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Poignant mass held to bid farewell to Kilcormac Sisters of Mercy

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karen.ogrady@midlandtribune.ie

The community of Kilcormac came out in force to say farewell to the Sisters of Mercy and to give thanks for their work in the parish since the convent was founded in 1885.

The Mass of Thanksgiving for their work and dedication in Kilcormac over the decades was held in a packed Church of the Nativity on Friday last as friends, parishioners, former students, neighbours and many others came to pay tribute to the departing sisters.

Speaking during his homily, Fr Michael Walsh said he was pleased to be at the Thanksgiving Mass. “This evening, we thank God for all the blessings the parish of Kilcormac and Killoughey received over the decades from the love, the ministry and the witness of the Sisters of Mercy,” he said.

As the Sisters say farewell to Kilcormac, according to Fr Walsh, the best tribute the parish can pay to them is to “remember the God of mercy that shared their lives and their work since they arrived here in 1885. The presence of the Sisters of Mercy on the Main Street, Kilcormac has been a blessing on this parish. Their service to God in prayer gave them energy and enthusiasm for their work. Their dedication and commitment to their vocation has been an inspiration,” he continued.

“The Sisters over the years have responded with generosity to the educational needs of the parish. Their contribution to both primary and secondary education has been immense. Generations of young people have been very fortunate to be educated under their leadership. Their dedication to school life and the many excellent lay teachers in the schools of the parish is written in the hearts and the minds of the young people.”

Acknowledging the huge amount of work the sisters carried out in the parish, Fr Walsh said the service provided by the Sisters of Mercy brought the community into “direct connect with the mercy of God. I have no doubt they leave Kilcormac with heavy hearts but they can rightly reflect on and take pride in the great legacy they leave in terms of education and pastoral work. I would like to join with you all here this evening in wishing the Sisters every blessing, good health and happiness into the future,” he concluded before the congregation burst into rapturous applause.

Speaking on behalf of the Sisters of Mercy, Sr Ann Brady, Provincial leader of Northern Province of Ireland, thanked everyone for their work in organising the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Sisters. “We greatly appreciate the work and effort of all involved in organising this celebration of Thanksgiving for the Mercy Sisters, honouring the contribution of the Mercy Sisters since 1885” she enthused.

The congregation heard how a ritual of remembrance was held in the Convent several weeks ago. Sr Ann explained it was an opportunity to tell and re-tell stories and to share memories and recall the happiness of the community through the years. “In preparation for the ritual, we looked back on the annals of the Sisters of Mercy, Kilcormac....keeping an account of the happenings and highlights of community and parish life, not quite day to day, but year to year. We have a rich tapestry, and stories of the highlights of life in Kilcormac right back to the day the Sisters arrived in 1885.”

The Convent of Mercy in Kilcormac was founded after Sisters came out from the Convent of Mercy in Tullamore. “Since the Convent was founded from Tullamore, there has always been close links between the Convents down through the years. Also, Mercy sisters entered in Tullamore before they came at some stage of their careers to Kilcormac,” Sr Ann explained.

The Provincial leader then took the opportunity to speak about some of the pieces of history that were put together by various Sisters outlining the details of the convent in Kilcormac. “And, throughout these pieces of history I mentioned, there's a common thread. A thread of acceptance and welcome. The Sisters of Mercy were inserted into Kilcormac and very much became part of the fabric of the parish and the surrounding areas. It's so evident the Sisters were welcomed and accepted and became part of the parish's fabric, right from the beginning.”

Sr Ann again thanked everyone for their support and friendship throughout the years. “Thank you to all the people of the parish, both past and present, the people of the surrounding areas for your support, your friendship and loyalty to the Sisters of Mercy. It's your loyalty, your support and your dedication, which enabled the Sisters to respond to the needs of the parish.

“Even though, the Sisters will no longer live in the Convent along the Main Street, and Sr Mary will be in Mountbolus, the spirit of mercy will continue in this area to be carried on and enabled by the people of Kilcormac and surrounding areas. You will continue to be witness to mercy,” she concluded.

Drawing the Mass to a close, Fr Joe Gallagher, principal celebrant, thanked everyone for attending especially the beautiful music provided by local musicians and choirs, which deeply enriched the celebration and also all of those, who organised the event. The departing Sisters, Sr Gemma, Sr Eithne, Sr Virgilious, and Sr DeLourdes were joined by members of the community, well-wishers and friends in the nearby community centre where stories were recalled of times gone by in Kilcormac and some tea, chat and refreshments were enjoyed by all.

Meanwhile, speaking after the Mass, one lady told the Tribune the community was “genuinely saddened” that the nuns were leaving Kilcormac. “They have been in Kilcormac since before I was born,” she remarked adding “they made such a huge contribution to the community”.

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