Sister Carmel Mary Flannery
1918 – 2015
Born: 18th July 1918
Entered Religious Life: 3rd October 1938
Died: 29th January 2015
Sr. Carmel Mary Flannery was born Evelyn Mary to John A. and Evelyn M. Flannery (nee Noble) in Springmount, Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo on 13 July, 1918. She entered Milltown on the 3 October, 1938, was Clothed on 18 April, 1939 and Professed on 23 April, 1941. This is her story in her own words:
“I took a good while to come to a decision to enter Religious Life having spent a year abroad before making the decision. My alternative was to train as an Almoner (Medical Social Worker) and my mother who was a doctor felt that it would be to my advantage if I could speak French as there was no training courses for Almoners in Ireland. After a year in the south of France, teaching English and learning French I made my decision and at last took the plunge when I entered Mount St. Anne’s Milltown on the 3rd October, 1938, then the feast of the Little Flower at 6pm and was the last arrival of eight. I had a last visit to the cinema to see Merle Oberon in “Test Pilot”. Mother Mary Bernard, Mother General and Mother Francis Angela greeted me most warmly. I said a quick goodbye to my parents and my sister and was heartbroken at leaving my home in the West. I took a good while to come to a decision to enter Religious Life and at last took the plunge.
Sr. Margaret Teresa was my ‘angel’ and was most extremely helpful especially during the first week when we were on retreat and introduced me to St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises. During that week the silence at meals and the large numbers were quite daunting. On Sunday we were introduced to the Noviceship and about 20 novices.
The life there was very routine, everything was done systematically and in silence. We were allocated manual works for a week at a time and the method was apparently similar to Mother Mary Aikenhead’s experience in the Bar convent in York. This new way of life was very challenging. At recreation you talked to the person normally beside you. The run up to Christmas was busy making clothes for the poor and given to the sister Missioner in the house. We had concerts for the entertainment of the Professed Sisters.
About a year and a half from entrance we were sent to a professed house to experience life in their company. That year, 1939, the 2nd World War broke out although there were rumours of war long before. There was a very striking Aurora Borealis early in 1938 which could be seen as far south as Spain and many felt something disastrous was in store. In 1939 and 1940 rationing was enforced. England was at war with Germany and at one stage there was danger of being invaded to attack England which fortunately never happened but the German planes flew over Ireland and were particularly in evidence on the way to attack the North of Ireland. At one stage Dublin city, North side was bombed and there were fatalities.
For my “Outing” as it was then styled I went to Mountjoy St. Convent to accompany the Missioner on her visits to the needy people – there was so much poverty and deprivation. Most of the community were teaching in King’s Inn St. School and the Secondary School in the convent. Mother Mary Ita was Rectress and very busy refurbishing King’s Inn St. School. Having spent about six months there I was sent to St. Vincent’s Hospital, Stephen’s Green which was so courageously opened by Mother Mary Aikenhead in the Earl of Meath’s house in 1834 for the great benefit of the inner city needy, although castigated by the local press.
I was assigned to St. Joseph’s Surgical Ward, the first ward opened in the old house. After some time I was assigned to taking the four-hourly temperatures and one evening when the Angelus rang at 6 o’clock I was due to check the temperatures. I was not finished my jobs in the Convent but told the Ward sister – Sr. Mary Canisius I came to take the temperatures, she said “You’ll do”.
On returning to Milltown our profession date was getting nearer and at last on the 18th April 1941 the great day dawned. On getting our destinations I was sent to St. Vincent’s to train as a nurse. Unfortunately my health did not stand up to the pressure and having spent the next three years 1943 -1946 fulfilling other posts I was sent for one Saturday when I was in Baldoyle convent and told I was to do a Social Diploma in UCD and to be there on Monday morning at 11 a.m. to sign on prior to my training as an Almoner. Because Ireland had no accredited training school students had to spend some of the post-diploma practical training period (about six months) in England. I was assigned to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Saltley. I qualified in December 1949 and was assigned to St. Vincent’s Hospital to start the work of an Almoner there. When the move to Elm Park took place we all moved out and I continued but at this stage we were Medical Social workers. When I reached retirement age officially I went to Milltown Day Centre and then Crumlin Social Service Centre until old age set in.
I can now look back on 70 years of Religious Life and am so grateful to God it was the life he laid out for me. I followed in the steps of Mother Mary Aikenhead who’s Sisters I was so familiar with since early childhood and the teen years and so approached the order I knew so well and admired.”
Sister Carmel Mary worked tirelessly for the poor and needy. She had a great sense of poverty – always mending and repairing. She was very grateful for any service done for her. She loved her family deeply and was very interested in all their lives. They, in turn, were extremely attentive to her and accompanied her in her last journey here on earth. She retired to Loyola, Merrion on the 14 April, 1998 and remained there until her death on 29 January, 2015. She was a true Sister of Charity. May she rest in peace.