Sister Carmel Bernadette Keegan
1933 – 2015
Born: 24th February 1933
Entered Religious Life: 11th October 1954
Died: 8th August 2015
Eulogy delivered at Sr Carmel Bernadette’s funeral by Sr Rita Dawson
Provincial Leader, England/Scotland
Sr Carmel was born on 24 February 1933, the second youngest of a family of seven children; two girls and five boys. Three of her brothers, John, Frank and Joseph, have died, as has her older sister, known as Sr Veronica of the Mercy Sisters.
Sr Carmel is survived by her two brothers Patrick and William.
Carmel was very close to her niece Teresa, and her six nephews and had a great fondness for all of them. Felim, Declan, John and Brendan live in Ireland; and Declan and Desmond live in England.
Brendan drove Carmel around during her last two holidays and it was he who encouraged her to go home this year. Brendan would regularly email Carmel to see how she was doing.
She was christened Brigid Philomena and attended Ballinagore Primary School, followed by Kilbeggan Convent School run by the Sisters of Mercy.
Carmel undertook the civil service exam and obtained a place in the G.P.O in Dublin.
She worked in the Civil Service until 1954 before entering the Sisters of Charity in Milltown on 11 October 1954.
After her profession in 1957, she moved to Birkenhead to undertake Parish Work. After this, she moved to Bath to continue her parish work before returning to Milltown for her Final Vows in 1960.
Carmel lived for some time in Donnybrook and Stanhope Street. Carmel spent a year at University College Dublin before undertaking a 2 year course in Social Work at the Josephine Butler College in Liverpool. She received a Diploma and Degree in Social Science, and a Certificate in Social Casework.
Following completion of her education, Carmel returned to Hammersmith, then to Walthamstow and worked in Tower Hamlets Social Services from 1972-1979. During this time she often came to St Joseph’s Convent for dinner. Later she did Chaplaincy work in Hammersmith Hospital which she enjoyed for nineteen years.
She was still doing this work on a part-time basis until the time of her accident.
It was a fracture of her right neck of femur that required surgery at Ealing Hospital in 2012 and led to her finally coming to St Joseph’s Convent. She made a good recovery and used a walking stick.
With the exception of this accident, Sr Carmel always enjoyed good health all her life.
Sr Carmel was a person who likes to keep active and busy. Over the years she was very interested in art and attended art sessions twice a week at the Hospice.
Technology did not scare her either and she used an iPad to communicate with her family and friends. Music was also important to her and she enjoyed listening when she had time. It is wonderful to see older people using iPads and it is a great way for them to keep in touch with families and friends. I would encourage all older people to use the technology and keep up to date with it. Carmel enjoyed holistic medicine and completed courses in Reiki and Metamorphic Technique.
Carmel had a lovely gentle approach to the patients whom she ministered at the Hammersmith Hospital. Right up to the time she stopped working, she would walk long distances through the hospital to visit and pray with the sick, and make sure they had escorts to bring them to Sunday Mass, should they wish. I was also told last night that Carmel said beautiful prayers with the dying which the families appreciated very much.
Carmel could be quite demanding at times, and when she decided that she needed something done she would keep at the Staff until she got her request. No matter how big or small the job was she would keep at it until she got the required result. When I was here a couple of months ago, I had spent some time with her in the evening before I was returning to Scotland. However, as I was about to leave the next morning, Sister Geraldine said “Carmel wishes to see you Rita”. I said “but I spent a long time with her last night”. Geraldine said “I know but she wants to ask you something and is down waiting near the door”.
When I came out, I said hello to Carmel and she started to talk about Kathleen who had died some time ago. I certainly knew she was not looking for bereavement counselling!! I said “listen Carmel, we have to be ever-ready like the batteries”. She said “Oh Rita, you are the funniest Provincial we have ever had.”
Now I have taken that as a compliment though with Carmel you would not know. Carmel then said “I would like to go home Rita”. I asked if there was problem. She said “no, but…”. I said “there’s no buts. Where would you go from and who would be there to meet you in Dublin?” She said almost indignantly, “my nephews are very good to me and they look after me.” I said “then there’s no problem. Off you go and enjoy yourself. Geraldine will book your ticket now and get it all sorted for you”.
She went away very happy, had a wonderful time in Ireland, came back delighted with herself. She had seen a lot of cousins and friends and had used her iPad by Face-timing people with her nephew which she was absolutely thrilled about. She then went to Herne Bay and had 2 wonderful weeks there which she thoroughly enjoyed.
I often think when older people ask to go home, there is a longing and a desire which sometimes we do not recognise but how wonderful it was that she was able to do all of this.
She also enjoyed meal times as she considered this to be a social event. But she would draw it out, eating so slowly that her companions would be really frustrated!!! But Carmel would not be rushed. Sometimes on a Sunday the Sisters would like to get out for a walk or maybe go to Kew Gardens but half the day would be gone before Carmel would finish her lunch. You have to admire the uniqueness and determination of someone like Carmel. However, this can cause frustration for others.
During her last illness she was not always able to express herself verbally, but she always managed to thank anyone who attended to her, and the staff at the Homerton Hospital were very moved by her appreciation of their care for her. Carmel did not wish anyone to know that she was not so well and had been admitted to hospital. She had her own reasons for this and we had to respect it.
On 18 March this year Mary Aikenhead was declared Venerable. There has been much rejoicing within the Province and the Congregation. It is therefore fitting that Carmel has been welcomed into Heaven by our Foundress the now Venerable Mary Aikenhead in this special year.
Sr Carmel’s life can now be summed up as “My life is being given as an offering to God, and the time has come for me to leave this life. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NCV). Or as Pope John XXIII said “My bags are packed and I am ready, very ready, to go.”
This could sum up Carmel’s last days. May she now rest in peace. Amen.