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Sister Mary Xavier Walsh

1936 - 2011

Born: 23rd July 1936

Entered Religious Life: 11th October 1954

Died: 13th March 2011




Our dear Sister Mary Xavier died peacefully at Our Lady’s Hospice in Harold’s Cross on 13th March 2011. Sr Xavier entered Milltown on 11th October 1954. She was professed 12th August 1957. After profession Sister completed a two year course in Bath - “City and Guild’s Catering Course”.

She spent the next year in Walthamstow making preparations for work in a missionary country, by doing short courses. In 1960 she was missioned to Northern Rhodesia and appointed to work as Parish Sister in Kabwata Catholic Church, Lusaka, and also worked in the ‘Home Craft Centre’ in Kabwata, where she had much interaction with the women there and became aware of the great potential they had. In discussions with them she gained knowledge of and a familiarity with their culture and with the Chibemba language. Together they searched for a means by which to realise their potential.

The idea of the CATHOLIC WOMEN’S LEAGUE surfaced. The idea was accepted and in February 1965 the C.W.L began officially with seven members. The seed was sown, the seed that was to produce a hundredfold in the years to come. From 1965 Sister Xavier was involved with the women in Kabwata Parish, building up the C.W.L. She gradually withdrew from taking a lead role in Kabwata while encouraging them to take on responsible initiatives themselves. She herself helped to introduce the C.W.L to other parishes. In this way the C.W.L became a vibrant organization serving the church in many ways-

  • In Bible Study
  • In Prayer Groups
  • In the instruction of Adults in the Faith
  • In the preparation of children in religious knowledge on Sunday mornings.

To facilitate the instruction of children in particular, a gallery was erected in the grounds of the church where they held their classes. To equip the members to carry out their activities Sr Xavier organised Retreats, Seminars, Lectures and Training Sessions and the ladies eagerly availed of the opportunities provided, the C.W.L grew from strength to strength and has continued to develop and become a valuable means of evangelization in the Church. At one point, when Communism was gaining entry to Zambia, under the title of “Scientific Socialism”, the C.W.L so vehemently opposed its coming that its entrance was stopped once and for all.

In 1985 Sister Mary Xavier was missioned back to Ireland. In the Dublin Centre, which treated alcohol addiction, a vacancy had occurred because of the retirement of the Sister in Charge. Sr Xavier was being considered for the post. She was sent first to work in the Parish Centre in Sherrard Street, so as to become acquainted with parish work in Dublin. Then to prepare her for involvement in a Pastoral Care Program a team of three expert counselors were invited to come from their headquarters in Hazelden, Minnesota to prepare Sister and a group of prospective workers. They trained on the site for two years and in January 1987 Sr Xavier went to Hazelden to complete the training there in a four month course in “Clinical Pastoral Addiction” – (3 modules). In November 1988 she returned to Dublin to set up the Course “Clinical Pastoral Education” an addiction program to combat alcohol and other addictions. She worked very successfully in the Treatment Centre until she reached retirement age in 2001.

Her next mission was to Ard Mhuire, Harold’s Cross, as Local Leader. For the next six years she threw herself wholeheartedly into promoting the care of the elderly and infirm in our Lady’s Hospice. The residents, patients and staff were aware of her concern for their welfare and responded with great affection for her. They knew that she anticipated their every need and concern.

Towards the end of those six years the disease which pursued her relentlessly, set in. She never complained, it never got her down. She was full of hope and trust to the end. In 2009 Sr Xavier returned to Stanhope Community for almost two years. The final few weeks of her life were spent in the Hospice, this time as a patient, where she received all the care she needed to assist her in her home-going to God.

To sum up-we may divide in two her years of apostolic work:

25 years in Zambia- (1960-1985)
25 years on the home mission on her return to Ireland (1985-2010).

In every one of these she gave of her very best.

Tribute to Sr. Xavier from the Catholic Women's League in Zambia