Sr. Philomena Donaghey who celebrated her 100th birthday at Nazareth House Fahan yesterday afternoon pictured with relatives. DER2122GS – 054

Sister Philomena turns 100 at Nazareth House

What is the secret to a long life? According to one local centenarian, you should “put more life into your years, and you’ll end up with more years in your life”.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 4:13 pm

That is the advice of Sister Philomena Donaghey, who turned 100 yesterday surrounded by family and friends during a special celebration at the Nazareth House in Fahan.

The Buncrana native spoke to the ‘Journal’ this week, in what has been a busy time of celebrations.

“We had an outing to Ards on Tuesday on a minibus, we had a day of it. We started at 1.30, and got there for 3pm. We started off with a picnic, and when we had finished,  we could do anything we liked.

“We were so happy after the tea and the sweet stuff. We were free then, the church was open so we could avail of the spiritual affairs, you could go in, and if you wanted to go to confession you could.

“That kept us going for a good while, between walking about and surveying everything.  We went back to Inishowen again, and had fish and chips on the way, that kept us quiet for a good wee while,” she said.

Sr. Philomena was born on June 3, 1921 in Buncrana. She explained that her mother passed away when she was only an infant. “I had  a very short while with my mother, she died when I was two. I was taken to a cousin’s house not far from home, and when school started I had to come down home, because it was too far away.”

Sister Philomena as a girl then started in St. Joseph’s School in the Illies, before completing her studies in Buncrana.

“Having finished my Leaving Certificate, I thought about religious life, and nobody stopped me, in fact it was encouraged.

“I entered the Sisters of Mercy in Derry. Having finished my spiritual training, I was sent to St. Mary’s training college in Belfast, where I became a teacher. I taught in Derry all my teaching career,” she added.

Sister Philomena taught many children at Patrick’s P.S. Pennyburn, St Mary’s in Creggan and also in Maghera. She started and finished her teaching career at St. Eugene’s Primary School.

Following her retirement in the early 1980s, she then took up charity work with St Vincent De Paul, helping out in the shop, until ill health and age meant that she had to stop. 

Sr. Philomena moved to the Nazareth House in 2011, and said that everything there is “excellent.”

“My nieces and nephews are very attentive. 

“Before Covid we had Mass said every day, but it isn’t quite as often now,” she added.

Speaking about the last year and the pandemic, Sr. Philomena said: “It was quiet, there were no visitors coming and going.

“I do a lot of reading, so I never found a day long.”

A very Happy 100th Birthday to Sister Philomena!

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