Sister Eugene Butler
1930 – 2021
Born: 13th July 1930
Entered Religious Life: 9th November 1953
Died: 13th August 2021
Catherine Butler, daughter of Owen Butler and Annie Gilliard was born in Dublin on 13th July 1930. She was the second child of the family, her brother Tom being two years older than her.
She attended East Wall primary School until the age of eight when she transferred to the Holy Faith School. She attended the Loreto School in Balbriggan for her secondary education.
During her time in East Wall school, she observed the Principal, Sr Francis Brendan, quietly taking a child out from class on a frosty morning as she was scantily clad in a cotton dress and had broken shoes. The child also had sores on her arms and legs. Later in the day the child appeared in a warm woolly jumper, gym-slip, socks, shoes and hair and herself washed clean. The image stayed with her and influenced her in her choice of Congregation and enabled her to fulfil a deep desire in her to care for the poor.
She entered the Religious Sisters of Charity in Milltown on 9th November 1953 and was received into the Novitiate on 18th May 1954 receiving the name Sr Joseph Eugene. She was professed on 22nd May 1956.
Following her profession Sr Eugene studied in the London School of Occupational Therapy where she qualified with a diploma in 1959. She returned to Dublin and was missioned to Cappagh where she set up the Occupational Therapy Department and developed occupational therapy from just being a diversional service into a full therapeutic event working alongside the orthopaedic surgeons and nurses in the rehabilitation of patients with multiple disabilities resulting from trauma and disease. In the early days there was still the remnants of polio and many young people continued their education in Cappagh sitting their state examinations on site.
In February 1961 she moved to St. Anthony’s, Herbert Avenue where she was also engaged in the Occupational Therapy Department. She was a founding member of the Association of Occupational Therapists Ireland (AOTI) in 1965.
In 1968 she was missioned to Temple Hill and lectured in St Joseph’s School of Occupational Therapy in Dun Laoghaire. The school ran a three-year diploma course approved by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists. She was also involved in the preparation for the transfer of the School to Trinity College. In 1971 she returned to Cappagh and two years later returned to Herbert Avenue where she held the post of Senior Occupational Therapist and also supervised the Departments in Cappagh, Harold’s Cross and Baldoyle.
At the close of the International Year for Disabled Persons 1981, in response to the repeated requests of Mrs. Dorothy Hughes MBE, FRIBA, Chairperson of the Cheshire Homes Central Committee in Nairobi, Mother Francis Rose O’Flynn, Superior General, assigned two Sisters to undertake the reorganisation of the Cheshire Home at Limuru, Kenya, East Africa. In January 1982 Sr Eugene and Sr Mary Ignatius Killeen were appointed to work in Limuru Cheshire Home remained there until September 1982.
Following her time in Kenya she attended Southampton University where she obtained a Diploma in Rehabilitation Studies and returned to Herbert Avenue for a further two years.
In May 1985 she was appointed as Local Leader in St. Vincent’s Cork. Here she was responsible for the rehabilitation of a different kind in the development of Santa Barbara upgrading the living conditions of the residents and those working in the laundry.
Following her term as local leader she moved to Elm Park and was appointed to the Provincial Leadership Team. She then spent six months in Balally. In September 1993 she was appointed Provincial Leader and moved to St. Anthony’s, Herbert Avenue. During her six years in office she was instrumental in the setting up of the companies and served as director on a number of boards including the board of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.
Following her six years term as Provincial Sr Eugene took a four-month sabbatical when she visited Australia. On her return she was missioned to Bray community and continued her work in administration. In this capacity she continued her work with the Companies and also had responsibility for the management of the properties in Ireland. Following the closure of Bray she was missioned to the community at 26 Park Avenue.
In May 2019 she retired to the Care Centre in Lakelands which was one of the facilities she was instrumental in establishing during her term as Provincial Leader. She contributed in no small way to the life of a retired community bringing a sense of fun and celebration for the simpler things of life.
As a Sister she was committed to the Congregation. She had a great sense of humour and loved to be part any fun event. She had a beautiful strong singing voice which she shared generously. She also had a very aesthetic sense and was always impeccable in dress and had scarves or little accessories which added to her outgoing personality.
Following a short illness Sr Eugene died on 13th August in St. Vincent’s University Hospital. Because of a lessening in the Covid restrictions we were blessed to be able to bring her back to the convent which was a great solace to the community and her family. Her funeral Mass was celebrated in Star of the Sea Church in Sandymount after which she was laid to rest in the community cemetery in Donnybrook. May she rest in peace.