At 1am on Tuesday 30th January, and after several months of increasing frailty, God called Lilian to the fullness of life, at the age of 97.
One of seven children, Lilian was born in October 1920 in Sliema, Malta, where she grew up. She spent six years at the Society's school, St Julian's, before doing a secretarial course and joining the civil service. During the War she worked as a secretary to generals at the Royal Artillery HQ in Malta, and later for the director of the Forces Broadcasting Company. During this time she maintained contact with the sisters who had taught her, and finally, in September 1949, she entered with the Society. This meant leaving Malta and her beloved family to move to the novitiate in England, not knowing when or if she would return.
After making her first vows on 15th March 1952 Lilian went to our community in Hammersmith, where she did some teaching in the school and also worked as assistant bursar, learning how to manage the finances and practical aspects of a large institution. From there, in 1954 she moved to Fenham, again as assistant bursar. In 1957 she went to Rome to prepare for her final vows, which she made on 29th July.
Lilian then spent the next eleven years back in Malta, at Tal Virtu and then St Julian's, working very much behind the scenes in the bursary and other practical aspects of running a school or college. Her skills and experience were recognised by the Society in 1966, when she was called to the motherhouse, where she spent three years as Assistant Treasurer General. After her return to England she enrolled on an accountancy course, and also did some theological study at Corpus Christi College.
By now, the Society's broader understanding of its educational mission was beginning to open up new possibilities for ministry. Lilian felt especially drawn to work with people with mental illness, and in the early 1970s she trained as a counsellor with the Richmond Fellowship, and worked as assistant warden in a rehabilitation home. From here, she moved into psychiatric social work, spending several years at St Bernard's Hospital in Ealing and lived in our communities in Southall and Hammersmith.
After retiring from her paid work in 1985 Lilian continued to work as a counsellor and as a volunteer with MIND, and ran the RCIA programme in Hammersmith, where she now lived. However, as her strength and mobility decreased she eventually accepted a move to Duchesne House in 2006, where she served as community bursar for the first few years. A friendly, gregarious woman and a natural communicator, Lilian joined Facebook and Skype, and kept actively in touch with friends and family around the world for as long as possible. During her final days, as she embarked on her final journey to God, she was able to communicate with several relatives and friends who came to spend time with her, and clearly enjoyed their visits. Members of Duchesne community also spent quiet periods of prayer at her bedside, but in the end Lilian slipped away very quietly, during the night, with just one of the night staff by her side.
Several years ago Lilian contributed briefly to an article by our Vocation Director on finding the right order. What she wrote sums up a life lived, joyfully and fully, and very much "in the right place"...
I am 91 yrs old and I have never looked back, so I know I am (or have been) in the right place.
I feel the Spirit is always with me and has never left me so I must be in the right place.
Before entering I wasn’t certain. So I thought I would give it a try. I am still here at 91 !!
Silvana Dallanegra rscj