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Maura TyrellSister Maura Tyrell

1932 - 2012

Born: 23rd August 1932

Entered Religious Life: 9th November 1953

Died: 22nd November 2012



In appreciation of Sr Maura Tyrell

Below is Sr Maura’s obituary followed by the ‘Welcome’ given at her funeral Mass and some personal reflections from sisters who knew her.

Mary Patricia, daughter of Edward Tyrrell and Mary Smith, was born in Dublin on 23rd August 1932.  She was the only girl in a family of seven.

Having completed her secondary education in Saint Joseph’s Mountjoy Street, in 1951, she worked as a Post Office Assistant for two years before entering the novitiate of the Sisters of Charity on 9th November 1953.  She received the habit and the name Sr. Louis de Montfort on 18th May 1954, and made her profession on 22nd May 1956.  She spent a year in St. Patrick’s Kilkenny, and a year in Basingstoke, after which she pursued a course in Teacher Training in Digby Stuart Froebel Institute.  During that time she was a member of Hammersmith Community.

Maura ministered in England and Zambia between 1957 and 1993, when she returned to Ireland.  From that time onward she was engaged in remedial work with children in the Primary School in Stanhope Street.

She was a born teacher and really loved her work with children.  She had a ready smile, reflecting the joy she experienced in helping children with learning difficulties.

In spite of her delicate health Maura never gave in.  When eventually she could no longer engage in active work, she accepted her illness gracefully and was full of peace.  She died in the Mater Hospital on 22nd November 2012.
At her funeral Mass in Aughrim Street on 26th November the church was filled almost to capacity with family, friends and some of the children from the Primary School, who sang the congregational song Caritas Christi at the end of the Mass.
She was laid to rest in Donnybrook.

Sr Philomena Sayers:
On behalf of Stanhope Street Community I welcome you all to our Requiem Mass to celebrate the life of our beloved Sr. Maura.
Welcome to Sr. Mary Christian, our Superior General and Sr. Phyllis our Provincial Leader.
A céad mile fáilte to Maura’s brother Fr. Paddy S.J who has come all the way from Chicago and her other brother Joe.
Welcome to her many nieces and nephews and their extended families.  She loved you all so very dearly.
Welcome to the Teaches from the Primary School and the children, who will sing on of Maura’s favourite hymns at the end of Mass.
Maura trained as a teacher at Digby Stuart College, London and she continued her great love of teaching throughout her life.  Have spent many years in England and Zambia she returned to Ireland 18 years ago. 
Maura had a great enthusiasm for life.  Early in the morning she would be found praying in the Chapel.  She was kind, patient and full of compassion and hospitality was very important in her life.  She never missed an opportunity to be of service to others, whether it was making her famous marmalade and cakes or gardening or driving somebody at short notice.  Her greatest joy, however, was setting off across to the school to help the young children with some reading skills.  Progress was always followed by little rewards.
She accepted her failing health with fortitude and acceptance.  She retained her great interest in people to the very end and never lost her gentle smile.
Maura has left us many many memories.
We all miss you Maura.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.

Sr Rosaleen Crossan:
Sr. Maura will always be remembered for her warm hospitable personality.
Maura welcomed everyone and she always had a cheery smile on her face.
You always felt Maura was glad to see you when you appeared.
Maura loved her garden and spent hours weeding and sorting out her plants.  She was most generous in sharing out the bulbs she got each spring and in sharing the off plant she had nurtured.
Maura’s love for the children in the school was very evident in the way her face would light up as she talked about their innocence and achievements.  In spite of not feeling well Maura would want to be over in the school with her little ones.
Her love for the school also showed in the way she was ever-ready to praise every staff member and she highlighted the wonderful work done at every level in the school.
As a community sister Maura was out-standing in her commitment to personal and common prayer.  She was nearly always first in the chapel in the mornings and she was always supported the sister with her presence at all community rituals and meetings.
She was always extremely generous in helping out whether by driving sisters to destinations or by always lending a helping hand in all community.  Her love for the Congregation was also every much to the fore during her last days when she repeated how happy she was to have been able to serve the poor over many years as a Sister of Charity.
Maura will be acutely missed in the Stanhope Street Community but we can rest assured that she is now present with us in a different level through the communion of saints

Sr. John Teresita:
Sr. Maura was a wonderful person she lived life with enthusiasm.  She was very kind and generous.  The children whom she taught loved her.  She had a special love for those who had difficulty in keeping up with the class and devoted much of her time in teaching and encouraging them – The smallest progress was rewarded with little star stickers etc.
Maura loved gardening and added much colour to the convent surroundings with a vast variety of lovely blooms and flowers even strawberries and tomatoes responded to her devoted attention.
Maura was a lovely community sister. Often in the evenings she would be in the kitchen cooking her lovely cakes or delicious marmalade, of which there was always a supply.
Maura was a born and reared in the area, she was a fount of information.  If we wanted to know anything about anything Maura would know the beginning and the end of it.  She had a great memory.
Sadly as her health failed and she had to “let go” and rest her strong faith sustained her.  Prayer and the rosary were her comfort – she dept her enthusiasm up to the end. She knew a new life was beginning with total resignation and acceptance she surrendered herself to God loving embrace.
With what joy will she behold the garden of Paradise!
Maura is sadly missed may her dear soul rest in peace.

Sr. Joseph Helen Cunningham.

