I grew up on a modest farm in Castletown Geoghagan, Co. Westmeath, the third in a family of eleven – five brothers and five sisters. Four girls chose the Religious life and two brothers became priests – one a Kiltegan missionary and the other in the home diocese. Two sisters married and raised families of four and six and my oldest brother married and had three children. My youngest brother remained single and
went to the U.S. early in life and still lives there. Another brother died at the age of 60. My primary education was at Streamstown where I received a good foundation in the basic literary skills. On graduating from the primary level I continued my education as a boarder in Loreto Convent Secondary School in Mullingar where I completed my Leaving Cert. This was followed by a year’s course in St. Brigid’s Rural Training College in Ardagh under the Sisters of Mercy, followed by a two-year course at the Munster Institute which qualified me as an instructor under the Department of Agriculture.
Meanwhile I kept in touch with the Mercy Sister in Ardagh and entered the Mercy Novitiate in Longford in 1955. Novitiate days were spent in learning the Mercy way of life, in household management and in various training sessions. After First Profession I was in Scoil Mhuire Secondary School teaching mainly Cookery and Needlework classes, some English and even an Inter Cert French class. Incredible!
One year after Final Profession in 1961 I took flight with three other Sisters to open a new primary school in Little Flower Parish in Reno, Nevada, U.S.A. Here, slot machines, wedding chapels and gambling machines were everywhere so it was an exciting place. The children in our school were not unduly influenced by this fantasy world. They were bright, cheerful and eager to learn. It was a pleasant initiation into the American way of life.
After two years in Reno I regretfully transferred to Sacred Heart School, Ely in eastern Nevada, which had been opened by five Sisters from Mercy, Longford in 1958. This was a different scene far from the bright lights of Reno but I grew to love its desert wilderness and lunar landscape. The people were mostly second generation Italians and worked in the local copper mines. Here I taught mostly all subjects in Junior High classes, was involved in the Religious Education classes for public school children, attended a weekly prayer meeting in the local prison and participated in parish activities whenever possible. I spent i9 years in Ely with a break for a one-year Catechetical Course in 1975.
My desert ministry ended in 1982 when I joined four Mercy Sisters from the Ardagh diocese to open a new mission in Lundazi, Zambia. Our first six months were spent learning the Citumbuka language, absorbing the Zambian culture and learning to live with mosquitoes, cockroaches and lizards. Three of us joined the teaching staff in Lundazi Secondary School and our two nurses went to work in the local hospital. We were very well accepted by both school and hospital communities. They were wonderful people, happy in the midst of poverty and always ready to celebrate. In school, resources were at a minimum so it was back to the chalk and blackboard method. Classes could be as high as eighty but students were eager to learn and well behaved.
After five years in Lundazi I returned to Ely to “fill a gap” for two years after which I returned to Ireland for a sabbatical in the Milltown Institute of Theology for a year in the Spiritual Studies programme while being based in the Granard community. I enjoyed a refreshing and relaxed year with time for reflection and no major responsibility.
Next year I was in Ballymahon teaching and doing home-school liaison and then returned to Lundazi for one and a half years when the Theresian Sisters took over that mission. I then joined the Meath Mercy in Monze where I taught English and RE in the local school for three years.
I returned to Ireland in December 1996 and spent two and a half years doing Organic Gardening in An Gairdin, Portumna. Then it was three years caring for a retirement community in Shalom, Edgeworthstown followed by my present ministry in Battery Heights, Athlone, where our Mercy community of three strive to be faithful to our Mission Statement: “We will try to be open to seeing God in the bits and pieces of every day through prayer and presence and awareness.” Amen. Alleluia!