THE Saint Catherine’s College community gathered last week to celebrate the life and achievements of Sister Nora Smyth who has retired to Cedar House in Mount Anville, Dublin.
In celebration of a remarkable 74 years of service to the school, family members, close friends, colleagues from the wider school community and former and current staff attended the special thanksgiving Mass which was celebrated in the school’s Sacred Heart Chapel by Father Peter McAnenly and Deacon Eunan McCreesh.
Sister Nora’s personal involvement with St Catherine’s began in 1948 when she joined as a boarding pupil. At that stage, little did anyone know that she would go on to become part of the school’s fabric.
Her enrolment as a student was a continuation of a family line, for the Smyth’s involvement with the Convent Road seat of learning can be gauged by the fact that three generations attended St Catherine’s, with Sister Nora’s grandmother, mother and sisters all having been educated there.
She duly joined the Society of the Sacred Heart, and having returned to the school as a teacher, Sister Nora served in that capacity for many years.
But she also worked in Canada for a time, in addition to which she became well known for her publication of ‘Going for the Cure’ - a book on traditional treatments and remedies for all manner of ailments and conditions.
As well as having graced the medium of print, she has been no stranger to the world of broadcasting either, for over the years her words of wisdom featured regularly in BBC Radio Ulster’s breakfast time ‘Thought for the Day’ slot.
Referring to that and the impact of her messages, Father McAnenly said, “They were thought provoking and not just well written but beautifully delivered on the airwaves.
“I remember in one of her reflections a few years ago she talked about all of us being called to serve, and she said that one of the most valuable things you can give to a person in need is your time and your interest.”
St Catherine’s Principal, Mrs Noeleen Tiffney, paid Sister Nora a glowing tribute in which she stressed her contribution to the society beyond the confines of the college as well as within them.
The Principal said, “Sister Nora’s 74-year association with our school has been rich and varied.
“Her time in Armagh has been spent in the service of others - and not exclusively for our benefit, for the wider community [also] has benefited significantly from her presence.”
And Mrs Tiffney underlined the regard, respect and affection in which their long-time colleague was - and still is – held, by adding these words: “Irreplaceable, she leaves for Dublin with the affection of those of us who are privileged to have known and worked with her.”
Fr McAnenly's words of appreciation were equally warm and complimentary.
Speaking at the thanksgiving Mass, having listed Sister Nora's many qualities, he finished by saying, “I’ve had the privilege of being involved with her on different projects and working closely with her on different things over the last number of years and this morning I want to publicly thank her on behalf of all in our parish for all that she has done and for all that she has given over the years.
“I thank her for her kindness to the priests and the people of our parish and for the many ways in which she encouraged so many of us.”
Then addressing his words to her directly, he continued, “What I’ve always admired about you, Sister Nora, is the fact that you were never afraid to speak your mind or tell it as it is and you were never afraid to be that critical voice when it needed to be heard.
“And so, Sister Nora, your approach has always been taking on the Lord’s yoke and making the load light for others.
“ Again and again, you have been a source of great light and hope and strength for others.
“On behalf of all of us here this morning, and on behalf of all associated with our parish, thanks for your generosity and for your time, thanks for your wisdom and for your love.
“But above all else, thank you for being yourself.
“May God continue to bless you, both now and forever.”