Kavanagh, Sr. Brigid

Kavanagh, Sr. Brigid

Nationality:   Irish
Congregational Register No.  27
D.O.B.:  06.05.1916
First Profession 08.09.1942
Died: 21.07.2009      Aged: 93 years

Catherine Kavanagh came from Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow.  She was one of six children and the daughter of a local schoolmaster. Catherine was educated in Newtownmountkennedy at the national school and the Holy Faith Convent. In 1936 she began training as an orthopaedic nurse at St. Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital, Cappagh, Dublin. 

There is nothing on record to show what first attracted Catherine to MMM, but after completion of her three-year training period at Cappagh she entered MMM in October 1939 and took the name Sr. Mary Brigid.

Sr. M. Brigid did her novitiate at Collon and made first profession in 1942, at which time she started her second stage of training at the Mater Hospital in Dublin to obtain her general nursing certificate. She obtained her certificate in July 1944 and returned to Drogheda to work in the general wards.  In 1946 Sr. Brigid sailed for Nigeria where she was to stay until 1990, with just one break from 1955-56 to obtain her midwifery certificate – a total of forty-four years serving in Nigeria.  Initially she helped to establish the Hansen’s disease (leprosy) unit at Ogoja, before moving to the Mater Hospital in Afikpo. The Mater provided training in general nursing and midwifery. Brigid, a born teacher, was a key member of the staff and was loved by patients and students alike. She was a totally dedicated nurse, teacher and religious, never sparing herself and always treating everyone with gentleness and kindness, sensitivity and understanding.

Sr. Rose Mogun recalled, “I am one of those who had the privilege of living with her. This was in Afikpo when I was a pupil midwife. She was the gentlest of souls, a great woman of faith with a ready smile to welcome the weary and a true disciple of Jesus…I remember in Afikpo when our examination results came out, she had the duty of coming to the school to help cushion the impact of distress for those who didn’t quite make it. She was a great comforter, reassuring the weak of heart.”

Nancy Hinds, who was a young volunteer nurse in Nigeria, reminisced, “I can still see her with the pregnant women in the delivery room in Nigeria, coaching them, encouraging them, laughing with and rejoicing with them.  She was a remarkable woman.”

During the years spent at Beechgrove and later, when her health failed, in Áras Mhuire, she maintained the same graciousness, cheerfulness and hospitality that had been her hallmarks in Nigeria.  Everyone loved Brigid, as was evidenced by the devotedness of the staff in Áras and her many visitors. Everyone felt that they were Brigid’s special friend.

Sr. Brigid was laid to rest next to Mother Mary in Drogheda. May her gentle, loving soul find everlasting peace.