By Sarah Mac Donald - 04 October, 2014
The funeral Mass for Sr Frances Forde and Sr Marie Duddy was held at Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne, north Belfast.
In his homily, Fr Gary Donegan, who knew both of them, paid tribute to the two nuns who had “dedicated their lives to education”.
He said Sr Marie left “a legacy as an enthusiastic educationalist, expressed in second and third level education, here in Belfast and Nigeria.”
Of Sr Frances, Fr Donegan said she “devoted her life to the children of Mercy Primary on the Crumlin Road. As principal, her maxim was ‘be good to the teachers and to the staff’. How edifying it is to find people falling over each other, ex pupils and staff, trying to express how important she was in their lives,” the Passionist priest said.
Elsewhere, Fr Donegan noted, “It is not lost on us that these two ladies, who dedicated their lives to education, died on the Feast of St Jerome, synonymous with education.”
Sr Frances and Sr Marie were both based at the Mercy Sisters’ Ballysillan House on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast.
They were on their way to an event at the Dromantine Retreat Centre in Newry at the time of the crash, which happened on the A1 outside Newry in Co Down.
Three policemen were in the other vehicle but they were not seriously injured. The incident is being investigated by the Police Ombudsman.
The Mercy Sisters of the Northern Province paid tribute to both nuns.
In a statement, they said Sr Marie could be described as an enthusiastic ‘educationalist’ as she had been involved in a wide variety of educational pursuits at Second and Third Level in Belfast and in Minna in Nigeria.
Further to teaching in Mercy College, she went on to lecture in St Joseph’s Training College now St Mary’s University College and also at the School of Education at Queen’s University.
On her return from Nigeria, Sr Marie became involved in various organisations especially the Committee of Christian and Jewish Interfaith Relations of which she was secretary for some years.
Her deep commitment to the Northern Ireland Hospice was a part of her life for many years, especially in her role as librarian.
She also served on the Board of Governors of both Mercy Primary and Mercy College, and her order described her expertise and experience as “an invaluable resource in the face of educational challenge and change.”
The statement concluded that “Sr Marie is deeply loved by her Family Circle and her Mercy Community in North and West Belfast and Downpatrick. The Sisters mourn her tragic loss but with grateful hearts acknowledge Marie’s life of Love and Service to all in need.”
Of Sr Frances, the Mercy Sisters said she had devoted her life to the education of the young.
“The pupils of Mercy Primary School, Crumlin Road, Belfast were the centre of her world for over 40 years, first as teacher and then as principal. Her favourite maxim was ‘Be good to the pupils and to the staff’.”
Her long career of “faithful service” earned her the love and respect of many people in North Belfast and beyond in the greater Belfast Area.
On her retirement, Sr Frances became immersed in the Parish of Holy Cross, Ardoyne and “could have been described as a ‘walking nun’, a term often used to describe the first Sisters of Mercy in Dublin.”
She was fully committed to the ideals and ethos of Mercy and to the needs of the people.
“She is deeply loved by her Family Circle and the Community of Mercy in Belfast and Downpatrick. The Sisters of Mercy mourn her loss through a tragic accident. We thank God for the example of Frances’s life lived to the full in Love of God and Service of God’s people.”