Honoring a Friend
HONORING A FRIEND
In St. Paul’s Chapter 12 of his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “Let love be genuine; … hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
For more than a half century, a tight-knit group of Irish Catholic women from the Philadelphia area and their families have embraced that biblical guidance with enthusiasm and sincerity. In a world often defined by interpersonal relationships that wax and wane over time, their bonds have endured.
So, after a member of their group, Margaret Mary Kiely, passed away unexpectedly just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking hold on the world, these lifelong confidants knew exactly how to honor her in fulfillment of St. Paul’s teaching.
Through their collective sponsorship of St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk and Our Lady of Knock Shrine at The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Margaret’s loved ones have ensured that she will be remembered perpetually in name and spirit. Margaret’s memorial is a decorative bench where visitors can sit, reflect, and pray to the Blessed Mother.
“For her, so truly, [life] was about her faith and her friends,” says Marci Kelly, who first met Margaret Mary as high school classmates in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. “Her heart was with her old friends, and it gave her such joy to see her friends together.”
GROWING UP DEVOTED
Growing up in a large family with strong devotion to their Irish heritage, “Marg” was loyal, generous, and spirited. She was exceedingly smart and earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown, as well as a law degree from Loyola University in New Orleans.
She was a devout Catholic and attended Holy Mass daily, as well as the Perpetual Novena on Mondays at The Basilica Shrine. She influenced others through her own faith-inspired example, and did so with warmth and laughter, adopting the Feast of St. Patrick with all its revelry as her favorite day of the year.
“Margaret knew that one of the easiest ways to grow in holiness is to pray to Our Blessed Mother—to Jesus through Mary. The Monday Novena at the Shrine and her frequent visits brought her closer to Jesus,” Marci says.
Marci recalls how Margaret Mary had hoped to raise her own family. Although that blessing ultimately eluded her, Margaret Mary found comfort and meaning by fostering lasting relationships with those around her.
FRIENDS FOR LIFE
Mimi Kehan was one of Margaret Mary’s dearest friends. Having grown up in neighboring communities, the two became close as young adults when Margaret Mary moved to Philadelphia with Mimi.
“She was always fond of the Blessed Mother,” Mimi says. “She said the Rosary on a regular basis and she was always doing nice, kind, and thoughtful things for others. She certainly knew a lot about different subjects.”
Nicknamed “Scoop,” Margaret Mary was well informed about current events and kept in touch with everyone. The news of her sudden passing saddened them deeply.
SUDDEN & SHOCKING
It happened on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2020. Margaret Mary was out with friends the prior evening, and then she was gone, having passed in her sleep. She was 65 and, aside from an occasional cold, was in good health.
“It was an absolute shock, and [her friends] couldn’t get together,” Marci recalls. “You want to get together but you can’t because of COVID. And so you’re alone, grieving alone.”
Margaret Mary’s funeral was scheduled then postponed three times due to the pandemic. When restrictions finally eased, the services proceeded .
Mimi recalls how Margaret Mary mentioned he desire for certain scripture passages and songs to be included at her funeral. Eventually, Mimi told her to write everything down, lest it might be forgotten, which she did. She prepared the entire program, choosing Mimi to write and deliver the eulogy. Marci read a favorite Biblical text.
“Perhaps, in some strange way, God decided that Margaret Mary was better suited in heaven than confined to her home during shelter-in-place, social-distancing protocol, and mask-wearing for the last 18 months,” Mimi wrote. “So I believe God called her home to watch over those of us on Earth, because that is where she was needed.”
Marci read from the Gospel of John, Chapter 3, when Jesus instructs the Pharisee, Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.”
“I think it reflects that Margaret knew and trusted Jesus, and was confident of His promise of eternal life,” believes Marci. “This shows her faith. And isn’t this what we are all called to do?”