By Áilín Quinlan
A 99-YEAR-OLD West Cork nun has received a prestigious Papal honour for distinguished service to her church and to her community.
Former schoolteacher Sr Alphonsus O’Brien of the Presentation Convent in Bandon, received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr John Buckley.
Describing Sr Alphonsus as ‘an extraordinary woman’ who encouraged others to develop their gifts and talents, Dr Buckley said she was ‘a woman of deep faith’ whose work was ‘was an overflow of her prayer life.’
A former primary school teacher and a passionate drama teacher, Sr Alphonsus, who also worked in the area of speech therapy, was long renowned for her production of spectacular Passion Plays in the town of Bandon every Good Friday, as well as beautifully staged Nativity Plays in the local church during the Christmas season – she featured in a Nationwide programme on RTE some months ago.
‘She is a woman of many talents, and with many gifts, a very good person who is extremely well known in the area,’ said Dr Buckley, who said that the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice award had been established by Pope Leo on 1888 and was given only for distinguished service to the church to members of religious orders and lay people.
The medal given to her recently in St Patrick’s Church Bandon, was not one presented lightly, said Dr Buckley.
‘It is presented on important occasions to people who have made a remarkable contribution to other people and to their church,’ he said, adding that former recipients included Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary and singer Frank Patterson. ‘Sr Alphonsus has done so much for both younger and older people in Bandon and in the West Cork region, and encouraged young people to develop their talents and gifts.’