Sister du Sacre Coeur was born Mary Julie Byrne in Dublin on 22 April 1927. From a family of five, two boys and three girls, she was known as ‘May’ by her family. After attending local schools she completed a commercial course in shorthand, typing and bookkeeping. For seven years, May worked as a secretary and bookkeeper, or personal assistant as it would be known today, to a solicitor in Dublin. When she told him she had decided to join MMM in February 1952 he was sorry she was leaving.
After first profession Sister du Sacre Coeur worked in the magazine office in Drogheda. In 1958 she was assigned to Nigeria, where she served as secretary, bursar and social worker in Ogoja, where MMM provided services for people affected by Hansen’s disease (leprosy).
She returned to Ireland in 1961, when Mother Mary assigned her to help Father Fehilly, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin, in organising the Patrician Congress. The congress was held to mark the 1500th anniversary of the death of Saint Patrick. After helping to prepare for the MMM General Chapter in 1962, Sr. du Sacre Coeur returned to Nigeria. She was in charge of maintenance and did secretarial work at Afikpo, where MMM was in the process of setting up and staffing a large general hospital. Her administrative and practical gifts were well used. She was also the community leader.
Back in Ireland in 1967, Sr. du Sacre Coeur helped in the preparation and follow-up for the MMM 1969 General Chapter. After helping with fundraising in the USA in 1970, she returned to Ireland and worked in the Motherhouse as a secretary and in the MMM magazine office. She had a short appointment in Airmount Hospital in Waterford and then spent many years as secretary at the midwifery training school in Drogheda and in the matron’s office. In 1998 she was assigned as administrator in the office in Áras Mhuire, where she served for four years. Members of staff still remember her warm smile as she welcomed them on duty each day.
In the early 2000’s, du Sacre Coeur cared for her sister Kitty for several years. When she needed nursing care herself in 2006, she moved to Áras Mhuire. She appreciated the wonderful attention showered on her by the staff. When she was no longer able to communicate verbally, her eyes, her smile and her squeeze of one’s hand spoke volumes. She died peacefully and a little unexpectedly on 6 January 2019, the feast of the Epiphany.
Sr. du Sacre Coeur was a deeply spiritual person and totally committed to MMM. She saw God’s hand in all the events of life and used her gifts for the good of all. She was capable of dealing with many situations and could be relied upon to respond with grace, efficiency and good humour. She was gentle and kind and had a cheerful and upbeat personality.
Her funeral Mass was celebrated by Frs. Barry Matthews, a curate from the local parish, and Pat Kelly, SPS, chaplain of Áras Mhuire. We thank God for her wonderful life and pray that she may now have eternal rest with the God whom she served so well.