On Sunday April 24 there was a Thanksgiving Celebration at the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel to honour the presence and service of our Sisters over 30 years. Sr Teresa Nolan, Sr Barbara Carroll and Sr Stephanie Coughlan represented all the sisters who had served there. Sr Teresa was joined by her niece Teresa, who accompanied her on the journey from London. Fr Martin Chambers PP had long wished for a more fitting occasion to thank our sisters than was possible in August 2020 amid the Covid restrictions, when Sr Barbara Carroll said farewell on behalf of our sisters.
At that time the parish had also been shocked and saddened by the news that Sr Imelda James had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease after she had moved to St Joseph’s Home in Newcastle. She died in April 2021. The Thanksgiving Mass was also an occasion to remember her with gratitude, as she had given many years service to the people of Kilmarnock and Stewarton together with Sr Teresa Nolan, and had been much loved and appreciated.
It was in October 1987 that Sr Teresa Nolan and Sr Margaret Gaffney first came to the parish in Kilmarnock, living in a council house among the people. Over the coming years several sisters came to serve there and later in the neighbouring parish of Stewarton. The celebrations on the 24 April were a time of acknowledging with gratitude and joy the presence of our sisters which had really touched the lives of the local people in many ways. Fr Martin spoke of this at the beginning of Mass.
After the Gospel Sr Teresa shared something of her life and ministry now as she continues to assist newcomers to our country with English lessons. At the end of Mass Fr Martin blessed the plaque that had first been installed in 1999 when we first left Kilmarnock, only to return later. The wording had been adapted for today.
After the Eucharistic Celebration gifts were presented to the sisters, who then joined parishioners for tea, coffee and a celebratory cake, with the opportunity to renew acquaintances. We were then invited to a festive meal in the Park Hotel, joined by the 3 Nigerian Sisters who have come to continue the mission in Kilmarnock, and who live in the parish house as we did over the past few years there. Fr Martin was joined by our friend Fr Eddie McGhee, who had been PP for a time there too. He gave a great tribute to Sr Teresa before the meal, and also acknowledged how much the presence of our sisters had touched the lives of the people. We were delighted that our friend Frances McCann shared the meal with us. She had done so much to assist Fr Martin in planning the celebrations, and had also made several journeys to the airport to meet our sisters, as well as taking them for their return journeys on Monday. We appreciate all she has done for us.
This was a beautiful occasion of thanksgiving for our sisters shared with the parishioners together with Fr Martin Chambers and Fr Eddie McGhee. We can truly say “We rejoice and are glad”.
Magnificat anima mea Dominum