Sister Joseph Brigid Sinnott
1922 - 2016
Born: 2nd July 1922
Entered Religious Life: 9th October 1944
Died: 30th November 2016
The eulogy given at Sr Joseph Brigid's funeral Mass
by Sr Rita Dawson, Provincial of the English/Scottish Province
I would like to acknowledge those in attendance here today from Sr Brigid’s family – Sr Austin and Sadie, James and Peter Byrne, James Sinnott and his sister Sarah, Shen and his wife Mary and Breda Sinnott.
On behalf of the Congregation, the family and the Hackney Community here, I should like to say a special thank you to Father David Evans, not only for his presence here today but for all the support he gives to this Community.
Our very sincere thanks to all of the staff on the Care Floor for their tremendous care and love shown to Sr Brigid, especially during her final weeks. A special thanks to Sr Geraldine and Sr Helena for the beautiful care and support to Sr Brigid over many years. Also to the Community for their visits and prayerful friendship.
I should like to say a special thanks to Sr Mary Christian, Congregational Leader, for being here with us today and to all the Sisters who have travelled to be with us in thanksgiving for Sr Brigid’s life and her dedication as a Sister of Charity.
Sister Joseph Brigid Sinnott, who was baptised Mary, was the eldest born of eight children, 5 girls and 3 boys, to her loving parents Brigid Gahan and James Sinnott.
They lived happily if not luxuriously on a farm on Coolroe, near Tullow in Co Carlow, Ireland. Sadly Sr Brigid’s mother died in childbirth aged thirty-nine years.
Brigid’s only surviving sister, Nancy, emigrated to America. Her other three sisters Brigid (Bridie), Kathleen, and Sarah have all died. Her sister Sarah was known within the Sisters of Charity as Sr Mary Laboure. The brothers of the family are Mick, Dick and Seanie, all living nearby in Ireland.
One of Sr Brigid’s early memories is of cycling four miles to school.
In later years when Srs Brigid and Mary Laboure could arrange their annual leave together, which was not always possible due to their missionary work abroad, they had a well-deserved holiday near their home in Ballyvaloo. They were usually accompanied by another Sister of Charity, their cousin Sr Austin Gahan and their married sister Bridie would join them for the second week.
After completing her nurse training in Dublin, and Midwifery training in London, Sr Brigid had varied healthcare experiences which took her to England, Zambia, Venezuela and Scotland – she lived in 12 Communities throughout the world over the years.
Sr Brigid worked in the following Houses - Harold's Cross, Cappagh (twice), Elm Park, Walthamstow (twice), Choma, Chikuni, Namwala, Marycrest (twice), Venezuela, Airdrie (twice), Rock Ferry and Hackney.
As well as her nursing experience, Sr Brigid was also Local Leader in Walthamstow for 11 years. During her time in Walthamstow a letter was sent out from the Generalate asking for volunteers to open a new foundation in Venezuela. Sister Brigid volunteered, not thinking she would be asked. It was an awful shock for her when she was accepted. However she received this news, and although anxious, she set off joyfully to South America.
Sr Brigid underwent hip replacement surgery after a fall in 2002 and 2003. Unfortunately, the surgery was unsuccessful resulting in poor mobility and leaving her bed/chair bound. Having looked after so many for so long, Sr Brigid retired to Hackney in 2007 when she was in need of care herself. Sr Brigid was very quiet but was always extremely pleasant, cheerful and greatly appreciated the comfort she had and for all that was done for her. She was a woman of prayer and sensitivity, and had a great love of Mary Aikenhead.
Sr Brigid’s favourite television programme was ‘Dad’s Army’. Peals of laughter would ring out from her room as she watched the programme. The nurses were always fascinated listening to her outside the door because her laughter made them laugh.
On a Sunday, she loved to go for a drive to their local seaside resort West Kirby, where she would walk around the lake and have some afternoon tea, and catch up with Sr Nuala going back on many happy memories.
As Brigid died at the beginning of Advent, in Ireland we were always told if you went to God during Advent or Lent, you went straight to Heaven. Advent is a time when God asks us to shed one more coat of awareness, one more dream state and come alive to the vision of God’s plan for each of us and the world-at-large.
As children we had a sense of wonder. Our eyes were wide open in anticipation of the fascinating gifts we held. We had a thirst to learn and we could not get enough of the wonders of the world. The older we get, the harder this is to do.
Somehow, we have grown too old to dream. We have become tired of the fascination of the world, or at least we are growing weary of keeping up with the times and changes in life.
The natural gift of wonder God gave us as children was meant to be kept alive throughout our lives. Instead we have let it go to sleep and joined the typical dream state of most humans.
Why else does Jesus tell us today, ‘Stay awake!’…Advent says, ‘Wake up and realize the gifts of love you have received.’
Advent is concerned with the very connection between memory and hope. Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope. It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.
Brigid will now have experienced the awakening and fulfilment of the dreams and desires already lived. During Advent, let us all awaken our memories of Brigid and remember her great contribution to the Congregation.
May Brigid now Rest In Peace.