500 at funeral pray for nun's hit-run driver

Mourners look on as Sister Jacqueline Walsh's casket Mourners look on as Sister Jacqueline Walsh's casket is carried out of St. Edward Confessor Church in Syosset. Sister Walsh was killed in a hit and run crash in Water Mill. (July 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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More than 500 mourners whose lives were touched by Sister Jacqueline Walsh paid respects to her at a moving funeral Mass Saturday, celebrating the nun's compassion while urging forgiveness for the hit-and-run driver who killed her.

"Sister Jackie lived a life that understood the importance of justice tempered with mercy. I cannot imagine her acting any differently this week," the Rev. Thomas Fusco told attendees at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Syosset. "She loved tenderly, and so many of us are recipients of that love."

Walsh's cousin, Eileen Young, led the attendees in a prayer "for the driver of the car and for Jackie's family and friends, that they may have the strength to endure and be led to peace."

Walsh, 59, was fatally struck by a Volkswagen Touareg SUV as she walked along Rose Hill Road about 8:30 p.m. Monday, one house down from where she was attending a religious retreat. The 30-year-old suspected driver, whose name police have withheld, remained at large Saturday.

Walsh embarked on that fateful walk with the same joy and appreciation for life that she always did, her friends said.

"That evening, having carefully selected the music that would speak to her of God . . . she put on her iPod with her earbuds and began her walk," Sister Anne Lynch said at the Mass. "On her way back, God welcomed her to her eternal home, heaven."

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Walsh was buried Saturday at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

The Bronx native was a beloved figure at St. Edward, where she served as pastoral associate for nine years, Fusco said. Before that, she worked for six years as a teacher and campus minister at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, a Catholic girls high school in Syosset.

Known for her love of music and photography -- she rarely ventured outside without a digital camera -- Walsh loved snapping pictures of sunsets, flowers and shorelines, mourners said. Her sense of humor was legendary among nuns, priests and parishioners, who said she could crack up any room, any time.

"The woman was brilliantly funny," said parishioner Maggie Vitello, 48, of Westbury. "She could make you smile and laugh and feel so positive even when things weren't going well, because she had faith."

Nuns who knew Walsh said she would have shown mercy to the hit-and-run driver -- and they would forgive him, too.

"I'm sure she would forgive the young man who did this, and she would pray for the family and ask him to please come in and be forgiven by us," said Sister Elaine Hanson, who taught Walsh at Our Lady of Mercy Academy. "We're Sisters of Mercy. That's exactly what would happen."

With Candice Ferrette

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