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rose-murphySister Rose Murphy

1924 - 2016

Born: 22nd October 1924

Entered Religious Life: 8th October 1956

Died: 10th August 2016


Sr Rose Murphy died in Marymount University Hospital, Cork on 10th August 2016 with Sisters from the community at St. Anthony’s by her bedside.  She was brought back to our little chapel in St. Anthony’s where her remains were received by Fr. John Manley ofm cap. who is Chaplain at Marymount.  The following morning her family and the Sisters of Charity and staff walked to the Cathedral behind the hearse.  After a very moving Requiem Mass celebrated by Fr. John Manley she was laid to rest in St. Finbarr’s Cemetery. 

Her life had gone full circle as she was born in Midleton, Co. Cork on 22nd October 1924.   After school she continued her studies and qualified as a chemist in 1950.  She worked in chemist shops and the pharmacy department of a hospital and enjoyed a good social life until the Lord called her to religious life.  She was discussing her vocation with the Daughters of Charity and took a bus to Blackrock in Dublin to visit their convent but as she did not know the area she asked the busman to let her off at ‘the convent’.  He stopped and said ‘there’s the convent’ and she was inside when she discovered it was Temple Hill – the wrong convent – but she took it as a sign and entered the Sisters of Charity on 8th October 1956.  She had two sisters and three brothers and she had the joy of watching one of those brothers, Gerard, play hurling on the Cork team in Croke Park the September before she entered.  She cherished a vocation leaflet from that period which carried a photograph of herself in prayer at the Sacred Heart Altar in Mount St. Anne’s Convent Chapel – it was taken before she entered.  She received the habit and the name Sr. Gabriel Mary in 1957 and made her first profession on 1st May 1959.

After profession she was missioned to St. Vincent’s Hospital and later to Lakelands where she ministered in Child Care.  In 1964 she returned to studies again and obtained a Diploma in Social Science from UCD.  In 1966 Sr Rose was missioned to Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire and she joined the staff of the Leeds Diocesan Children’s Society as a Social Worker in Adoption and Fostering.  She continued to attend courses and lectures relevant to her work which involved counselling mothers, assessing prospective adoptive parents and foster parents and caring for them and the children post placement.  This work involved plenty of travel and Sr. Rose drove all over England as part of her ministry.  One Sister who lived in Birkenhead at that time remembers that Sr. Rose sometimes arrived at the convent, stayed the night and was off again the next morning without any talk of what she was doing.  A few years ago a Sister in St. Vincent’s, answered a telephone call from a priest, a Cork man, who was in charge of adoptions in the Diocese of Leeds and he wanted to visit Sr. Rose in Marymount as he was home in the city on holidays.  Sister gave him directions and he had great praise for Sr. Rose and her work in his diocese and remarked that they owed her a lot and it would be a privilege to visit her. 

In 1974 Sr Rose was recalled to Dublin to take charge of St. Patrick’s Guild, Temple Hill and she remained in that ministry until she retired in 1997.  Sr. Rose brought all her expertise and experience gained in England to this challenging ministry.  She travelled all over Ireland in the course of her work as she took great care of the children and was always interested in their progress in school and in their life as a whole.  She also developed a good relationship with the adoptive parents and one of them spoke to the sisters at Sr Rose’s funeral.  This Cork lady recalled how her husband would go to collect Sr. Rose from the train and by the time they reached the house he would have told Sister all the stories about the two children and she had been looking forward to telling the stories herself.  She had become a much loved ‘family’ member in homes all over the country.

After a sabbatical year, Sr. Rose was missioned back to Cork – St. Patrick’s – where she continued her work of pastoral care.  She went around the wards and rooms with a remove control for the TV in her pocket so that she could turn on the Mass on the TV for all the patients.  She was affectionately known as ‘remote control’ by some of the patients.  Staff members told of numerous acts of kindness and thoughtfulness which Sr. Rose did for them.  She would take over the Reception Desk to give someone a break if they had a long shift for example.  A Sister who came new to the Hospital as chaplain told us that Sr. Rose was her angel when she first came to St. Patrick’s as Sr. Rose took the time to quietly fill her in on what went on and what might be expected of her.  Sister also did messages for patients and for anyone who needed something done in a hurry but had not time to do it just then!  She was also available to drive people to the train or collect them from the station.  Another staff member said that Sr. Rose was an angel – she did not know much about angels but because Sr. Rose was so gentle and gracious at all times she thought she must be one!

When the Sisters moved from St. Patrick’s Convent on 1st February 2009 Sr. Rose was missioned to St. Vincent’s Convent but she continued her pastoral ministry in St. Patrick’s Hospital as she drove over to Wellington Road each day.  She became part of St. Vincent’s community in a very real way and befriended a sister who was getting feeble at that stage.  Sr. Rose sat with her in the afternoon and watched TV or a video in the community room and then said the rosary with her before they had an afternoon cuppa.  In summer they walked out into the garden and sometimes visited St. Anthony’s for their afternoon tea!  At the end of 2012 Sr. Rose needed care and was admitted to Marymount Hospital in Curraheen and although she was herself a patient now, she continued to minister to those around her.  A nurse said that Sr. Rose seemed to know when another patient was upset and she would go over and sit beside him/her and say the Rosary with them.  When Sisters visited her she was always glad to see them even if they woke her up when she was having an after-dinner snooze.  She was interested in Congregational news and was always cheerful, full of fun and grateful for the visit. 

Although she was busy about the Lord’s business all her life she kept in touch with her family and is survived by her three widowed sisters-in-law who loved her very much.  Her nieces and nephews loved her and the next generation were known and loved by her also, as was obvious with such a large family gathering for her funeral.  One branch of the family were unable to come to Cork in August but they came in force and joined the rest of the family for the month’s mind Mass in St. Anthony’s Convent in September.  Sr. Rose was a quiet, gentle person but she is remembered by numerous people here and in England as a gracious, caring lady who was very appreciative of the goodness of other people.  May she find lasting joy in God’s kingdom of love.  Amen.


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 yearsshe 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 inWalthamstow 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 1978she 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 herfriends – 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, sheyielded 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.