Little Sisters made huge contribution to St Canice’s Homes and community

AFTER 20 years of selfless, devoted service, a “Little” known order of nuns have stepped down from their role as carers for the elderly in a city parish. The Sisters of the Little Company of Mary were on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for two decades at St Canice’s Homes in the Butts and have now handed over the mantle of care to a lay person.

AFTER 20 years of selfless, devoted service, a “Little” known order of nuns have stepped down from their role as carers for the elderly in a city parish. The Sisters of the Little Company of Mary were on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for two decades at St Canice’s Homes in the Butts and have now handed over the mantle of care to a lay person.

At a function last week to mark their contribution to the community, Geoff Meagher, chairman of St Canice’s Homes spoke of the sisters pastoral care for the residents of the accommodation and day centre. “This covered seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year, whatever needed to be done it was done. The level of detail that went with everything that each of them did is what makes St Canice’s Homes what it is today.

“Secondly was their careful management of all aspects of the running costs of the centre, everything was managed tightly, if good value in buying was to be got anywhere in Kilkenny or the surrounding areas they got it. That was separate from the hours they put into all aspects of the running of the Homes over the years, way beyond any normal working week,” he said.

He referred to the adverse publicity religious orders have received in the last number of years. “I hope some day that the same publicity will be given to the huge public service so many Religious gave to this country over the years, the work of the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary here over the past 20 years is a shining example and a story the Sisters and the Order can be proud of and should be told,” he said to a rapturous round of applause at day care centre which is located in the shadow of Kilkenny Garda station.

He also praised the foresight of former parish priest of St Canice’s, Fr Pat Comerford, to invite the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary to come and manage the facility. “Even with the benefit of hindsight Fr Pat could not have envisaged what a brilliant decision that proved to be,” he said.

“Sr Catherine was the first to arrive, at that stage the houses had just been built, the Sisters residence was not complete and the centre we are now in had not even started. With no accommodation the only option for Sr Catherine was to move in with the parish priest (Fr Comerford) for the first couple of months.

“When the Sisters accommodation was finalised Sisters Alice, Noreen, Matchilde and Moira arrived over a period of time, not forgetting Sr Cammillus who passed away while here as part of the team,” Mr Meagher said.

“The first day I met Sr Catherine she was hidden behind rolls of material which she turned in to curtains for 98 windows on the complex. Not alone did she make them, she put up the rails and the curtains herself.

“This was typical of the work of the Sisters over twenty years, whilst their background was nursing they were happy to turn their hand at anything that needed to be done whether it be maintenance, cooking, nursing, chiropody, you name it and they did it.

“Once the main building work was completed and paid for most of the original Committee retired, I am delighted to see so many of them here today, they can be proud of what they started and what the Homes have become today.

Apart from Fr Comerford three lay members of the original committee remained on the board of St Canice’s Homes for the past 20 years, those were Mr Meagher, Molly Boyle who served as secretary right through until she retired last year, Paddy Mullins who was on the original committee and served as a board member all the way through until sadly he passed away late last year. his wife Nancy was present at the function.

In the early days the Sisters took charge of all the day to day activities of the Homes including setting up an Admissions Committee. That consisted of Sr Catherine, Molly Boyle and Dr Kieran Cuddihy and again that Committee worked away for the past 20 years making their decisions as to the allocation of vacant houses.

New manager, Francis Gilligan has started and since the announcement of the decision of the Sisters to leave, the parish has added two members of their Pastoral Council to the Board, Brendan Graham who is now company secretary and Angela Hanrahan,

Fr Jim Murphy spoke glowingly of the unstinting work carried out by the sisters and of the huge contribution they made to the lives of so many people over the years.