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In memory of Rita Agnew

Rita Agnew 2

Celebrant: Fr. Desmond Loughran P.P. Dromore

Rita was born Rita Grant in 1929 in Caroggs, Burren and she had one sister, Lily. They were hard times and when her mother died at the birth of another sibling, Rita was left to take on the role of mother. To  travel to Newry meant a cycle journey and the neighbours (Jim and Nan McManus) were always there to help out. Rita met her husband Harry when he was travelling in the area selling fruit and vegetables. They married and set up home in Cross Row, Laurencetown and then eventually moved to Miller Park. They had a family of seven, four girls and three boys. Aunt Lily came on her weekly pilgrimage to help out with the family duties. The loss of her husband Harry left Rita, once again, with the tasak of a rearing a family on her own. Rita devoted her life to caring for their special child, Francis 24/7 until his passing almost three years ago.

As the old children moved out, Rita had ‘lodgers’ with the grandchildren John Lennon and Jonathan Agnew. When Jonathan passed away it left a void in her life which was to increase with the loss of her daughter Elizabeth 8 years ago and her son Francis 3 years ago. Her health then deteriorated and she became housebound.

Sundays in the Agnew household meant Mass, Sunday dinner, travelling to the Glenvale nuns, onto to Carrogs and visiting the family graves before finishing up in Warrenpoint for an ice-cream. Life was so simple in those days.

Her hobbies were few – family first, her faith and her bingo!  She was an avid fan of Daniel O’Donnell and travelled to concerts across the country. Rita also looked forward to the family holiday in Mosney where they went for 30 plus years without fail. She visited Lourdes with Francis three times and this was always a talking point as Francis’ charm had shown through while they were there,.

Even when she was housebound, Rita struck up many friendships with her carers. Old friends kept in touch and Aunt Lily phoned morning and evening.  Rita was a lady who didn’t want fuss and shed away from the limelight. She was carer throughout her life – a testament to a woman who always put others first.

And so today we gather to give Rita back to God and we do that with a mixture of emotions; sadness, joy, gratitude, maybe even a little touch of resentment, but regardless of our feelings and emotions Rita has earned the right to go back to her Creator who loves her dearly and I have no doubt he will say to her, “Well done my good and faithful servant”.

Rita was faithful to God all throughout her life and she showed it in her fidelity and love to her husband and children, neighbour and friend.

Her humble and un-noticing ways of loving and caring were carried out in silence and hush, the way a loyal servant would look after his or her master.

I have a wonderful memory of Rita and Francis. Canon Treanor had told me about Francis and that he didn’t take Holy Communion on the First Fridays.

So off I went and called to see Rita and Francis and Rita wanted more than anything for Francis to have Holy Communion so we tried for months to get Francis to take Holy Communion but nothing was doing.

Eventually I said Rita, “I will give you the Host and you give it to Francis”. She nearly passed out as she would never touch the host. I said Rita, “We have tried every other way we know and he won’t take it. If this doesn’t work there is nothing else left to try”?

Well eventually when she settled herself down I gave her the Holy Communion and low and behold he took it from her”. She couldn’t believe it. She was so pleased that Francis could now get Holy Communion.

From my experience of working with children and adults who have special needs I knew I was the stranger to Francis and he would never take it off me because I was only seeing him once a month. I knew the only hope was for his mum to give it to him because he knew her inside out. She was not a stranger to him and Rita will be no stranger to God.

So today as we let go of Rita in all ways earthly let us perform our last Christian act of kindness for Rita; that of laying her body to rest in the depths of Mother Earth where she will be kept safe until the day of Resurrection when we, with all our loved ones will meet again.

Until then, let us simply pray, Eternal Rest…

On behalf of Canon Powell I offer our sympathies to Rita’s children Mary, Carmel, Bernadette, John and Gerard and whole family circle assuring you of our prayers and support.

The family would like to thank Canon Powell and the clergy, Doctor McNiff and Banbridge Health Centre, Craigavon Hospital, Gilford Nursing Staff and her carers.




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