Sister Mairéad Kiernan

SISTER Mairéad Kiernan (formerly Sister M Baptist) of the Convent of Mercy, Downpatrick and Beechmount, Belfast, died peacefully on August 26, 2017.

Sr Mairéad was born on May 25, 1929 at Inan, Hill of Down, Co Meath, one of eleven children of the late Patrick and Anne Kiernan. She is survived by four of her sisters, Sr Gertrude, Sr Winifred, Maureen and Carmel, and two brothers, Michael and Jack. Her sisters, Josephine and Tess, and her brothers, Tom and Paddy, predeceased her.

Sr Mairéad was educated at Killyon Primary School, Co Meath, and the Convent of Mercy, Kells, Co Meath, where she first came into contact with the Sisters of Mercy.

She entered the Convent of Mercy, Downpatrick, on September 24, 1947, and having completed her novitiate, made Final Profession on September 5, 1953.

Following her profession, she studied at University College, Dublin, competing a BA degree in English, French and Irish. She then went for teacher training to Craiglockhart College, Edinburgh, and subsequently to the College of Business Studies, Belfast.

Sr Mairéad began her teaching career in the Convent of Mercy Primary School, Downpatrick, and taught there from 1955 until 1957 when St Mary’s High School opened, transferring there as one of the original staff.

She remained at St Mary’s for the rest of her teaching career and taught a wide variety of subjects including English, French, Irish, typewriting, shorthand, accounts, commerce and religious studies.

Most of her past pupils would remember her best as Head of Business Studies and Commerce. They also remember a very kind and caring teacher who rarely needed to raise her voice. She delivered true education in the sense of drawing out of each pupil the best of which they were capable. Generations of girls received from her an excellent preparation for a career in business or commerce.

Her former colleagues remember her generosity in supporting and encouraging them, especially in times of difficulty. She contributed greatly to making St Mary’s High School a happy environment in which to work and learn.

Sr Mairéad’s interest in the welfare of young people also extended to after school activities. She lent her support to the Patrician Youth Club, keeping it going in the old St Michael’s building when it had no permanent premises.

Sr Mairéad retired from teaching in 1989 and did a course at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin. In 1991 she went to the Convent of Mercy, Whiteabbey, where she later became local superior.

In 1994 there was an All-Ireland Union of the Sisters of Mercy. The Mercy Convents of Down and Connor became part of the Northern Province with headquarters in Clogher, Co Tyrone. In 1996, Sister Mairéad went to Clogher as secretary to the Northern Provincial Team. She remained there until 2001 when she returned to Whiteabbey where she worked as sacristan in the parish church of St James.

In 2011, she moved to the Convent of Mercy, Glenveagh Drive, Belfast, and finally, in 2014, to the Convent of Mercy, Beechmount. Even in her final years when infirmity had reduced her world practically to one room in the convent, she showed the same virtues which had characterised her throughout her life of encouragement, support and caring for others. She retained a wry sense of humour even in her final illness and died as she had lived, quietly and peacefully.

Requiem Mass for Sr Mairéad was celebrated in St Patrick’s Church, Downpatrick, on August 29. The concelebrants were Canon Sean Rogan, Father Peter Madden and Father Brendan Mulhall. The music for the Mass was provided by the parish choir.

Sr Mairéad will be lovingly remembered by her sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews, her sisters in the Mercy Community, her friends, former colleagues and past pupils, who will miss her warm smile and her gentle caring ways.