Eulogy by Bishop William E. Swing
In 1931 at the height of the American Depression, in Brooklyn, New York, twin girls were born - Maria and Virginia Cirigliano. The Blessed Virgin Mary was adored in this family, and the girls...Virginia and Maria...shared holy names from the beginning of their lives. And...they grew up in a big, warm, wonderful family.
Maria, the older by a few minutes, spent most of her years on this earth as part of a big, warm, wonderful family, first in New York and later, with John and their children and grandchildren. In this day and age, how amazing is that?
Early on, Maria was a junior champion swimmer of New York City. No small pool of competition in that big place! Hundred-yard freestyle! A race that doesn’t require great strategy but does require strength and speed. You dive in and go straight ahead as fast as you can. In swimming as in many later aspects of her life, Maria was a champ at diving and going straight ahead.
It was, in 1947, at the Railroad YMCA on 47th street in New York, that Maria’s brothers, Rocco, Caesar and Nicholas had an inspired idea. They would introduce a fellow swimmer, John Weiser, to their sister, Maria. Rocco made the introduction of “Jack” Weiser to Maria. What followed were 70 years of love and 64 years of marriage.
Two little anecdotes about the short time between her large families, anecdotes that say something else about her character! First, she felt a calling to work among the deaf and hard of hearing. If you are deaf, you most often feel isolated in the speaking world around you. And if someone brings a deaf person into conversation and into community, it means the world to them. Maria brought deaf folks into the larger human conversation.
Second, her Navy ensign husband, “Jack” took his new bride, Maria, far from her comfort zone and to begin life in Norfolk, Virginia. He explained that he would be off on a ship all week and she, without a friend or acquaintance, would be by herself. After the first week, John returned to discover that Maria had made friends with everyone in the neighborhood, had found a job and had written a paper for the Norfolk school system.
Till the very end of her life, I never once saw Maria except in the company of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, indigenous tribal people, Sikhs and many others. Maria was deeply Roman Catholic, but she had a heart of genuine respect for people of all faiths. When one of her sons became a Jew and when another became a Buddhist, it didn’t change one ounce of love that she had for them both. Maria knew who she was, and she had respect for what she wasn’t.
The last time that I saw Maria, she was in her bed at the Redwoods in Mill Valley. A company of local angels….her prayer group…. surrounded her with love, prayers, and sacred readings. What a book-end! As a girl, Maria went to St. Anselm’s parish in New York and practiced devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. And here we are today at St. Anselm’s in California, where her devotion is honored for the last time. Maria ended life in the same way she started it…..with a holy name and an earthy, family oriented, holy life. Today we release her to a far greater loving family.
In the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Magnificat, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Amen.
Maria, surrounded by URI friends (L-R) Bill Swing, Kay Markham, Mary Swing, Biff Barnard, Connie Barnard and John Weiser