Catherine Stewart passed away at St Anns Hospice in Manchester on the 6th May after a long battle with cancer.
She died much as she lived – being surrounded by an eclectic and loving crowd of people.
The Mongale Family
As the Mongale family we want to say thank you Catherine for the wonderful memories we shared. Thank you very much for having been part of our family.
Farewell Catherine, go well our beloved daughter. We will miss you a lot, you will forever be in our hearts.
Morolong o modiboa, o lokekete, wa ga Rankortman, o kerapetse o selogilwe wa ga mogodi o modisane o mbewe.
As a small bundle of peaches and cream.
As a sleepy child, tousled blond curls and draped over her Daddy’s shoulder, a bit grumpy at having been woken.
As a very self posessed little girl, inquiring mind. Happy to please elders (but certainly not betters). Playing on so many beaches.
As a sister to her adored big brother Alastair, both with huge intellects, the rest of us generously tolerated.
As a worker for the first time, spud picking in Kent, she stuck it out.
As a teenager, no strops, just a very strong will.
As an Oxford student-all those connections; Magdalen Chapel, football, whacky parties and Bosnian trips….. The vibrancy of a house full of Catherine and her friends, late night discussions around the table. The energy.
As a traveller, especially her beloved SA.
As a Doctor, another Dr Stewart for the family.
As a bride, and before the hen event, picnics, pedal boats, Wendy’s, wow!
As a wife so contented with Lesego.
As a Mum, overflowing with love for Tolamo and enough to spare for everyone.
And then the chicane of her illness- alternating (to quote Keith) magnificent stoicism and turbulent sadness.
And lastly a peaceful beauty.
Catherine is an example to us all of how to live life.
The first time I met Catherine, I was worrying and she was not. It was 1996 in Oxford and we were both bound for South Africa, for Oxford’s companion link Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman. I was impressing upon her the importance of getting a work permit in advance of travel; she said she’s just turn up and hope for the best. Our friendship developed in South Africa when she was based at All Saints’, Pampierstadt, teaching and taking part in the life of the Anglican parish and I was based at Kimberley Cathedral. Our experiences in South Africa had a profound effect on us both and shaped our future direction: for Catherine, her vocation to medicine and eventually marriage to Lesego, a son of Pampierstadt, and for me, ordination. In South Africa, we were each given a Setswana name, a sign of welcome and inclusion on our communities. Mine was Tumelo – meaning faith; Catherine’s, in Pampierstadt, was Lorato – meaning love.
Writes the Prophet Isaiah, “This is what the Lord says, ‘I have summoned you by name; you are mine. You are precious and honoured in my sight and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.’” Catherine was always secure in the knowledge that she was loved by God, a relationship of love which enabled her to trust in God, in herself and in others, a generosity of love which overflowed to her family, friends and the wider world; her love reflected God’s love. She learned this love growing up with Peggy, Malcolm and Alastair. Her parents gave her the freedom to make her own choices and develop her self-confidence. As a girl she was in the Guides and then Rangers and led a team on a complex camping trip – three locations in three nights, starting at Dunham Massey and proceeding to Lancashire, Central Wales and Yorkshire. Catherine’s team was commended for being the most ambitious. Then whilst at Oxford, she sounded out Peggy about her plans for the summer holidays – there was a choice of potato picking in Kent or going to Bosnia. Peggy famously responded that going to a war zone was a rare opportunity that she should not miss! And so Catherine went to Bosnia with a team from the university, which included Anand and the artist Carl Lazzari, and forged friendships which developed and endured.
Catherine had a gift for friendship, which all of us gathered here know. Each of us knows how much she invested in her friendships, how faithful she was at maintaining contact, the effort she made to attend our special occasions: birthday parties, weddings, baptisms, ordinations, licensing services; how intently she listened and focussed her attention on us; how giving she was; how forgiving she was. “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not envious or resentful. Love rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (I Corinthians 13: 4-7) Catherine had an extraordinary number of friendships into which she poured this great love and commitment; deep friendships, all individual. We each experienced her in a different way. There was a sense in which we never fully knew her; there was an element of mystery about Catherine. She had simplicity of heart, yet she was complex, unfathomable. Only God, her creator knows Catherine fully – and now she fully knows God in his perfect love: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face,” says St Paul. “Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (I Corinthians 13: 12).
Catherine had a gift for bringing people together. In Oxford she arranged for Cardinal Basil Hume and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to meet each other. There are many happy memories of parties she organised with the help of friends – last year her fortieth birthday party, jointly with Kate at the Klondyke Club in Levenshulme. She enjoyed fancy dress parties and created her costumes with great care; her Mr Spotty Man outfit was particularly ingenious and memorable! And then, the bringing together with Lesego of family and friends in Taung, South Africa for their wedding in 2008.
Catherine had great intellectual gifts. She was equally at home talking about science, politics, Theology, literature (she read widely – Proust was amongst her favourite authors); she was a linguist, fluent in French and Setswana. She had great gifts as a doctor, in her specialism in genito-urinary medicine, HIV and sexual health. Whilst she would tell hilarious anecdotes about what happened in clinic, there was never any doubt about her concern and compassion for her patients and her complete commitment to their health and well-being – that combination of tenderness and toughness for which she was loved and respected.
When Catherine left South Africa in 1997 after her year in Pampierstadt, a farewell speech at All Saints’ Church praised her for her “audacity and austerity.” Catherine always lived simply, she wasn’t into “stuff”. She would have clear-outs and give away things she hadn’t used for a time and didn’t need. She shopped frugally and ethically; she never wasted anything. “Do not worry about what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear,” says Jesus, “For life is more than food and the body more than clothing….sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12). Jesus speaks of investing in lasting things – in love of God and love of neighbour. If we invest in these, rather than in material things, our hearts will be right – with God and with each other. Where our investment is, there our heart will be also. Catherine invested in people: in her family – her parents and wider family, in Lesego and Tolamo, into whom she poured her great love and energy of mind, body and spirit; in her friends, her colleagues and patients; she invested in her relationship with God through her life in the Church – at Magdalen College Chapel, Oxford; at All Saints’, Pampierstadt; here at St Agnes’ and at St Michael’s, Headingley in Leeds. Catherine’s relationship with God, rooted in the security of his love, strengthened and sustained her through times of joy and of pain – the death of her brother Alastair, and in the last six years, her illness.
“Do not fear for I have redeemed you; when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned.” (Isaiah 43: 1-2)
Catherine knew the grace of God and her spirit of faith and love was constant, even through suffering. Earlier we sang one of her favourite South African worship songs, “Njalo, njalo, njalo siyathandaza, siyanikela, siyadumisa thina” – Always we pray, always we give, always we bless. She danced out of church with Lesego on their wedding day singing these words and lived them to the end of her life. She is now with God who knows her and loves her with an infinite love. The legacy of her love for us all endures – and part of her will always be with us: “They whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before,” says St John Chrysostom, “They are now wherever we are.” The energy and joy of Catherine’s life will continue to reverberate into eternity, like a note in music, resounding with the generous, exuberant love of God, which is for all of us.
Isaiah 43: 1-7
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you,
I give people in return for you,
nations in exchange for your life.
Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
I will say to the north, ‘Give them up’,
and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.’
I Corinthians 13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Luke 12: 22-34
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.