O’Rourke, Sr. M. Magdalen

O’Rourke, Sr. M. Magdalen

Nationality: Irish
Congregational Register No: 3
D.O.B. 15.11.1909
First Profession: 15.12.1937
Died: 11.11.2008 Aged: 98 years

Brigid (Bridie to her family) O’Rourke grew up in the small townland of Glenague in the Glencar Valley of Co. Leitrim.  According to an article she wrote in 2002 for the Leitrim Guardian, she had a very happy childhood in a loving, spiritual family.  She attended the local primary school but there was no secondary school in the area and her parents could not afford to send her and her sisters to boarding school.

She was fortunate in having an excellent teacher who gave her extra tuition and helped her pass a Civil Service exam. This brought her to Dublin where she attended Rathmines Technical School, acquiring skills in secretarial work and management.  She joined the engineering branch of the Post Office and worked in Dublin Castle and the GPO. 

In 1934, Fr. Dermot Boylan, spiritual director of her presidium of the Legion of Mary, introduced Brigid to Marie Martin and she first heard about the vision that Marie had for a new congregation. In 1935 Brigid joined Marie at Glenstal, where she imbibed the spirituality of St. Benedict that would inspire and guide her throughout her life. The following year she began midwifery studies at Holles Street, Dublin, and In December 1936, as a ‘half midwife’, she sailed for Nigeria with Marie Martin and the future Sr. M. Joseph Moynagh.  They settled at Anua and MMM was founded on 4 April 1937.  Sister Mary’s two companions commenced their novitiate in the Holy Child Convent in Ifuho and Sr. M. Magdalen was professed on 15 December 1937. She began what she thought would be a lifetime’s work in Africa.  However in 1938, Sr. Madgalen returned to Ireland and was instrumental in establishing the first novitiate of the Medical Missionaries of Mary in Collon, Co. Louth.  She was never to return to Nigeria on mission.

Sr. Magdalen’s mission was to be, as she put it herself, ‘more a Home Missionary than a Foreign Missionary’ in promotion and vocation work for the congregation.  She was tireless in promoting both the congregation and a strong foundation of Gospel values within the congregation.   She was down to earth and practical, with her heart firmly fixed on the Lord.

Sr. Magdalen had a wide circle of friends around the world, many of them years younger than herself, and she maintained a large correspondence throughout her lifetime.  She remained alert in mind and spirit and was ‘sharp as a pin’ until the end, even though her body grew frailer.  She had a generous spirit and an undimmed enthusiasm for the congregation and its works.  She loved to talk to younger people about the early days of the congregation and about Mother Mary and was generous with her time.

In 2005 Sr. Magdalen became a resident of Áras Mhuire.  This was a big adjustment, but she adapted well and continued to keep busy with her extensive correspondence. She wrote a book about the early days of MMM, which was published and circulated to all the Sisters and Associates.  She was loved by the staff and was an undemanding and grateful resident.  Her final illness was short and she died very peacefully a few days before her 99th birthday.  A good and faithful servant was finally called home.