 by Sara Maitland

Time to get real: both believers and unbelievers are crucial in winning the battle against 'post truth'Premium18 May 2017 by Matthew d'Ancona

The Tablet Interview - Once a Catholic... screenwriter and renowned TV producer Jimmy Mc­Govern talks to Peter StanfordPremium18 May 2017 by Peter Stanford

Official teaching has changed throughout the whole history of the ChurchPremium18 May 2017 by Sara Maitland

Time to get real: both believers and unbelievers are crucial in winning the battle against 'post truth'Premium18 May 2017 by Matthew d'Ancona

The Tablet Interview - Once a Catholic... screenwriter and renowned TV producer Jimmy Mc­Govern talks to Peter StanfordPremium18 May 2017 by Peter Stanford

Share Us
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here

Manage
Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up
Top