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Award for veteran missionaries

Tuesday, 17th December, 2013 4:09pm
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Award for veteran missionaries

Fr Fintan Murtagh and his sister Sr Clara Murtagh were honoured by the Irish Missionary Union at a ceremony to acknowledge Irish missionaries who had served for more than 40 years overseas.

Award for veteran missionaries

Fr Fintan Murtagh and his sister Sr Clara Murtagh were honoured by the Irish Missionary Union at a ceremony to acknowledge Irish missionaries who had served for more than 40 years overseas.

Fr Fintan Murtagh, SSC, and his sister, Sr Clara Murtagh, MSHR, natives of Piercetown, Ballynacargy, in the parish of Moyvore, were among more than 200 missionaries honoured at a ceremony in Dublin on November 27.

The occasion was organised by the Irish Missionary Union to honour Irish missionaries who had served for more than 40 years on overseas missions. Mrs Sabina Higgins, wife of the president, was the guest speaker.

Fr Fintan is a Columban missionary. He went to the Philippines in 1964 and continued to work there until he retired in 2012. Forty years ago Fr Fintan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but instead of packing up, he extended his already considerable programme of pastoral care in the parish to reach out to the disabled.

He had always helped the needy, but out of his own disability he came to recognise in a new way the needs of people suffering from polio, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, deficiency of sight, hearing or mobility and many other disabling conditions. Fr Fintan enlisted the assistance of many helpers in the Philippines and beyond and established a wide and well organised programme for disabled persons.

By the time he retired there were 1,037 people benefiting from a wide variety of programmes throughout 13 parishes in the diocese of Iba. The programme is organised in such a way that as participants become more independent, they help each other and so the programme continues.

Fr Fintan, now retired in the Columban community in Dalgan Park, continues his missionary interest and avails of modern technology, keeping in touch with his people in the Philippines through the internet and Skype.

Sr Clara was interested in the care of the sick from early childhood. Already a trained nurse, she joined the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary, Killeshandra, in 1952. She went as a missionary to Sierra Leone in 1960 and later to Nigeria. Together with other missionaries she was arrested towards the end of the Biafran war, and was imprisoned and deported. It was not long before she set out again, this time for South Africa, where she served for more than 10 years.

Sr Clara also worked in Florida. Wherever she went, Clara was renowned for her nursing skills and experience. Her care was sought, not only in the theatre, where she excelled, but in whatever situation presented itself, whether on the missions or back in her own community.

At present Sr Clara resides in the Holy Rosary Convent, Cavan, and she continues today to use her nursing caring skills to help the sisters in her own community.

Fr Fintan and Sr Clara were honoured for more 40 forty years of missionary service in far-away places. The people of Westmeath, Moyvore and Ballynacargy can be proud of two wonderful ambassadors. We thank them and wish them well in their active retirement.

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