The Sisters of Charity arrived in Tramore, Co Waterford, in the south of Ireland in 1866. Their first focus was on the education of girls and also on the visitation of the sick poor in their homes. The Sisters opened a primary school and later ‘a secondary top’ which developed into a full secondary school. The schools were named ‘Star of the Sea’ and ‘Stella Maris’ respectively.
The Christian Brothers’ School across the road amalgamated with Star of the Sea, a state-of-the art new extension was added and is now called Glor na Mara, which means ‘the sound of the sea’. As the years passed the ministries of the Sisters developed. Meals-on-wheels were started from the convent and adult education classes and prayer meetings were organised. Parish pastoral ministry was so well conducted that the parish priest in 2021 said of a Sister, ‘she was the best curate I ever had.’!
Sadly, it all came to an end in 2021 when the Sisters of Charity withdrew from Star of the Sea Convent, Tramore, on January 22nd. At that time there were only three Sisters living in the convent – Srs Mairead Doyle, Carmel Coyle and Catherine Maguire. Two Sisters transferred to Dublin shortly before the closure for health reasons, Srs Christopher Hanrahan and Mary Vaughan. Srs Rosaleen Desmond and Mary Roche joined the Community for Christmas and to help with the business of winding up the affairs. For the last time that Christmas parcels were made up and delivered for the elderly living alone. The clear-out of the convent took some effort as after 155 years the items collected can be imagined! Srs Una O’Neill and Anne Marie Costello were present on the morning of the 22nd January for the hand-over of the keys. As we were in strict lockdown at the time due to the corona virus the people of the town were not able to visit and say good-bye but many letters and cards poured in expressing the love and gratitude of the people.
However, on Friday, January 8th, the Bishop of Waterford, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, together with the four priests of the Parish, celebrated Mass in the Parish Church in thanksgiving for the lives and ministries of the Sisters in Tramore since 1866. This Mass was livestreamed so the people of the parish were able to participate. In his homily the Bishop said ‘The Sisters will be enormously missed and I know that I am echoing the sentiments of the whole community when I say that. They inspired others but were first inspired themselves by that same thing which Mary Aikenhead had burned into her heart- the faces of the poor and sick calling for help and love and care and affection. In that spirit, the Sisters were mother figures to so many, trying to keep the lamp of love and faith burning brightly as they served God and the people of God unceasingly. Tramore will be the poorer for your going, but the richer for your having been here.’
In her address, Sr Una listed some of the creative ways in which the Sisters served the people: Children of Mary and Christian Mothers Sodalities; Parish Youth Clubs; Meals on Wheels; services to Asylum Seekers; Sunday and night classes for those who left school early; prayer groups; retreats and spiritual direction; Baptism preparation; visitation of homes, nursing homes, hospitals…and the list goes on. Sr Una said, ‘we give thanks for the people of this parish and beyond, the story of whose generosity and friendship would fill many volumes. We assure all of you that you will be ever in our prayers. Thank you for the love and concern for us: your generosity and support down through the years.’
January 22nd was not entirely the end of the Sisters in Tramore as Sr Catherine Maguire wished to honour her school contract until the end of June, 2021. She was transferred to the house in Riverstown which had been the centre for Mary Vaughan’s and Carmel’s ministry. From here, Catherine continued her school ministry and maintained the link with the people of Tramore for another little while. Sr Catherine bade farewell to her school community, who were heartbroken to lose her, at the end of June and travelled to Dublin early in July. Many tributes were paid to her by the Principal and Staff, both present and past, and she will be greatly missed. She had ministered in the school for 31 years as principal, class teacher and in the field of special education.
The parish priest of Tramore, Monsignor Nicholas O’Mahony, was anxious that a commemorative plaque be erected to the memory of the Sisters of Charity. On The first Sunday of Advent, November 28th, nine Sisters travelled to Tramore and were present at the Sunday Mass during which some children from Glor na Mara School took part. Before the final blessing the Sisters were invited to process to the shrine of Our Lady on the left of the main altar. Here the plaque was unveiled by Sr Una, Provincial Leader to great applause from the people. The plaque reads: In Thanksgiving for the Ministry of the Sisters of Charity in Tramore, 1866 – 2021. The crest over the inscription sets it off.
The convent will be missed by many Sisters of Charity who loved to go there on holidays and also by the Sisters who have family links to Tramore and Waterford. From the beach it is an outstanding building ‘high on a hill’ and was a place to which many people came for advice, comfort, help or just to unburden their troubles. The people of Tramore loved the Sisters and were great supporters at all times.