01 Oct 2022

'She will be hugely missed' Laois community mourns beloved Presentation nun

'She will be hugely missed' Laois Sister dies after a lifetime of dedicated work

Sr Rosarii from Mountmellick, and formerly Stradbally, has passed away. Photo: Denis Byrne

The death has taken place of a Laois Presentation sister who spent her long life in dedicated servitude to God, having joined her order 72 years ago.

Sr Rosarii (Noreen) Fennelly, Presentation Sisters, Bridge Street, Mountmellick and ‘Shalom’, Nursing Home, Kilcock, and originally of Bawn, Stradbally, Laois, died peacefully aged 93, on Monday, August 23 2021, in the loving care of the staff of the Mater Hospital, Dublin. 

There has been a rush of fond condolences from the Mountmellick community at her passing, many recalling her teaching in school, guiding them as altar servers as the church Sacristan, and also a friend.

Mountmellick Parish Priest Fr Micheál Murphy has paid tribute to Sr Rosarii, who taught in Mountmellick for some 40 years and had also served as church sacristan for almost 50 years since 1971, only retiring less than two years ago.

"She was an exceptional teacher, kind, thorough and caring. She was also so dedicated in her work as a sacristan, which carried responsibility for the linen, vestments, altar, flowers, the whole lot. She kept it spotlessly clean and tidy. She was one of a kind," he said.

"She taught the whole town over her time. She had gone to school herself in St Mary's College so if she was perhaps 13 starting there, you could say she has been associated with the Presentation Sisters for 80 years. 

"As a hobby she loved playing bridge too and was faithful to her companions there. She will be hugely missed, by her family, by the community of sisters who were her second family, and by the community of Mountmellick who were like her third family," Fr Murphy said.

Sr Rosarii made her First Profession as a Presentation Sister in 1949. She taught in the Presentation Primary School until 1971 when the new schools on Davitt Road were built. She subsequently taught in Scoil Iósaif Naofa and Scoil Phádraig Naofa for some years until her retirement in 1992.

It was in 1971 she took over as sacristan in St Joseph’s Parish Church, training in her successor Annette Dempsey in all the minute and specific details of the job before finally retiring in recent years. She was able to return with the sisters to the recently renovated convent in Mountmellick for a time before she moved into the Shalom nursing home.

It was in June 2019 that Sr Rosarii was presented with the Benemerenti Medal for her 48yrs as sacristan in St Joseph’s Church, along with retired Parish Priest Fr Frank McNamara at a joint ceremony in St Joseph's Church by Bishop Denis Nulty. (pictured below, pic: Denis Byrne).

At the time Bishop Nulty warmly praised their lifelong ministries.

“The ministry of both Sr Rosarii and Fr MacNamara to the parish has been remarkable and their marvellous commitment is rightly being honoured,” he said.

It was for her work and commitment as Sacristan that the Benemerenti Medal, bestowed only by the Pope on people who have exhibited long and exceptional service to the Church, was awarded to her.

“Her attention to cleanliness and tidiness meant that it was always a pleasure to walk into the sacristy in Mountmellick,” said Bishop Nulty.

As well as taking care of vestments, linens and sacred vessels, he said “her beautiful handwriting in all the parish registers will be admired and appreciated forever making it very easy for generations to come to source details of baptisms, marriages and funerals”.

“Sr Rosarii’s kindly manner and céad míle fáilte for everyone speaks volumes of the respect and understanding she showed people throughout her life and work, both as a múinteoir and a sacristan,” the bishop said.

For Sr Rosarii's funeral, the Convent is private. Evening Prayer will be in St Joseph’s Parish Church, Mountmellick at 6 pm on Tuesday, August 24. Funeral Mass at 11 am on Wednesday, August 25. Both occasions are private to Sr Rosarii’s family and the Presentation Sisters and limited to 50 attendees in accordance with Government guidelines.

Burial in St Joseph’s Cemetery following the Mass. The Mass can be viewed on the parishwebsite here, and people are welcome to show their respects by lining the funeral route.

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