'Hallowed Bees' the Story of Mary Lou Sheil
by Lyn Mason-Norman, Honeybees Coordinator, May 2002
Although my very first job as a social worker 35 yrs ago was working with Professor Ross Sheil at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, I never did meet his wife until I joined Honeybees in 1997. And that was the experience of a lifetime!
Dr Mary Lou Kent Sheil lived and breathed her faith, and her music. She journeyed with cancer for many years, never once complaining. Her faith lit up the Bees with inspiration. She was 'given' many beautiful poems and songs to write at this time, all expressing her journey into the unknown, with her spirit guides at her side.
Mary Lou never took the 'easy route', especially with her music - it is technically challenging, emotionally confronting, and blindingly beautiful. We in the Bees were very aware that ours were some of the human voices Mary Lou wanted to breathe life into her songs. Many of us felt her spirit with us singing and supervising as we had our exhausting rehearsals.
We recorded 4 of the most beautiful of her hymns in her cold, drafty, stone church in Hunters Hill, in the middle of Winter, 2000. Mary Lou attended these sessions, in her debilitated state and against medical wisdom, determinedly sharing in the magic her music created. In the midst of these recording sessions, her spirit, being much stronger than her body, soared heavenbound as she caught pneumonia and left us to finish our task. Singing at her funeral in July 2000 was an incredibly wonderful and difficult experience for all the Bees.
Under Tony Backhouse’s baton, The Bees re-recorded the entire collection in 2001, and after much support from the Sheil Family and our artistic and organizing Bees Junia Kerr and Sue Carey, launched the CD together with the Sheil’s family publication of Mary Lou’s writings and a biography by her eldest daughter, Dr Meredith Bayfield on May 7th, 2002, at All Saints Church, Hunters Hill.
The Bees have grown immensely in caring and commitment throughout this two year recording journey and we know without a doubt that Mary Lou, with her angels and spirit guides has finally smiled down contentedly from the Heavens, and is now moving on to other “projects”.
So are the Bees … We salute you, Mary Lou!
The Mary Lou Shield Presented annually to a member of The Bees