‘Giant’ Salesian Cooperator dies

A long-time and loyal member of the Association of Salesian Cooperators, Aileen O’Donoghue, entered eternal life in her 90th year, on 4 April 2016. Her funeral Mass took place at St.John Bosco Church, Brooklyn Park, South Australia, on 13 April. This farewell was attended by many members of her family, and friends, as well Salesian Cooperators from the Brooklyn Park Unit she coordinated, together with parishioners, Salesian priests, staff from St.John Bosco School Brooklyn Park, Salesian past pupils, and past parents.

A former principal of St.John Bosco School where Aileen taught at, Sister Delma Lamb FMA, emailed the Salesians at Brooklyn Park to say that Aileen “has been a great staff member, friend of the sisters and raised funds for our work, and was a faithful Co-operator…Please inform the family that the sisters have been praying for Aileen and the family during this difficult time, and that we are very grateful to Aileen for all she has been and done for us over the years.” (Sr. Delma Lamb FMA, Vice-Provincial)

Aileen, together with the local Salesian Cooperators, organised the supper at the annual Mary Help of Christians Mass in the Parish of St.John Bosco and St.Aloysius. Like Don Bosco, she was devoted to Our Lady.

Mr.Angelo Molino, himself a long-time and dedicated Salesian Cooperator and Catholic school teacher in Melbourne, has known Aileen for over forty years. He wrote, “she attended as many Salesian functions as she could – ordinations, vow ceremonies, congresses, conferences, overseas meetings, etc. When others would have considered their age, their health, their financial means and other considerations which may have sown doubt in their minds about going, Aileen very purposefully and resolutely decided to attend and to give herself completely to the activity….Often when she visited Melbourne for such functions she would make sure to fit in a visit to her sister Edna down on the peninsula and it would be my pleasure to drive her down there. Aileen was the mainstay of the Adelaide Unit. For many years, she co-ordinated it and made sure that news from other units were passed on, keeping everybody up to date.”

Angelo says that Aileen was “a very loyal co-operator – loyal to the Salesian spirit and charism which she came to understand and appreciate after living out the many qualities of a model co-operator over many years and loyal to the Regulations, her rule of life as a co-operator…Aileen always wanted to live according to first principles, to live according to the authentic message as presented by Don Bosco and by the Salesian saints and not by derivatives and less than genuine guidelines. And so, she was quick to refer to the original sayings of the founder, to quote what he said about being a ‘good Christian and good citizen.’ Whenever Aileen returned from a conference or a congress or even a talk on what it means to be Salesian, one could easily tell, by what she said and what she did that she was imbued with a fresh understanding of her vocation as a co-operator – and for her, it was nothing less than a vocation, a call by Our Blessed Mother herself to join and to be part of the Salesian Family.

Moreover, Mr.Molino comments how Aileen, “may have lived alone but she fervently believed that she was a part of a most wonderful family which was nothing less than a vehicle for her own self-sanctification, a means for her to, as we say often, ‘Get to heaven’ and therefore become a saint, in the same way that Dominic Savio longed to become one. Aileen was not wishy-washy about her faith. She had a simple yet profound faith which made her a giant in the co-operator branch of the family. Faced with such a comment, she would laugh it off. But, in my mind, she was an authentic disciple, keen to save herself by helping to save others. She may have had a slight constitution, she may have spoken softly but she was a spiritual giant whom we would do well to emulate. I had the pleasure of hosting Aileen many times when we had co-operator congresses and the like in Melbourne. For her, each Salesian function was an opportunity to further develop her identity as a lay Salesian. She sponsored and organised at least two co-operator congresses in Adelaide and, as many will attest, she did a wonderful job each time.”

The Provincial Delegate (SDB) to the Salesian Family, Father Peter Hoang SDB, said that Aileen was “a very active member of the Salesian Cooperators, not only at the local level but also nationally….Her contributions were greatly appreciated and will continued to be remembered and valued in the life and mission of the Salesian Family.  May she rest in the peace of God and share the glory of the Risen Lord.”

By Fr Joseph Lee SDB

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