Congregational Register No.
First Profession: 17.03.1952
Died: 05.02.2009 Aged: 93 years
Mary Ellen Newell was born in Cloonkeely, Tuam, Co. Galway. She had two brothers and one sister. After leaving school she went to England where she trained as a general nurse at Chester City Hospital from 1934 to 1938. After obtaining her midwifery certification in November 1938 she worked as a staff nurse at Walton Hospital, Liverpool, before moving on to Wales in 1939, where she worked in Chatsworth Maternity Hospital, Prestatyn, for the next ten years.
In 1949, Mary Ellen wrote to Mother Mary asking for an opportunity to meet with her and discuss her growing desire to be a religious. In August that year she entered MMM and took the name Sr. M. Winnifred.
Following first profession in 1952, Sr. Winnifred (known as Winnie) worked as a labour ward sister in the maternity unit at Drogheda for a year. She was then assigned to Italy, where she spent the next twenty-four years as matron of the Clinica Mediterranea in Naples. Sr. Winnifred was dedicated to her patients, staff and community. She had high standards and expected the same from others, both as a nurse and as a religious.
After MMM withdrew from Naples in 1977, Winnie returned to Drogheda where she helped in the infirmary until she was assigned to Nigeria in June 1978. She was to embark on a new venture in another country, with a different culture, language and climate when many people would be looking towards retirement. That was a concept completely alien to Winnie! Undaunted, she went to Nigeria and spent the next eighteen years in Ndubia and then Abakaliki serving the people there with her usual enthusiasm. Patients, local people, priests and Sisters remember those years with great fondness. Winnie gave her all, always kind and caring. In Abakaliki she had a particular interest in helping women with obstetric fistula, and brought hundreds of them for repair operations in our unit in Anua, established by Sr. Dr. Ann Ward. A purpose-built facility was later built at Itam. Many of these women were able to return to their villages after being ostracized for many years.
In 1996, aged 81, Sr. Winnifred was called back to Drogheda – but not to retirement. She continued to faithfully help where and when she could in the Motherhouse and Áras Mhuire. There were no idle moments for Winnie. She remained active until just before Christmas 2008, when she caught the ‘flu’. She agree to move to Áras Mhuire where, despite loving care, she continued to weaken. She was patient and peaceful and always replied that she was ‘waiting’ whenever she was asked how she was. She waited calmly until 5 February 2009, when she went to God surrounded by her nieces, carers and Sisters.