This homily was delivered on Jan. 5, 2019, during the Mass of Christian Burial for Mary K. Hanneman. Below the homily is a video of Msgr. Moellenberndt and the Rite of Committal at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Catholic Cemetery. Msgr. Duane also gave a wonderful homily at the funeral Mass for David D. Hanneman in April 2007.
By Monsignor Duane Moellenberndt
A sick man turned to his doctor as he was preparing to leave the examination room and said, “Doctor, I am afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side.” Very quietly, the doctor said, “I don’t know…” “You don’t know? You are a Christian man and don’t know what’s on the other side?” the man said to the doctor. The doctor was holding the handle of the door; on the other side came a sound of scratching and whining and so the doctor opened the door. A dog sprang into the room and leaped on the doctor with an eager show of gladness. Turning to the patient, the doctor said, “Did you notice my dog? He didn’t know what was on the other side of the door. He knew nothing except that his master was here. And when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what is on the other side of death. However, I do know one thing…I know my Master is there and that is enough.”
I think Mary who certainly loved dogs most especially her companion of 10 years Chewy would relate to this story. In the nursing home Mary even had treats in her room for dogs that would be brought to visit patients. As a woman of faith, I believe that when the door opened to eternity for Mary on December 26th that Mary believed with all her heart that her Master Jesus Christ would be on the other side. Our faith promises this to be true. How happy Mary must now be to live in the Presence of the Lord reunited with Dave and all those who preceded her into eternity. The Gospel I just proclaimed was Mary’s favorite. In fact, she called it her “Confirmation of Faith.” The Gospel began, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…All things came to be through him.” It is this Eternal Word, this eternal God whom Mary met face to face on the 26th of December. What an awesome encounter. Joe wrote that Mary in her final earthly hour opened her eyes. She lifted her head, looked at something. Mary tried to speak. Mary had a sense of awe on her face. Mary we did believe at that point glimpse heaven—she was entering eternity. Certainly after the last difficult years it was time for Mary to find peace, health and eternal happiness. Thus we believe has happened for Mary. As the Book of Ecclesiastes our first reading said, “There is an appointed time for everything…a time to be born, and a time to die.”
Mary loved to sit in the driveway on a lawn chair or sit on her front porch just talking to people as they went by the family home that Mary so loved. She loved the visits of the mailman who stopped to see Chewy each day. It gave Mary an opportunity to talk with the mailman. Yes, Mary loved people and interacting with people. We can only imagine her joy in all the new people she is encountering in eternity. The Book of Ecclesiastes said, “There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens….A time to be silent, and a time to speak.” Mary knew the importance of speaking and being with people. People gravitated to Mary because they knew she genuinely had an interest in them and their lives. That is why every visitor was always welcomed to her home with a bit of tea and bread or some other treat. Mary made people feel welcome.
Caring for the family was a joy of Mary’s life. She showed her love for family in so many ways be that the great birthday meals or special Christmas mornings. Isn’t it interesting it was on the day after Christmas that Mary died? When the nurse told Mary that it was almost Christmas, Mary simply smiled and said, “I love Christmas.” She was here in this life for Christmas but then entered eternity. In this Christmas season we believe Mary is with the Lord. In this Christmas Season we celebrate Mary’s Mass of Christian Burial. The Gospel said, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” Mary believed Jesus Christ the Word of God always dwelt with her in this life and now Mary dwells with the Lord in eternity. How joyous must be Christmas in heaven.
Mary had a fun side. She even one year with a couple of family members toilet-papered a neighbor’s yard on Christmas Eve. She so loved colorful tennis shoes. Perhaps that is why she enjoyed the Silver Sneakers exercise group so much. Her trip to Ireland with her three sisters was a joy for all of them. Yes, Mary enjoyed life and now we believe that joy is multiplied many times over in eternity. How happy Mary must be. As Ecclesiastes said, “There is an appointed time for everything….A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
Mary enjoyed cooking and baking. She always had a sit down dinner. She enjoyed having people at her home to play cards. Mary didn’t play cards much but it gave her an opportunity to prepare dinner. Mary was a gardener. One of her special treats was her homemade jam that was always present to be enjoyed. St. Paul wrote to the Romans in our second reading, “Hope does not disappoint.” Mary was a woman of hope—hope in the promises of the Lord, hope in other people. It was that hope that led Mary to always think of others before herself. Mary was all about doing for family and friends to bring them happiness. I am sure from eternity Mary will continue to pray for us. Pray for Mary that she pass quickly from Purgatory to the fullness of life with God in heaven.
Mary was first and foremost an educator. Reading was a passion of hers. Mary was a full-time reading specialist here at Sacred Hearts School. Her career in our school lasted for almost three decades. As Joe wrote, “She opened the world of books to many hundreds of children.” After retirement Mary continued to tutor students several days a week. Mary set high standards for her own children and the children she taught. However, she didn’t ask anyone else to do something she herself wouldn’t do. However, now this wonderful Irish grandmother has completed her journey. May she receive the reward of her well-lived life. As St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
On behalf of the Catholic Community of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, we offer to you our sympathy and prayers. We have remembered you in our Masses and prayers these last days and so we will in the days ahead. There is a little reflection that goes as follows, “A builder built a temple. He wrought it with grace and skill; pillars and arches all fashioned to work his will. Men said, as they saw its beauty, ‘It shall never know decay. Great is thy skill, O builder: Thy fame shall endure forever.’ A teacher built a temple with loving and infinite care, planning each arch with patience, laying each stone with prayer. None praised her unceasing efforts, none knew of her wondrous plan; for the temple the teacher built was unseen by the eyes of man. Gone is the builder’s temple, crumbled into dust; low lies each stately pillar, food for consuming rust. But the temple the teacher built will last while the ages roll. For that beautiful unseen temple is a child’s immortal soul.” Touching hundreds of “immortal souls” is what Mary did with her life as a teacher. May she rest in peace. In the words of our Holy Gospel, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”