"We'll Meet Again in Heaven"

 

Remembering our departed Sisters.

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Fr. Dan Cashman blesses the graves of departed OLA Sisters at Ardfoyle Convent during Remembrance Day 2017.

 

The biennial OLA Remembrance Day event took place last Saturday, 24th June, at Ardfoyle Convent, Cork. Remembrance Day began with the celebration of the Eucharist. All OLA Sisters from the Province who are buried in Ireland and in graveyards across Africa, Europe and the Middle East were remembered. The book of necrology containing details of each OLA Sister was placed before the altar during the mass.  Sisters who have been called home to God since the last Remembrance Day in June 2015 were remembered in a special way with a member of their respective families lighting a candle at the altar in their memory. Holy Mass was followed by the blessing of the graves in Ardfoyle Cemetery in the presence of their respective family members, friends, OLA Sisters and SMA Fathers.

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The altar of Ardfoyle Chapel ahead of Remembrance Day last Saturday.

 

The first two Irish OLA Sisters to reach Lagos, Nigeria in 1877 were Sr. Dominique Riordan from Cork and Sr. Felicite Kirwan from Dublin. They both died within months of arriving. The harsh climate along with the presence of tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever made West Africa a hostile environment for Europeans.  For the next quarter of a century, the average life-span of a Sister in West Africa was five years.   Many OLA Sisters, especially in the early years have their final resting place abroad. Sr. Bernardin (Rose) McCormack, who set out in 1903, described her own departure in the following terms: “The whole community was weeping. Mother General had tears in her eyes as she embraced me. Mother Assistant asked me to kneel and say a pray at the grave of her brother, a French SMA priest who sleeps his last sleep in Abeokuta...The theme of the farewell was “We’ll meet in Heaven!”. Medical science had improved by the time of Sr. Bernardin’s departure, making the tropics less deadly. Of the 25 Irish Sisters who departed between 1900 and 1909, 19 lived into their seventies and eighties.  The redoubtable Sr. Bernardin lived to the age of 85, having spent 61 years of active service in Nigeria. 

Sr Bernardin is pictured below (right) with her sister, Sr. Seraphion (Mary) McCorcmack, who was also an OLA.

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Sr. Bernardin (right) with her sister, Sr. Seraphion. Image courtesy of the OLA Provincial Archive.