Sisters' quiet prayer and presence will be missed
HEARTS were heavy with fondness, respect and gratitude in Middletown and Tynan as the parish said farewell to the Sisters of St Louis, who are leaving after more than 140 years' service.
With just four sisters remaining, it was becoming difficult to sustain the Middletown community.
Sister Canice Durkan and Sister Fionnuala O Hanlon will move to the St Louis Convent in Monaghan, and Sister Mary Healy and Sister Carina Muldoon will move to Armagh.
A farewell Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin in St John's Church, Middletown on Sunday, with the people of the parish turning out in force to express their thanks to the Sisters, who have long been at its heart.
"The Sisters have carried out many roles, from teaching in the local primary and secondary schools, to training and facilitating the church choir," said one parishioner.
"But it is for their quiet prayer and presence that they will be most missed."
The Order was founded in Juilly, France in 1842 and first came to Ireland in 1858.
They arrived in Middletown on June 21 1875, and in the following year opened a National School.
In 1881 they set up a home for orphan children, which later became St Joseph's Training School, and in its early days the Sisters also ran a farm which provided some of the food needed for the convent and the orphanage.
At one time, there 30 Sisters in the community. But with numbers declining, in 2010 the Order moved from the large convent to a modest bungalow outside the village.