Sr. Margaret Heffron

SISTER Margaret Heffron of the Convents of Mercy, Downpatrick and Beechmount, Belfast, died peacefully on March 8, 2013.

St. Margaret who was born in Randalstown, Co. Antrim, on June 21, 1927, and baptised Margaret Genevieve, was one of five children of the late John and Mary Heffron. Her brothers John and Brian and her sister Rose predeceased her. She is survived by her brother Pat and his family in Sydney, Australia.

Sister received the early years of her primary education in the parish school in Randalstown. When the family moved to Belfast, she attended Star of the Sea Primary School, where she first came into contact with the Sisters of Mercy.

Her secondary education was at the Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle, from where she entered the Convent of Mercy in Downpatrick on October 3, 1944 — the Feast of the Little Flower, St. Therese. At her reception she was given the Religious name, Marie Therese.

Having completed her Novitiate she was professed as a Sister of Mercy on June 2, 1947. Following her Profession she attended Atholl Crescent College, Edinburgh, where she trained as a domestic science teacher.

On her return to Downpatrick she taught cookery and needlework, as it was then known, in the Commercial school, transferring to St. Mary’s High School when it opened in 1957. She remained there as a teacher of religious education and head of the home economics department until her retirement in June 1990.

Generations of girls from Downpatrick and the surrounding area had their first lessons in sewing, cookery and household budgeting at her hands. A mother of one of Sr. Margaret’s past pupils recently remarked that when her daughter went to St. Mary’s she couldn’t make a cup of tea, but she wasn’t long with Sr. Margaret until she could make a meal and, what was more, “You could eat it!’’

Many past pupils can recall the joy and excitement of making their first Christmas cake and pudding, the competitions for the best decorated cake, of making a dress for themselves and of learning to housekeep in “the flat’’.

St. Margaret’s own cooking was much appreciated by her nieces and nephews in Australia who recall her making “great soda bread” during her visits to them.

Throughout her teaching years and, especially, following her retirement, Sister Margaret made time to regularly visit the sick and housebound. Sunday afternoons saw her visiting Ward 7 in the Downshire Hospital where she became a special friend of the residents. At that time she was also responsible for developing and organising a baptismal programme, going to the homes of parents in preparation for the sacrament.

Sr. Margaret loved music; she was a talented violinist and was gifted with a beautiful singing voice which made her a valued member of the parish choir for many years.

Over the last three years Sr. Margaret’s health began to fail and she was lovingly cared for by the Convent staff in both Downpatrick and Beechmount, where she died on March 8.

Requiem Mass for Sr. Margaret was celebrated in St. Patrick’s Church on March 12. The concelebrants were the Very Rev. Canon Sean Rogan, P.P., the Very Rev. Canon N. Conway, Fathers G. Lyons, S. Quinn and T. Fitzsimons. They were assisted at the graveside by Fr. B. Mulhall.

The music for the Mass was provided by the parish choir with soloist Mary McCabe. The staff and pupils of St. Mary’s High School formed a guard of honour as Sr. Margaret’s remains arrived at and left the church.

In his homily, Canon Rogan described Sr. Margaret as a deeply religious person, who had a profound love of her Lord, the Good Shepherd, the Risen Saviour.

He said: “It was from this wellspring of love and respect for the Lord and His dwelling place in this church that she was engrossed with her work as sacristan for over 30 years. With all things sacred she was a perfectionist, every detail was attended to with the utmost care and devotion. Her work in the Church was truly a “labour of love for the Lord’’.

Canon Rogan reminded the congregation that Margaret from the Latin ‘Margarita’’ means ‘Pearl’’[. He said what makes a pearl precious is its lustre, the many layers of Mother of Pearl.

He added: “In Sr. Margaret’s life the many layers of devoted service which she gave as a religious sister was enhanced by her genuine holiness of life, her dedication, her quiet gentleness and fidelity to her vocation as a Sister of Mercy.’’

Sister Margaret was special and precious to so many people and will be greatly missed by her community, her brother Pat, sister-in-law Anna and family, her cousins, past pupils and the parish community.

Sr. Margaret’s Months Mind Mass will be celebrated in St. Patrick’s Church, Downpatrick, on Saturday, April 20, at 5.30pm.