THE Sisters of Mercy have been teaching in Ennis since 1854, so the retirement of Sr Angela McMahon from the Holy Family Senior National School was particularly poignant yet bittersweet as it signalled the end of over a century and a half of teaching by the order.
Sr Angela, who is from Connolly but who now lives at Ros an Óir, has put down 42 years with the Holy Family School but retired this year having taught her final class in June.
The senior school had been under the stewardship of the Sisters of Mercy up until 1996 when Sr Áine Ní Riain retired and Margaret Cooney took up as the first lay principal there. The order continued to head the junior school up until 2007 when Sr Betty O’Riordan retired and Sharon Dilger became the first lay principal there.
Speaking about retirement, Sr Angela said she enjoyed every minute of her teaching career and outlined that it was in the junior school in the Holy Family where she first got her start having graduated from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.
Sr Angela spent a number of years in Ennis National School where she set up the school for Travellers with Sr Maura in 1972 at the site of the current tourist office. After four years, she moved to the convent in Killaloe before taking up the teaching principal post in Killaloe National School where she remained for six years. Sr Angela returned to the Holy Family thereafter where she began her 42 year career in the senior school.
“I will miss it. I’m still waking up early in the morning for school. What I would have as my one wish is that I had in some small way had an influence on at least one child during my time here,” she said.
Asked if she had a favourite class to teach, she responded, “sixth class has always been my favourite. I think with the Confirmation, and because they are really young adults.”
Speaking about the founder of the school, Mother Lelia, Sr Angela said, “She received criticism when she wanted to build the school. Her motto was ‘only the best for the children of Ennis’. I often wonder if she thought the school would house so many nationalities that she would be thrilled. There are around 19 different nationalities in the school so it has fulfilled the vision of being a school for all,” she said.
Sr Angela is looking forward now to her retirement where she expects to take some time off before returning to something in the caring profession.
“The staff here are wonderful. It is a historic occasion but I have no worries that the staff and principals here will keep up the Sisters of Mercy ethos,” she concluded.
A mass of thanksgiving will be held in the Cathedral in Ennis this Thursday to celebrate the dedication and the role of the Sisters of Mercy to education in Ennis at 1.30pm, where Bishops Kieran O’Reilly and Willie Walsh will concelebrate. This will be followed by refreshments at the Holy Family Hall.