Northern Ireland news

Cuan Mhuire addiction centre's Sr Kathleen remembered for compassion and empathy

Sr Kathleen O’Connor (86), who was programme director of Cuan Mhuire in Newry for 30 years, died on Tuesday 
Marie Louise McConville

A NUN who “touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people” in recovery from addiction has been remembered for her “great compassion and empathy” following her death at the age of 86.

Sr Kathleen O’Connor, who had been programme director of Cuan Mhuire in Newry for 30 years, died on Tuesday at Our Mother of Mercy Nursing Home in the city.

A Convent of Mercy nun, Sr Kathleen formerly worked at St Colman’s College in Newry before she moved to Cuan Mhuire, Ireland’s largest voluntary provider of addiction treatment services and residential rehabilitation.

The charitable organisation was founded by pioneering Irish Mercy nun Sr Consilio who was a trained nurse and midwife and who recognised the need for residential rehabilitation.

As programme director, Sr Kathleen worked with those in recovery from addiction and introduced a new programme, with a focus “on the side of compassion”.

Years later, she also became involved with Davina’s Ark, which provides specialised services for individuals, families and young people affected by addiction.

Former Newry politician Pat McGinn, who is involved with Cuan Mhuire, said Sr Kathleen had “a great way with people”.

Mr McGinn, who was helped in his own recovery from alcohol addiction by Sr Kathleen, said the popular nun “touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people”.

“She had great compassion and great empathy for people,” he said.

“She had great skills. She was at her most comfortable sitting with people in the early stages of their recovery.”

The former Sinn Féin councillor said Sr Kathleen was “always willing” to share the programme with others.

“Over the years, she would have gone anywhere to do her talks,” he said.

“She was instrumental in my own recovery. She just didn’t talk about caring. She showed it.

“She was a very professional as a counsellor. She was a great influence on all those who went on to become counsellors. She was a great example. She was special.

“Sr Kathleen touched the lives of hundreds if not thousands of people. People not only in addiction, who were struggling, but also their families and she will always be the wee nun of Kerry who would dance at the crossroads.”

Many of those who were helped by Sr Kathleen over the years yesterday took to social media to pay tribute to her and the work she had undertaken.

One woman, who is in her 21st year of sobriety, wrote that she would “never as long as I live be able to thank this gentle soul for helping me with her wisdom and guidance from the very moment we met and through the years,” while another added: “Sr Kathleen was my angel in life, she loved me when I believed I was unloved, she helped me when I was helpless and she paved my road back to a God of my understanding”.

Another post read: “RIP Sr Kathleen, the help I got from you during Christmas ‘98 and after saved my life and helped turn my life around.”

Requiem Mass for Sr Kathleen will be celebrated today at noon in The Emmanuel Chapel on Catherine Street, Newry. Burial will take place afterwards in the Convent Cemetery.

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