Franciscan Missionary of Mary

(Sister Mary Mildred Eileen) 

 

Born in Floriana, Malta

on August 23 1929.

 

Entered the Institute

in Balzan, Malta

on March 15 1948.

 

Died in Montreal, Quebec

April 4 2018.

In her 89th year,

the 71st of her religious life.

 

May she rest in the peace of Christ!

 

Sister Concetta Mallia was born August 23 1929 in Floriana, Malta. She was the eldest of five children; three brothers and one sister. Her father, Richard, was a businessman and her mother, Antonia Aquelina, was a loving housewife. 

 

At 9, she suffered the horrors of World War II.  She lived through fear, hunger, thirst, destruction, and so many deaths. The youth gathered in shelters, unable to go to school or home, wondering where God was in such desolation. They slowly regained their faith as they shared their doubts and listened to the wisdom of their elders.  «Living through 5 years of war taught me endurance and compassion.  It taught me to adapt to any situation».  Victory Day was such a joyous event. 

 

She attended St. Louis High School, the only remaining school after the war.  The students were taught in French and Italian. She was chosen as president of the Missionary League.  There, she learnt of the great endeavours of the Maltese missionaries throughout the world. Her desire of missionary endeavours grew as she held this position. 

 

«This attraction for all things missionary was for me a vocational calling.  I left everything and asked to enter the Institute of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.»  This new journey started in September 1948.

 

She began in Malta and then went to our International Novitiate in Grottaferrata, just outside of Rome, Italy. There, she made her temporary profession.  A month later, she was sent to Sri Lanka, where she stayed for 33 years.  It was an enriching experience living with Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.  She learnt Tamil, Singhalese, and Arabic. 

 

In Colombo and Batticaloa, she worked to empower women. As the director of Industrial Vocational Schools, she formed hundreds of young women and widows in the art of embroidery, needle painting, and sewing of liturgical vestments. This permitted them a certain independence. 

 

She would set up their stands in tourist areas, so they could sell their goods and thus sustain their families.  It was a way for the youth to learn a trade for their future.  In her pastoral ministry, she accompanied various patients, victims of violence or suffering from leprosy. She also worked in the refugee camps.  

 

In the 80s, the rising racial tensions became a major obstacle for foreign missionaries.  She was thus asked to take on another mission, that of working in Canada. It is in this mission that she would finally realize her dream of ministering to the dying. 

 

In 1984, she began studying at Regis College. She earned her Master’s in Theology in 1994 and her hospital chaplain certification. She worked in various hospitals and health care centres. 

 

There, she encountered various faiths, the elderly, the mentally ill, and the dying through an array of amazing experiences. Thanks to her rich background, linguistic abilities, and outgoing personality, she could reach out to various ethnic groups, as she offered a sense of security and peace, especially to the poor. She worked 22 years in Toronto in her beloved mission where many still remember her fondly. 

 

As her health started to decline, she continued to render community services in our convents of Madoc and Ottawa with her legendary stamina. However, her Alzheimer took its toll and she became more and more debilitated and in December 2010, she arrived at our provincial infirmary in Montreal. As she faced such an illness, what became of her soul?  Such a sacred mystery! 

 

We will never know, but we can grasp the depth of her faith through her writings. «God is my creator.  He always guided me through the choices in my various commitments.  While I faced agony, took risks, enjoyed comfort, and was happy, he was always there with me. As I move into the future, I will joyfully continue to the best of my ability the embroidering of the tapestry of my life with his help and the fellowship of Jesus».

 

It is in this grace of letting go that we remember Concetta throughout her stay in the infirmary.  Slowly over time, her illness took over without erasing her smile. She would look up with great big eyes. We had the sense that she was expressing her gratitude for all the care received, despite the fact that we never knew what she wished to tell us. 

 

On the phone, she would listen to the voices of her brothers and sister as she nodded and smiled. Right to the end, she would light up with joy during her niece Ivy’s frequent visits. Sister Concetta leaves us with the souvenir of a universal woman, who touched the lives of so many through her dedication and love, especially of the poor. Dear Connie, thank you for your loving presence.     

I will

joyfully continue

to the best

of my ability

the embroidering

of the tapestry

of my life

with his help

and the fellowship

of Jesus.

One of Concetta’s embroideries.