Sister Anne (Denis) Curtin was born in Dublin, the only daughter of her parents, Catherine and Denis. She had two brothers, Neil and Denis, who both died before her. She attended all-Irish schools and was a fluent Gaelic speaker her whole life. After leaving school she worked in a bank for three years. She joined MMM in September 1952, taking the religious name of Sister Denis. She reverted to her baptismal name in the 1970’s. After profession, she trained as a nurse in Drogheda and then specialized in ophthalmic nursing in Moorfields Hospital in England.
First years in Nigeria
Sister Anne went to Nigeria for the first time in 1961. She held posts as nursing sister and matron at our hospitals in Anua, Afikpo and Ndubia. This is where she first came into contact with people affected by Hansen´s disease (leprosy). This interest was to stay with her for the rest of her life.
In 1968, Sister Anne returned to Ireland for further studies. Through her years in Nigeria she became interested in non-European cultures and this led her to completing a B.A. in sociology and philosophy in University College, Cork. Then she studied at Manchester University (UK) for an M.A. in social anthropology. Sister Anne was very bright and gifted with language skills. This meant that the academic life was a natural course for her.
After completing her studies she worked for a few years in Ireland, lecturing in Maynooth University and giving courses in cultural orientation for personnel assigned overseas. Sally Fay Roddy of the Viatoris Christi organization described Sister Anne as a very special friend, especially in the 70´s and 80´s, when she was their facilitator for the cultural adaptation module.
Return to Nigeria
Sister Anne returned to Nigeria in 1976 and lectured in social anthropology in Calabar University for four years. Then she worked in Afikpo and Abakaliki in administrative roles. This offered her the opportunity to work with people still living in the Hansen´s disease village.
In 2001 Sister Anne finally left Nigeria and transferred to the MMM Ealing community in London. There she did business administration for the community and helped with the fund-raising efforts in UK. She was also an active member of the Saint Francis Leprosy Guild.
Later years in Drogheda
Sister Anne retired to the Motherhouse community in Drogheda in 2012. Over the last years of her life she welcomed the opportunity to spend more time in prayer. Every day she did the two crosswords in the daily paper, finishing them in record time! Her love for languages stayed with her to the end. She also had an extraordinary sense of humour and could be very funny while keeping a straight face. She had a kind word for everyone. In the last days of her life she had a short spell in hospital and died on 5 December 2020, just five days after being admitted to Áras Mhuire Nursing Facility.
Her funeral Mass took place in our oratory because family numbers were small. Father John McAlinden, part-time chaplain in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, was the celebrant. The whole community participated in the singing, conducted by Sister Christine Lawler and accompanied on the organ by Presentation Sister Colette McCluskey. We miss her around the house, moving quietly with her faithful walker. May she rest in peace.