Sister Barbara (also known as Sister Bosco) was born in Kilmallock, Limerick, in 1926. Her mother died just four months after Barbara was born. Her father remarried and she grew up in a very united and loving family. She attended Kilmallock School in Limerick and Ballyvaughan National School in Clare and then went to the Ursuline Convent in Sligo for her secondary education.
Barbara joined the Medical Missionaries of Mary in 1945. After profession she trained as a nurse in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin and the IMTH Drogheda. After a year as a staff nurse in Drogheda she trained as a nurse tutor at the Royal College of Nursing in Edinburgh. In 1954 she was assigned to Nigeria, where she was nursing tutor in Saint Luke’s Hospital in Anua for eight years.
She was back in Ireland in 1962 and served on our MMM General Council for seven years. She had the privilege of working closely with Mother Mary during this time. From 1970 to 1973 she was involved in nursing administration in Drogheda and helped out in the IMTH School of Nursing. In 1974 she became the principal tutor in the school of nursing, a role in which she served for eight years. Barbara was much loved by the students and they still remember her with appreciation and affection. She was very sensitive and understanding as she guided them through their studies. During this time, in 1978, she was appointed Sister-in-charge of the community of junior professed Sisters in Drogheda.
In 1982, Sister Barbara went to the USA and completed training in leadership at the University of Spokane and pastoral studies at Loyola University in Chicago. As she said jokingly, she went to reinvent herself! In 1985 she moved to the MMM community in Temple Villas, Dublin. For the next twenty years she was involved in the ongoing spiritual and psychological development of MMMs, other groups of religious women and men, parish groups and others, in the European area, in Nigeria and east Africa. These were very popular as Barbara used creative examples full of humour and fun to describe personal traits. She facilitated assemblies and meetings of MMMs and other congregations. She again served in MMM leadership in her local community.
In 2005 she moved to the MMM house in Terenure, Dublin. She continued to provide Enneagram workshops to the public and hospitality in her community. However her energy gradually began to decline and she suffered from memory loss.
In early 2013 her health deteriorated further and she moved to the nursing facility in Áras Mhuire, Beechgrove for additional care. It was a very distressing time for her, her family, other MMMs and the staff as her condition worsened. She died rather unexpectedly but peacefully in Áras Mhuire on 14 May 2015.
Above all Barbara was a woman of prayer and faith. She knew herself to be loved by God, and she spread that love, tenderness and happiness just by her gentle gracious presence.
Barbara loved poetry and early in her time at Aras Mhuire sometimes recited for the Sisters. A few days before she died, Sister Monica Prendergast met her on the corridor and asked, “Will we have a poem”? Barbara’s eyes lit up and she said yes, so Monica started to recite the poem “Trees”, one of Barbara’s favourites. She joined in a few lines, especially the last one: “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”
In his homily at Barbara’s funeral, Father Pat Kelly, SPS, said that, as in the Gospel reading from John 13: 31-36, “Called to be a light, Barbara had a wonderful life and brought light, truth and love to countless people, and for that we thank God.”