RIP Sr. Eileen Healy

Sr. Eileen was called home to God on June 28th, 2017. A native of Milleens, Coolea, Co. Cork, Sr. Eileen lived out her mission in Nigeria, Scotland, England and Ireland. She served as a medical doctor and later as a consultant psychiatrist. Below are some thoughts shared by Sr. Kathleen McGarvey, OLA Provincial Leader, at Sr. Eileen's funeral which took place on June 30th, 2017. May she rest in peace.


Eileen Healy.jpg

RIP Sr. Eileen Healy.


Dia daoibh agus fáilte ó chroí romhaibh uilig anseo inniu. Táimid cruinnithe le chéile inniu le slán a fhágáil ag an tSiúr Eileen agus buíochas a thabhairt do Dhia dá saol a chaith sí go fial flaithiúil i seirbhís Dé agus i seirbhís daoine eile. We are gathered to bid farewell to Sr Eileen and to thank God for her life which she lived so fully and so generously in the service of God and others. A very special word of welcome to Eileen’s family, her sisters Nora and Sheila, her brother in law John, her niece Mary, nephews, grand nephews, cousins, relatives and friends.  Ta failte romhaibh uilig anseo inniu. Welcome too to all the Religious here present, to the OLA Sisters from near and far and to the SMA Fathers who as always are here on the altar, to celebrate with us and share in our sadness.

As OLA Sisters, gathering here in this chapel together with family members and friends, to bid farewell to a Sister from this Ardfoyle community is becoming an all too common experience. We bid farewell to great women, and Eileen is truly among the most extraordinary. Today we ask God to give us the strength we need to say our Goodbyes in a spirit of faith and thanksgiving, and the courage to continue to put all our energies and our resources, both human and material, at the service of God and the mission to which we have consecrated our lives.  

Tháinig Eileen go Ardfoyle ar an 6ú lá de Mhárta sa bhliain 1957 nuair nach raibh sí go fóill fiú bliain is fiche d’aois. Eileen came here to Ardfoyle sixty years ago, on the 6th March 1957 just a few months before her twenty-first birthday. Two and a half years later she made her first profession and vowed to consecrate her whole life to God for mission particularly in Africa. She was a psychiatric nurse before she entered and after her profession she went to UCC to qualify as a medical doctor. She worked as a doctor in Nigeria for ten years, from 1969 to 78, working in OLA hospitals in Ibadan, Benin, Ogwashi-Uku and Bacita. Then she qualified as a psychiatrist in Glasgow and went back to work for another five years in Nigeria, this time in Kaduna. From 1989 until 2002 she ministered in Lancaster in England and there also became a Psychiatric Consultant. In 2002 she returned to Ireland, and worked from then until 2011 as a Consultant in the Psychiatric unit in the hospital in Roscommon.

It was then, at the age of 75, that Eileen moved here to Cork but she certainly didn’t come here to retire and really she never did retire. In fact it would not have been possible for Eileen to retire from active ministry since I think it is very true to say that her person, her words, her presence personified her ministry as a doctor and a psychiatrist. Cé go bhfuil sé soiléir gur bean chliste eirimiúil í Eileen, bhí sí i gcónaí sásta cluas éisteachta a thabhairt do dhaoine agus meas agus aire a chur in iúl do ghach duine – bhí uaisleacht, críonnacht agus spioradaltacht i ngach gné da saol.

At all times, with all people, she was ready to listen deeply and attentively, make people feel valued, being totally present, exuding empathy, concern, compassion, care, and in that way being truly a healer of body, soul and mind for so many people. As well as having vast experience, wisdom and knowledge, Eileen was a deeply spiritual woman. Her spirituality was not other-worldly but she experienced God in the present moment, wherever she was and in whatever she was doing, and she saw God in whoever she was with.  Surprisingly, Eileen was also a very simple and humble woman, not really aware at all of how her person and her presence marked people. She somehow lacked self-confidence; she would be quite nervous preparing for her talks. Yet, everything she did was done in and through prayer and, as someone said, it was her internal spirituality that was manifested in her relationships and her ministry and since that was so deep, so too was the external.

She told me herself that it was while she was working as a psychiatric nurse in Our Lady’s Hospital, which was then known as the Cork Mental hospital, that she met an OLA Sister who had been admitted there – and it was she who attracted her to the OLA congregation. As Eileen herself said, it is wonderful how God can speak to us through different people and different ways, even through me or you, even this Sister who was admitted to the psychiatric hospital. I suppose the challenge is to be aware of God speaking to us, God in the present. Eileen herself seemed to have that very extraordinary gift. Tá an duthlán sin orainn uilig cluas éisteachta a thabhairt do Dhia!

Since coming back here to Cork in 2011, Eileen has been involved in so many things and with so many people. Here with the OLA she gave input to the groups of young medical students and other volunteers who go annually to our mission in Tanzania; she gave many reflections and talks to the OLA Sisters and indeed to many other groups of Religious and Laity on aging, creation spirituality, transition and change, loss and grieving, dementia, the mission of suffering, and on so many other topics on which she had deep insights and experience. She was actively engaged in our mission promotion programme, preaching in parishes throughout Ireland at Sunday masses and helping to raise awareness as well as funds for our missions in Africa. She accompanied the OLA and so many religious congregations and individuals through the pain and suffering of the revelations and realities which Irish church and society have faced in recent years. She was actively involved as a member of the council in the SMA parish in Blackrock. In fact, the list is never ending. I have in these past few days received many phone calls from different religious congregations speaking so sincerely about the extraordinary gift Eileen was to them and their great sadness at her passing. Eileen had an office in her house and she went to give many retreats and seminars, but maybe more than that, she visited people at home and in hospital, she was called on by so many people, she accompanied so many people; we will never really know how much Eileen actually did or how many lives she touched, how many people she healed in body and soul. But we do know they were countless and we thank God for having placed this great woman among us and having allowed us to share in her path.

Tá ceacht le foghlaim againn uilig ó Eileen, ní raibh sí riamh faoi dheifir agus bhí sí in ann sult a bhaint as an saol! Despite all the work she did and the people she touched, Eileen never seemed rushed! I wish I could learn from her. She read so much; always with a book in her hand; she was well up on the internet and loved listening to talks on you tube or to quiet music. And with all that, she knew how to relax and enjoy life. I’m told there was no better woman who in her day would sit down and enjoy a glass or two of wine! 

Before I finish I would like to thank all who cared for Eileen these past few months. I thank very sincerely the Sisters and staff in our own Infirmary and here in Ardfoyle community. A special word of thanks too to Eileen’s family, for your wonderful testimony of love and fidelity. You, her family, meant so much to Eileen and I know she walked very closely with each one of you. It was indeed inspiring to see you walk these last few days with her, staying so closely and continuously by her side. May God grant you the consolation and the strength you need. From her place in God’s presence, may Eileen continue to help each one of you and send you healing in your times of need.

We will surely miss Sr Eileen but we trust she is in God’s eternal embrace. Suaimhneas siorai da h-anam.

I hand you over now to Fr Eddie to lead us in our prayer. Go raibh mile maith agaibh.