Sister Philomena Donaghey - ‘loved by many people’ throughout the Derry Diocese - is laid to rest

Sister Philomena Donaghey has been remembered at her Requiem Mass as someone who was always ‘there for people who needed her.’

The Illies-born nun, who taught many local children across Derry and beyond throughout the years, was laid to rest today, Monday. following Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Church, Cockhill.

Sister Mary Philomena, Mercy Order of the Northern Province, who sadly passed away in her 101st year, was late of Nazareth House, Fahan and Convent of Mercy, Buncrana. She was well-known and beloved by many through her educational roles in St Patrick’s PS, Pennyburn, St Mary’s in Creggan, St. Eugene’s PS and St Mary’s Secondary School for girls in Maghera, where she served as Principal.

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Sister Margaret McConalogue, conducting the Eulogy, thanked God for the ‘gift’ Sr Philomena was to the Mercy congregation and wider community.

Sister Philomena Donaghey was laid to rest today. She is pictured here on the occasion of her 100th birthday last year.

Sister Margaret said Sr. Philomena took Catherine McCauley’s maxim ‘very seriously.’

“Catherine said: ‘Need is our cloister’ and that is how Philomena acted; ever so discreetly, but she was there for people who needed her and responded with great heart and affection.”

The congregation heard how Sr. Philomena was one of the earlier generations of pupils at Scoil Mhuire in Buncrana, which recently celebrated the centenary of the Sisters of Mercy to Buncrana. Scoil Mhuire Principal Ms Rosaleen Grant and pupils from the school were in attendance yesterday.

They were also told how Sr Philomena was ‘very proud’ of her Illies roots and the principal of Illies NS, Ms Andrea Long, yesterday ‘sang so beautifully’ at the Requiem Mass.

Sr. Philomena Donaghey pictured as a young nun. DER2122GS – 056

Thanking all those who helped in the celebration of the Requiem Mass, Sr. Margaret also paid tribute to the Sisters and staff of the Nazareth House in Fahan, a ‘home from home’ for Sister Philomena, who was ‘very, very happy there,’ thanks to their ‘loving care.’

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She added how the presence of the large numbers who gathered at the Mass ‘speaks volumes.’

“Sister Philomena was known and loved by many people throughout the Diocese, through her work and her personal engagement,” mourners were told.

“She would love to know you were all gathered at this Church today, to give thanks with us.”

The Requiem Mass was celebrated by Fr John Walsh and concelebrated by Fr Clerkin. Fr Walsh told mourners how Sr. Philomena was born in Stranaclea, Illies in 1921, one of the six children of Bridget and John Donaghey.

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She entered Pump Street Convent in Derry at the age of 17 and was professed at 18 years old. Following her teaching career, Sr. Philomena became involved in many pastoral activities, such as the Meals on Wheels service, and she was particularly involved in the Society of St Vincent De Paul.

Fr Walsh described Sr. Philomena as a ‘mistress of simplicity,’ who ‘was a woman of prayer.’

“She spent her years of retirement in constant prayer. She had a great number of friends and associates and they came to her with requests for prayer. Her gentle manner endeared her to so many.’

Fr Walsh spoke of the Gospel at the Requiem Mass, which told of Simeon and the prophetess, Anna - the last of the Old Testament prophets. Anna, he said, was a ‘venerable woman, who joined with Simeon in raising a new generation and proclaiming to them the Saviour of the World.’ Sr. Philomena, he added, ‘in her own, way, was venerable and prophetic’ and gave 84 years of service, ‘primarily to young people and was an example to them.’