Address of our President, Máire Ní Bháin to the AGM of the Irish Hospitalité, October 18, 2020 (via Zoom)

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Máire took the opportunity to speak about the late Sr Mary Patrick, a great friend of Irish Hospitaliers for so many years

Mary Callanan was born in Woodford, Co. Galway on July 21st, 1929. Her father was the local blacksmith. She was the eldest of eight children. There were many vocations to the religious life in the Woodford area – 2 people entered, from many houses. (The area was also a wonderful place for traditional music). Back then nuns priests and brothers visited national schools promoting the religious life. Some pupils went as boarders to the various orders and then decided their future after the Leaving Certificate. Mary went with an order based in France and a year later her sister Peggy joined her. They were allowed 2 hours together on a Sunday afternoon when they could speak English. It happened that the order closed down due to the lack of vocations. The nuns were sent to various convents; the Callanans went to the Sisters of Charity Nevers. Their mother made her way to Nevers on her own for their final profession.

Sr. Mary Patrick was subsequently sent to Lourdes and Sr. Mairead returned to Dublin and did Trojan work looking after the old, the sick and the lonely there. She is now in a nursing home in Swords.

When the war was over, economies improved, and pilgrimages went to Lourdes from all over the world and from most dioceses in Ireland. Sr. Mary Patrick was in charge of a ward in the old Acceuil and met them all. She had a big smile and boundless energy and a kind word for everyone including the sick.

Irish stagiaires felt blessed to have her there. She advised them to go to the Grotto before starting work each day to offer up the work of their stage to Our Lady. She put great emphasis on caring and kindness and saying ‘yes’ always in Lourdes to all the work and requests as Mary said to God and Bernadette said to Mary.

She recommended a good doctor, dentist or optician if needed. If passports were lost, she knew where to send people. Liam Tiernan and Dan Purcell were among those who were thankful for her care when they were sick in Lourdes. She had a listening ear for those who were bothered or troubled.

Two priests from Woodford, Fr. P. J. Kelly (Columban) and Fr. Willie Moran (Carmelite), who were inspired by her and made many trips to Lourdes (Fr. Willie with Casa) and both spent a stint with the day pilgrims. Fr. Peyton called to see her when he was in Lourdes.

In the 80’s she decided to have a Reunion/Retreat in Ireland to introduce the old and the young stagiaires to each other. This started in Finglas with Mgr. Maloney, then with Fr. Willie in Avila before moving to Tallaght. It was cancelled this year because of COVID-19. After returning to live in Ireland Sr. Mary Patrick attended when she could and her health permitted and she had many long chats about Lourdes with a captive audience. She was involved with all facets of Lourdes life. She delivered surplus food from the convent to the poor of Lourdes at least once a week. She was a mighty driver and negotiated the one-way streets easily. She drove infirm people to the airport when leaving Lourdes. She also brought stagiaires on a visit to St. Pastous, a house the nuns had in the mountains about 10 miles from Lourdes.

She felt that her greatest achievement in Lourdes was the English Mass for stagiaires. Irish girls working in hotels in Lourdes weren’t allowed to attend Sunday Mass – too busy. It bothered them and they spoke to Sr. Mary Patrick and the rest is history. The English Mass is celebrated on Tuesdays evening and all English speaking stagiaires in Lourdes, male and female, from all over the world are welcome. It was celebrated in the breakfast room in the old Acceuil Notre Dame and was followed by a cup of tea. People from different services got to know each other. An English-speaking priest from a pilgrimage in Lourdes was always willing to say the Mass. I remember the late Fr. McGonagle, OMI helping out. The Mass is still offered every week, but it is now organised by the Lourdes Hospitalite.

When Sr. Mary Patrick was approaching pension age she was transferred to Ireland (others were similarly affected). She was very disappointed but made her way to Newry as the order had a house there. She got a great welcome from her Lourdes friends in the North. They introduced her to doctors, dentists, pharmacists etc. After some years she came to Cherrywood in Loughlinstown, Dublin where the order had a house. She joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and helped run the shop. Every Monday she went Verscoyle Court to help Sr. Mairead teach pottery to the old folks.

She was happy and content in Dublin, but her health was deteriorating. She had a leaking heart valve that gave her a lot of trouble as time went on. She spent the last few years of her life in Our Lady’s Manor Nursing Home, Dalkey overlooking the sea. She loved nature and settled in very well in Dalkey. She celebrated her 90th birthday on July 31, 2019. The Mass was celebrated in Cherrywood. A few months of bad health followed, and she died on October 30, 2019. She is buried in Bohernabreena Cemetery.

Sr. Mary Patrick was full of compassion, care, kindness, understanding and common sense. We are very lucky to have known her and have been influenced and guided by her.

Solas na bhFlaitheas da anam uasal. May she rest in peace.

Lourdes and Covid-19

As for us in the Irish Hospitalite of Our Lady of Lourdes, we hope and pray that the effects of COVID-19 can be lessened and that, God willing, we will be allowed and able to return to Lourdes and sit at the Grotto again to savour the peace there and feel the gentle breeze blowing in from the Gave.

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