Lives Remembered

Sr Canice Durkan: Middletown sister was caring, generous and fun-loving soul

SR Canice Durkan was renowned for her joyful enthusiasm, musical talent and kindness to the people of Middletown, Co Armagh and beyond.

Mary Carmel Durkan was born on July 12 1929 in Foxford, Co Mayo and went to secondary school run by the Sisters of St Louis in Kiltimagh.

During her time there she recognised her vocation to be a teacher with the order and entered the novitiate in Monaghan in 1948.

Her brother Sean was also ordained a priest for their native diocese of Killala.

As a novice Sr Canice volunteered for missionary work and expected to be sent to Nigeria or Ghana, but instead joined a relatively new mission in California in 1953.

For many years she taught 7th and 8th grades in junior high schools in Los Angeles, Malibu and Long Beach, mainly in religion and history.

In 1975 Sr Canice was appointed a regional leader and was involved in setting up a mission in Brazil.

She returned to Ireland in 1980 as a result of election to the St Louis Central Leadership Team based in Dublin. From there team members visited St Louis communities and missions, keeping up to date with developments.

She was assigned to Middletown in the late 1980s where she worked in the St Joseph’s After-Care Programme.

Music was an important part of her ministry and she was always involved with school choirs in her different assignments.

In Middletown she had an opportunity to conduct the parish choir in St John’s Church and assist on special occasions in St Joseph’s, Tynan.

Sr Canice brought a range of music to the liturgy and her unique style of gesticulating theatrically in the air and encouraging everyone to develop their talents in music to the greater glory of God will always be remembered.

She would tell everyone to sing with gusto and even when the choir couldn’t reach the high notes that she set, she loved every one of them all anyway. She lived life with gusto and so should we.

Sr Canice loved Middletown, always saying she felt at home there, and Middletown loved her.

While her heart was always with her home county of Mayo, she also took great pride in the achievements of the Middletown GAA club and represented it in Scór competitions down through the years.

In 2010 the convent closed but Sr Canice remained in the parish with other sisters in a modest bungalow just outside the village.

In August 2018 she moved to the St Louis Convent in nearby Monaghan but kept in touch with parishioners in Middletown & Tynan and continued to offer prayer and comfort to many in times of need.

She was also a great support to her fellow sisters during the Covid lockdowns and the day before her death, she was entertaining them with her party trick of playing the fiddle behind her back.


Sr Canice died suddenly on April 27, during the Easter season. She had a special love for the Easter ceremonies, especially for the prayer at the Paschal Candle on Holy Saturday: “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, all time belongs to Him, and all the ages; to Him be glory and power, through ever age and forever. Amen.”

May her caring, generous, and fun-loving soul rest in God's peace.

Patrick John Brady

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Lives Remembered