Sister Aengus was born Ellen Campion in Ballagh, County Laois in 1927. Called Eileen in her family, she was the sixth in a family of twelve, six boys and six girls. Two children died in infancy. To quote Aengus, her family life ‘was sharing in every sense of the word. One was under no illusions as to one’s responsibilities and duties. It was a happy growing up together.’ They were blessed with wonderful hard working parents in a farming milieu, who ensured the family were well educated. After attending Erill Primary School, Eileen went to the Loreto Secondary School in Kilkenny.
On completion of secondary school she considered a religious vocation but felt she needed to experience life by doing something concrete.
She trained as a pharmacist and worked in retail pharmacy for ten years in several small towns in Ireland. She experienced at first hand the problems of drink and drugs that affected many young people. Aengus later described this time as a real preparation for mission and she developed a sense of ‘suffering with’.
Aengus joined MMM in 1963, on the same day as her good pharmacist friend, Ita Moriarty, who became known as Sister Martina. It was a challenging routine for women who had lived a professional life with the opportunities this presented. Aengus did note that MMM knew how to celebrate! Two of her brothers, Pat and Con, became Columban Missionaries, and her brother Séamus joined the Redemptorists. Her sister Angela joined the Dominican Sisters.
In 1967 Aengus was assigned to Kitovu, Uganda, where for over a year she was the pharmacist in a busy hospital with a large catchment area. She then worked in Tanzania for two years. She returned to Uganda for a further three years before going to Ethiopia for a month in 1973 to set up a pharmacy. From Gambo, MMM administered thirty-three outstations for patients with Hansen’s disease. These clinics had to be accessed on horseback.
Readily adaptable, she returned to Uganda and was hospital pharmacist for a further seven years. During that time Aengus experienced the suffering of people in Uganda during the rule of Idi Amin.
She had a gift for communication and relating with young people of different cultures and nationalities. Assigned to England in 1980 for Mission Awareness work, she continued this work in Ireland and was then vocation directress for three years. She also did Mission Awareness work in the USA in 1995.
In 1989, Aengus was assigned to Malawi, where she spent thirteen happy years in Mzuzu and Chipini. During that time she also guided our first Malawian Sisters in their early years in MMM. It was a time of political unrest and tension and some missionaries were expelled from the country. She described Chipini as ‘the poorest mission on earth – too poor for government concern.’ That was during two years of famine.
In 2003, Sister Aengus returned to Ireland. She worked in Dublin in pastoral ministry and with MMM Associates. She also visited people in prison. She was assigned to the MMM Motherhouse in 2011 for health reasons and helped with general duties.
Aengus moved to Áras Mhuire in August 2013 for nursing care. She continued to be a delightful person, full of personality and loved by all the staff. She socialized as best she could, loved celebrating, and always remembered people’s names. She gave each staff member a pet name. Her family were always attentive and supportive of Aengus and she remained close to all of them. She had a phenomenal memory for people and places.
Aengus died peacefully on 25 January 2018, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Father Pat Rawley, a Columban priest, celebrated her funeral liturgy with eight concelebrants – Columbans, Redemptorists and the parish priest of her home parish. Her brother, Brother Seamus, CSsR, proclaimed the Gospel. Her sister Angela gave the homily (available on MMM Facebook). Other relatives, including her sister Breeda and her sister-in- law Betty, participated fully in the liturgy on 27 January, the anniversary of the death of our Foundress, Mother Mary Martin.
In her homily, Sister Angela said Aengus’ life took off when she joined MMM. She found what she was searching for. She identified with the energy of our charism and felt at home in MMM, who gave a powerful response to people in need. Angela referred to Áras Mhuire as a sanctuary for the sick where people are cared for with healing love. She marvelled at how the carers could find a pathway to the peace in Aengus’ heart in the midst of her confusion and ‘absence’ from us. Aengus is now experiencing the joy she always conveyed.