Sr. Margaret Mary Phelan R.I.P.
Following a long illness, Sr. Margaret Mary Phelan died peacefully at Sallyville House, Wexford, in the late afternoon of August 22nd 2020. Despite here incapacity as the years took their toll, Margaret smiled and was gracious and appreciative of kindness and care shown to her. She enjoyed nature and gardening programmes on T.V. and loved a trip outdoors in her wheelchair, when weather permitted.
Margaret Mary Bridget was the only child of John and Mary (nee Purcell) Phelan of Ballygowan, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Tipperary. While her postal address was Carrick-on-Suir, Ballygowan was in the Parish of Windgap, so Margaret always considered herself a Kilkenny woman. She received her early primary education in Windgap N.S. and when she was able to cycle, she attended Owning N.S., where Sr. Paschal was her first teacher. This was her first contact with the Sisters of St. John of God.
During her time in Owning, Margaret lost both her parents. Her father’s death was a serious blow for the family, but her mother’s passing one and a half years later was truly traumatic for Margaret. She then went to live with an uncle and aunt who had no family. Having finished primary school, Margaret was sent as a boarder to the Sacred Heart School in Ferrybank, Waterford. This was followed by two years in the Mercy Domestic College in Carrick-on-Suir.
Margaret entered the St. John of God Novitiate, Wexford in February 1948, receiving the name “Ambrose” at reception. She was professed on 24th August 1950 and would have celebrated the Platinum Jubilee of that event two days after her death. Having trained in General Nursing and Midwifery in the County Hospital, Wexford and Medical Missionary of Mary Hospital, Drogheda, she nursed in Cahercalla, Aut Even, Parkton, Maypark and Ely Hospitals. She also ministered for a few years in Social Work in Owning, and later cared for the elderly in sheltered accommodation there. In Owning she enjoyed her native air and the freedom of the rural setting.
Margaret volunteered for the Aboriginal Mission in Australia in 1974 and nursed for four happy years in Derby. She returned in 1986 to spend a further two years in Balgo. During her time in Australia, she visited her cousin, Sr. Finian in Bunbury. On her return to Ireland, Margaret was called to take up leadership roles in St. John of God House, Wexford and John’s Hill, Waterford. As leader she was sensitive, caring, kind and cheerful. These were gifts she brought to all her ministries. She loved the outdoor life and the beauty and variety of nature – the Sloblands of Wexford, the hills of Owning or the beach in Tramore.
Margaret’s Requiem Mass was celebrated by Fr. Tony O’Connell in Sallyville House. Due to Covid restrictions, a limited number of cousins and Sisters attended. She was laid to rest in Foulkstown Cemetery, Kilkenny.
Margaret is sadly missed by her many cousins, the Sisters and Staff at Sallyville House, the wider St. John of God family and her many friends.
May she rest in the gentle care of her God