We are standing this morning on holy ground: the place where Mary Aikenhead spent the last years of her life as an invalid – a woman whose vision, courage and practical common-sense gave birth to our Congregation and to our long and graced history of service of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable. Today we are celebrating the life of Sr. Joseph Helen, a woman who cherished that charism, serving those in need with fidelity and generosity, and who also spent the last years of her life here in the Hospice.

The readings this morning are both comforting and challenging. In the Gospel Jesus speaks of himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life. He invites us to put our hope and our trust in Him and in His promise to be with us, steadily and constantly as we try each day to walk his way, to speak his truth, to live his life. It is an apt description of the life and commitment of the woman whom we are remembering here.

In her 103 years of life, Sr. Joseph Helen lived through historical and global changes that are impossible for us to imagine. She experienced seismic shifts in Church and state. She witnessed wars and famines on a world scale. Through all of those years she remained steadfastly faithful to the constant core of who she was as an RSC. She was born Dorothy Cunningham in Ballacolla in Portlaoise on 1st July 1908. She was an only girl, with one brother, and was much loved by all. Her childhood and youth reflected the calm ordinariness of children’s lives at that time. Following her degree studies she spent some months caring for her mother who was ill and then secured a job teaching in Mountjoy St. School in Dublin. Her father was not impressed! His comment on hearing of that place was: “It doesn’t sound like much of a job but you like working for the poor and you’ve always been good at it”. She remained there until she entered the Sisters of Charity on 5th October 1931.

In the first reading we are told that God gives strength to the wearied; that those who hope in Yahweh will soar like eagles, run and no grow weary, walk and never tire. That was so true of J. Helen throughout her active life. She was missioned back to Mountjoy St. after her religious profession and taught there for 12 years. Following a year’s further study in Scotland, she went to teach in a Secondary Modern school in Walthamstow in England for a year. And then came the call to be one of our three founding Sisters of the Zambian Region, or Northern Rhodesia as it then was.

In 1948 they set sail, travelling for four weeks by boat – The Athlone Castle - rail, bus and lorry before arriving in Chisekesi Siding on a dark morning on 28th October 1948. Sr. Helen kept a diary of the journey which was printed for the 50th anniversary and which gives a fascinating insight into their journey and how they coped with, what was for them, such a strange and almost ‘alien’ environment.

One can only imagine the anticipation and anxiety, the challenge and the loneliness, the wonder and the doubts that marked that journey and her first months in Zambia. It was a place and people that she came to love and cherish. She committed herself to the education of girls and brought the gift of knowledge and freedom to countless women who still remember her with gratitude and appreciation. There are many past pupils with sad hearts in Zambia at the moment – their sadness at her passing tempered only by their gratitude that she is free from the debilities of her age. And that mourning is echoed this morning among our sisters there in the Region and here in this Chapel in the sisters who lived with her and shared her life for those 30 years.

Her first 15 years in Zambia were spent in the Teacher training college run by the Jesuits and began her work in promoting the education of girls – beginning with the setting up of a girls secondary boarding school in Roma in Lusaka. Nine years later she was appointed Regional Leader and on Independence day 1978 she was conferred with the Order of Distinguished Service for 30 years of outstanding service to the people of Zambia in the fields of Education and Social work.

While she was a formidable woman in many ways, with high standards and expectations, her devotion to her religious life and her commitment to education was recognized and appreciated by all who knew her. She was a strict disciplinarian, spoke the truth without apology and demanded very high standards. At the same time her heart was compassionate and her generosity and hospitality were known and appreciated by all.

Like all of us, Helen has known suffering and joy, tears and laughter, pain and happiness, loneliness and friendship. And she had strong relationships with her friends – too numerous to mention – but exemplified in the love and devotion of Sr. Mary Bernadette Collins and Catherine Fallon. Up to the end she valued and enjoyed her relationships with her nieces, nephews and other family members and followed their lives with interest, with love and with prayer.

In 1978 she was missioned to Ireland and worked on our Constitutions. Subsequently she was appointed as local leader to our community in Crumlin before her appointment to our Provincial Leadership team and consequent arrival here in Our Lady’s Mount in 1981.

Sr. J. Helen’s commitment to Mary Aikenhead's charism was single-minded and she never compromised on that. The second reading confirms her attitude to life: nothing outweighs the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus. It is only through Him, with Him and in Him that we can find life and happiness and fulfilment. Rooted in that conviction, she endorsed and embraced anything that served the people for whom she cared in a better, more dignified or respectful way.

She suffered in her growing debility and weakness these last years and all of us – family, community, friends and colleagues - were saddened as we watched her suffering and her struggle to cope. In spite of the wonderful, caring staff who surrounded her and the sisters and friends who were her constant support, she had difficult and dispiriting days. Yet she never gave up . Her faith in Providence was the touchstone of her life. In the midst of all her pain and letting-go she was confident that he was with her, holding her, comforting her and in the end, calling her to himself. And when that call came, she yielded her spirit to the Lord, peace-filled, calm and trusting - blest with a death that had no struggle, no pain, no fear. And perhaps I can end with some words of hers, written in the diary of which I spoke, on her arrival in Chikuni: “Now that we have reached our Promised Land we must thank God and Our Lady for our very pleasant and on the whole easy journey which we have had . . . . “ Those words echo, not only the journey to Chikuni, but her life journey, now at its end as she moves, we believe, into the fullness of the Promised land of God’s life and love.