Sister Eileen Sheehy
1935 – 2011
Born: 16th November 1935
Entered Religious Life: 8th October 1956
Died: 29th October 2011
Appreciation of Sr Eileen Sheehy
Obituary of Sr Eileen by Sr Mairead Doyle RSC
Eileen Sheehy, the eighth of nine siblings, was born in Dingle on 16 November 1935. Life was simple and tough in the Ireland of those times. When Eileen was only a toddler and her brother Muiris not yet born, her father died. Her mother, a resourceful woman, managed with the help of family and friends to rear a great family. On completing her education at Colaiste Ide Eileen worked for a short time in Dingle. She learned about the Sisters of Charity from her reading of the Little Flower magazine and wrote to Sister Mary Joan who helped her in discerning about her future. Eileen entered Milltown in October 1956 and was one of a very large group.
As a young sister Eileen studied at Carysfort Training College and began her ministry of Education in Tramore, Co Waterford where she taught both in the Primary school and at the Secondary Top level. Hers was not a narrow ‘points dictated’ rat race but Education in the fullest sense of that word. She inculcated a love of beauty, trust, fun, happiness and respect in her pupils, which was basic to being able to imbibe the information she wanted to pass on.
During her time as Irish teacher in Stanhope St. Secondary School Eileen and Anne O’Leary, one of her teacher colleagues, took a group of pupils to Kerry to help them with their Irish. The place was Smerwick – a remote Gaeltacht area. It was indeed here that Eileen herself had imbibed her great store of Irish from her maternal Grandmother. After only a day, one of the pupils found the countryside all too much and had to be shipped back post haste to her parents in Dublin. The rest learned to love the experience. They climbed and swam, walked and cycled and were never so alive. They even had fun experimenting with the Gaeilge. Another of that group spoke to Sr. Mary O’Toole at the time of Eileen’s death and still had great memories of that trip. It had, she said, been a significant growth period in her experience.
Eileen was always ready to go and do what was asked of her. This meant being available to teach now in the Primary school and again in the Secondary; now as Principal and again as teacher. She found her calling in all of these situations and made a difference in the lives of all who came into contact with her. Beginning in Tramore Eileen also ministered in Stanhope St., King’s Inns St., Benada, Crumlin, Cork and Walkinstown.
Eileen was welcoming, open, understanding, compassionate, just and loving. Whether in the convent, the school or just meeting people Eileen was there with a smile of welcome. She liked to listen to peoples’ stories and engage totally with what she heard. Whether it was in soothing a little child who was upset in school, a teacher or parent with a problem, or a chat with one of the domestic staff or one of her friends, Eileen was there to listen and help in any way she could.
Eileen’s spirit of compassion prompted her in her midlife to be very interested in healing. She even dedicated her Sabbatical to pursuing a study of the alternative medicines and therapies. She went so far as to train as a reflexologist in order to be able to bring some relief to people in their sufferings.
To relieve the suffering of little children Eileen introduced ‘Rainbows’ to Walkinstown schools. She loved this programme because it brought such obvious relief to the young children burdened by an experience of loss. This loss could have been death, but more often it was the trauma caused by the break up of a marriage or some other domestic problem. In order to raise funds for this programme Eileen walked many a marathon and encouraged others to do so as well.
Eileen had a very strong sense of justice and was fearless in upholding the distressed or downtrodden.
Eileen’s love of beauty stemmed from the breath-taking landscapes and seascapes of Kerry that were so dear to her. This gave her a wonderful appreciation of people, birds, animals, trees, plants, rivers, mountains and all of God’s creation. This inspired a passion in her for the Environment, the careful use of resources, respect and gratitude for the abundance of the fruits of the earth and also a desire to share these more evenly with all. Eileen tended her plants in the convent and school with the same loving care as she looked after the people that God put in her path. Some really healthy plants adorned the windows in the convent and the corridors of the school at the time of her death.
Eileen returned to her beloved Kerry to refresh her soul in the beauty of its scenery and the wholesomeness of her people on every possible occasion. She was very close to her family and they returned her love wholeheartedly. When younger she loved the challenge of the mountains and she was ever-ready, when Brandon wasn’t enshrouded in clouds, to set out with Peggy and Michael (her sister and brother-in-law) and whoever else was around on the arduous climb. Latterly she was contented to walk and admire the heights from below!
Eileen’s capacity for friendship was phenomenal – as was witnessed during the days following her death and the outstanding turn out for her funeral. She was a true follower of Jesus and Mary Aikenhead. May she rest in the peace of God’s love.
Ar dheis De go raibh a hanam dilis. Amen