Hundreds of people turned out for 1 pm Requiem Mass at St Brigid’s Church in her mother’s native Belfast – the same church where Nora was baptised “on a joy-filled afternoon”.
Her body was found last month 10 days after she went missing from a Malaysain jungle resort where she had been on holiday with her parents Meabh and Sebastien, her sister Innes and brother Maurice.
Nora’s parents had close ties to Derry where they while Meabh Quoirin was at the Magee campus.
During his homily the priest told the congregation how “15 years ago on a joy-filled afternoon” Nora’s parents “together with all the family came to this church and carried Nora to the Baptismal Font”.
Referring to “her gentleness and her innocence” Father Eddie O’Donnell said the tragic death of Nora, who was born with the brain defect holoprosencephaly, left her loved ones “in terrible pain”.
Nora’s grand uncle Fr Pat Kelly celebrated today’s Mass with Fr O’Donnell, parish priest of St Brigid’s, who reminded those who’d come to a final farewell that Nora was a vulnerable child “who depended greatly on others”.
“Fifteen years ago, Meabh and Sebastien, together with all the family, came to this Church and carried Nora to the Baptismal Font,” Fr O’Donnell said.
“There, with great confidence, they prayed that God would send his Holy Spirit to dwell within Nora.
“And she was indeed a bearer of that Spirit, evidenced in her gentleness and her innocence.
“She, as we all know, depended greatly on others but, Nora in turn, gifted others with immeasurable love and joy; before such an ability we can only feel gratitude.”
The parish priest said Nora’s death, in such terrible circumstances and so far away from home, raised many questions about the meaning of life and left people struggling to comprehend.
“Today we return to St. Brigid’s united in the unspeakable pain of Nora’s tragic death, united too in wordless sympathy for Nora’s family,” said Fr O’Donnell.
“I ask myself, as surely you must do, ‘What is the meaning of this terrible pain that has been inflicted on Nora’s family?’
“We have, have we not, found ourselves wondering if God is good and has for us the love that no human love can match, why then is there such suffering in our world?
“We do not understand, and our stumbling words are so terribly inadequate.”
Fr O’Donnell cited “the heartfelt cry of the Psalmist” from the Bible, saying: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, Lord, hear my voice. O let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleading.”
He also said it was difficult to understand why God didn’t answer the prayers of Nora’s family when they requested her safe return after she went missing on August 4.
“Those very words encourage me to raise my voice in complaint and say; ‘Lord, for ten days the world was united with Meabh and Sebastien imploring that you be attentive to the voice of our pleading’,” he said.
“But our prayer for Nora’s safe return was not answered. We simply ask ‘why?’ ‘Why, O Lord, why? Where are you in these the darkest of days?’”.
He added: “Yet, even as I voice my complaint my eyes drift to the Crucifix and my ears hear yet again the anguished cry of Jesus from that Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’
“And I am reminded immediately that the cry of Jesus from the Cross, while one of deep distress, was not one of despair. I hear him say to us in this moment, ‘Trust in God still, and trust in me’.”
The parish priest reminded mourners that” God did not intervene to save his own Son from a cruel and apparently pointless death”.“Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and the friends of Jesus who stood with her beneath the Cross, were just as devastated as Meabh and Sebastien and their family are today,” he said.
“But Jesus’ trust was not in vain; he was not abandoned to death, nor his mother and friends to desolation. Neither does God abandon us. The resurrection is God’s assurance that death does not have the last word.”
Fr O’Donnell said faith does always furnish believers with the answers they so desperately need in times of great suffering.
“In the pain of this moment, in the shadow of Nora’s death, we raise our eyes to the Crucifix,” he said.
“Christian faith does not give us, in this life, the answers to all our questions, but it does give us the conviction that we have a future; life doesn’t end in nothingness – Nora’s life is now ‘hidden with Christ in God’ – we entrust her now into the Lord’s arms there to be eternally caressed by that Divine gaze of love.”
He added: “We who grieve for Nora hold her memory in love believing that all the bonds of love and affection which bind us together throughout our lives do not unravel with death.”
By way of example the priest used the words of a holocaust survivor from Auschwitz who told how he survived in the midst of horrendous suffering.
“He said “I grasped a great secret…salvation is through love and in love. I understood how someone who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss’,” said Fr O’Donnell.
The priest added: “Meabh and Sebastien, Innes and Maurice, remember Nora’s love for you, and know that she still loves you, and as you continue to love her, love one another.”
At the end of his Homily, Fr O’Donnell said by “practising the art of love” those who mourn Nora can hold on to her forever.
After the Requiem Mass, Nora was laid to rest at Milltown Cemetery.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam.