CENTERVILLE — With tears and profound sadness, mourners gathered at Our Lady of Victory Church here Monday for the funeral of 22-year-old Saoirse Kennedy Hill, the granddaughter of Robert F. Kennedy who died last week.
Members of the Kennedy family and a hearse arrived at the church shortly before 11 a.m., when the funeral Mass began.
Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III, Kennedy’s Hill’s cousin, and former Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II, her uncle, were among the pall bearers, according to the program. So was Edward M. Kennedy Jr.
Other members of the Kennedy family at the funeral included Maria Shriver
It was “a service full of hope and laughter and love, and a service in celebration of a wonderful young woman who filled the world with her adventurous spirit,” said one mourner, who declined to be named.
The service included “songs, stories, and remembrances of a bright young life.”
The Mass bulletin included lyrics to one of the recessional songs, “When Saoirse’s Eyes Are Smiling” mirroring “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.”
“When Saoirse’s eyes are smiling/Sure, ’tis like the morn in Spring/In the lilt of Irish laughter /You can hear the angels sing,” said the printout of the lyrics. “When Saoirse’s heart is happy/All the world seems bright and gay/And when Saoirse’s eyes are smiling/Sure, they steal your heart away.”
A private burial service followed the Mass.
Kennedy Hill, a Boston College student, was found unresponsive at the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port on Thursday afternoon and later pronounced dead at Cape Cod Hospital.
Kennedy Hill’s death remains under investigation, and a toxicology report is forthcoming, according to authorities.
Many who knew Kennedy Hill have remembered her as an outspoken advocate for mental health issues. As a senior at Deerfield Academy in 2016, she wrote candidly about struggling with depression.
“My depression took root in the beginning of my middle school years and will be with me for the rest of my life,” she wrote then. “Although I was mostly a happy child, I suffered bouts of deep sadness that felt like a heavy boulder on my chest. These bouts would come and go, but they did not outwardly affect me until I was a new sophomore at Deerfield.”
David Thiel, Deerfield’s assistant head of school for strategy and planning, said Kennedy Hill was “a strong, selfless advocate for other people. She was courageous in writing and speaking about deeply personal issues.”
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Kennedy Hill’s uncle, said in a recent post on Instagram that she had been like his own daughter and like a sister to his children.
“Saoirse was fierce, both in her love for her family and yearning for justice,” he wrote. “A fearless adventurer, she inspired curiosity and daring in her friends. But her greatest gift was to find humor in everything and to give us all the gift of her laughter — and our own. The gaping hole that she leaves in our family is a wound too large to ever heal.”
Kennedy Hill’s godmother, Patricia Harty, said she was “such a beautiful, lively young child” who grew up to be a brave young woman who inspired Harty to be more bold in addressing important issues.
Her mother, Courtney Kennedy Hill, is the fifth of Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy’s 11 children, and her father, Paul Michael Hill, was one of four people falsely convicted in the 1974 Irish Republican Army bombings of two pubs. The two met and married in the 1990s, after Hill’s release from prison, and later divorced.