Northern Ireland news

Poor Clare nun who helped build Belfast monastery laid to rest in Co Carlow

Sr Paschal (left) with Bishop Donal McKeown

A POOR Clare nun who helped build a new monastery in Belfast was laid to rest in Co Carlow yesterday.

Sister Paschal McMeel, from Toomebridge in Co Antrim, lived at the Poor Clare Monastery in north Belfast before it closed a decade ago.

Sr Paschal, who was born in 1930, died in the Poor Clare Monastery in Graiguecullen, Co Carlow, on Sunday.

Her nephew, Bishop of Derry Donal McKeown, told mourners in St Clare’s Church, Graiguecullen, yesterday that his late aunt had a "mischievous twinkle in her eye".

"In the midst of her life experiences, Ita McMeel felt a deep call to live in a community dedicated to prayer, dedicated to seeking the Lord in all things," Bishop McKeown said.

Sr Paschal McMeel formerly of the Poor Clare Monastery in north Belfast, died in Carlow on Saturday

He added: "I remember as a child seeing photos of her taking her vows. Part of the ceremony involved wearing a symbolic crown of thorns."

An accomplished violinist, Sr Paschal was the youngest of eight children.

Born Ita McMeel, she worked as a secretary at Stormont and in a BMW company before she joined the Poor Clares at the age of 25 in 1955.

Bishop McKeown said it "takes a hugely generous heart to share your life all day, every day, with a group of others, each with their own idiosyncrasies".

He said Sr Paschal had a "huge range of visitors and correspondents in the Belfast of the Troubles where so many people lost family and friends in the conflict that in a particular way affected the area surrounding the monastery on the Cliftonville Road".

"Of course whenever there were exams to be done or decisions to be taken the family circle always got in touch with Aunt Ita and the rest of the sisters," he said.

Bishop McKeown said as the children of the family "played outside in the grounds of the monastery our parents talked and shared stories about us and their worries about us".

"All kinds of people came to the monastery across community divides in Belfast," he said.

"I remember little cards arriving for first communions, confirmations or other important times of the year.

"She always remembered birthdays and wrote everything with her strong handwriting that spoke of the grace that was at work in her life."

Bishop McKeown said his aunt "enjoyed the freedom that monastic life had given her".

He said she was the driver behind a new Poor Clare Monastery built in Belfast several decades ago.

He praised her "attention to detail (and) her ability to work well with the construction workers, many of whom she knew".

But he said his aunt "had to live with the reality that the community continued to dwindle in numbers".

He said it was "very painful" for his aunt to leave Belfast, along with fellow Poor Clare Sr Mary a decade ago.

"Yet she reflected on our Lord's self-giving and trust as they found a new home in Carlow," he said.

Sr Paschal was buried in the cemetery at the Poor Clare Monastery in Graiguecullen.

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Northern Ireland news