"AN HISTORIC EVENT": THE PASSING OF ANNA MARIE (WALSH) COUGHLIN, A.D. 1910-2018
On Friday, July 6th, A.D. 2018 Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church was filled with the extended family of Mrs. Anna Marie (Walsh) Coughlin, who died in her 108th year. As one of her relatives, parishioner Bob Brearley, said to me before the funeral Mass began, "This is an historic event."
He was right. Anna Coughlin was the last living parisioner from the time of the new parish church's dedication as Mary Immaculate of Lourdes on Thanksgiving Day, November 24th, 1910. She was a new-born baby. As she liked to say in later life, "I was baptized with the bells."
According to the custom of the time, when new church bells were blessed, they were "baptised", and given names as children are given names at their christenings. There are three "baptized" bells in our parish church of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes. The largest bell, the tolling bell, is christened "Gabriel" for the Archangel who announced the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zachary and announced the Incarnation to the Virgin Mary at Nazareth. The second bell is christened "Elizabeth" for the mother of John the Baptist and Mary's kinswoman. The third bell, the "baby bell", is christened "John the Baptist". When Mary went to greet Elizabeth, at the sound of Mary's voice, Elizabeth felt her own baby leap for joy inside her womb. Filled with the Holy Ghost, she said to Mary:
Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed art thou that hast believed because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord (Luke 1:43-45).
The bells of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes are thus the "Saints of the Incarnation" - Gabriel, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.
Anna Coughlin lived a long and full life, and she enjoyed her memories of that long life into her years as as a super-centenarian. Faithful to her Catholic religion, she died a daughter of the Church. Father John Sheridan, native-son of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes parish and friend of the family, preached her funeral Mass. At the Offertory of the Mass, the gifts for the altar were brought forward by several of her nine great-grandchildren.
Born into life November 6th, 1910, she was born into eternal life on July 2nd, 2018. In the Old Calendar, July 2nd is the Feast of the Visitation, when Mary comes to Elizabeth directly after having received the Annunciation of the Angel Gabriel. We may see it as a perfect divine touch for Anna who was baptized with the bells of the Sains of the Incarnation. As her casket was carried out to the street, "Gabriel" was tolling from the bell-tower, announcing to all the world Anna's birth to eternity.