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Sr Ethel Normoyle at the Missionvale centre

Great humanitarian Sr Ethel is mourned

SISTER Ethel Normoyle has been remembered as someone who “fully represented Irish values of solidarity, love and compassion” after she passed away this week.
The Lissycasey-born nun spent decades working in South Africa’s Port Elizabeth, renamed Gqeberha, where she founded the Missionvale Care Centre in the late ‘80s. The missionary nun’s work in South Africa saw her receive global attention, including receiving visits from Mother Teresa and Queen Elizabeth.
In the wake of her passing, the care centre have vowed to carry on and honour Sr Normoyle’s wishes “of continued compassionate care for the poor and the vulnerable”.
Sr Normoyle will be laid to rest this Thursday in her native Lissycasey at a family only service and burial, though the funeral can be viewed online by those who wish to pay their respects.
A member of the Little Company of Mary, Sr Normoyle established the Missionvale Care Centre in the Eastern Cape in 1988.
Against all odds, she set up educational and health services, and later a fully integrated community centre dedicated to the fight against poverty and HIV and AIDS. She followed in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela as a recipient of the Tipperary Peace Award in Ireland in 1996.
Other awards include being honoured by South African President Kgalema Motlanthe with the Order of the Grand Counsellor of the Baobab in Silver in 2009 for her excellent service to society, caring for the vulnerable members of her community.
However, despite the many accolades, Sr Ethel remained humble, dedicating her life to the people of Gqeberha and served the community of Missionvale with dedication and selflessness.
It is understood Sr Normoyle had been diagnosed with lung cancer in the last number of months, and had returned to Ireland to be with friends and family. She passed away on Monday in the care of doctors and staff at Milford Care Centre.
Tributes have been paid to Sr Normoyle in recent days. The Ambassador of Ireland to South Africa, Fionnuala Gilsenan, said news of Sr Normoyle’s passing left “deep sadness”.
“The Irish community in South Africa has lost a very special person, with the passing of Sister Ethel Normoyle. The people of Missionvale will miss her sorely.
“She fully represented Irish values of solidarity, love and compassion; it is hard to describe to those who did not meet her, the determination and tenacity that she bought to her work on behalf of those less fortunate.
“She leaves behind a rich legacy, which will continue to inspire those who share her principle that every person has the right to human dignity. Ar deis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.”
The Missionvale Care Centre confirmed the passing of the “incredible Sr Ethel” on Monday.
“She slipped away peacefully this morning and in the presence of her two beloved sisters, Geraldine and Máire who have been by her side since her return home to Ireland a month ago.
“This immense loss is felt so deeply by thousands of you around the world. Our hearts ache with yours.”
The statement went on, “Our heartfelt and eternal gratitude goes to her family and the Little Company of Mary for sharing her with us for so many years. We will carry on and honour her wishes of continued compassionate care for the poor and the vulnerable. We commit ourselves to being what we love most about our dear Sister Ethel who has now gone, but has not gone far.”
A spokesperson for Ballynacally/Lissycasey Parish said, “We thank God for her wonderful life of service to the poor and for the incredible difference she has made to so many families.
“Her compassion, care and hard work will never be forgotten. She has been an inspiration to people of all ages both in Missionvale and in Ireland. Her legacy will live on.”
Ennis based journalist Colm Flynn, who in 2012 filmed a programme with Sr Normoyle in South Africa, said, “Over the space of 50 years she worked like an angel, helping the poorest of the poor in South Africa during the dark apartheid years. And despite being shunned by many, spat on and threatened by the police, she continued to live with the black community and built a remarkable school and healthcare centre in the impoverished township of ‘Missionvale’.
“She was visited by the Queen of England and Mother Teresa who marvelled at how she was caring for those most in need.”
Also paying tribute Michael McNamara TD stated “Sister Ethel’s humanitarian work in South Africa, including the development of children’s health, nutritional and educational programmes, rightly garnered international attention and acclaim.”
Sr Ethel Normoyle is survived by her loving family, sisters Máire (Talty), Claire (Corley) and Geraldine (Cummins), brother Jerome, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and extended family members. The funeral mass at 1.30pm this Thursday can be viewed on the Lissycasey parish webcam at www.ballynacally.com

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