Sister Carmel was born Rita Philomena Cooke in Dublin in 1923, part of a family of eight boys and two girls. She attended her early education with the Holy Faith and Dominican Sisters and trained in bookkeeping and typing. She worked as a secretary for two years before joining MMM in 1943.
After profession she worked in the x-ray department and outpatients in the International Missionary Training Hospital (now Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital) in Drogheda for five years. She began nurse training but discontinued after a time of ill health.
After perpetual profession in 1952 Carmel was assigned to Tanzania. She served first in Dareda Hospital. In 1960 she moved to Kabanga, where she worked for ten years, followed by four years in Namanyere. In 1974 she returned to Ireland, where she worked in the guest department in the Motherhouse and in the apostolic nunciature in Dublin. Reassigned to Tanzania in 1977, she worked first in Makiungu Hospital for a year. She then returned to Kabanga for nine more years. There she served in local MMM leadership, as hospital administrator, and as bursar and secretary in the MMM house and nurse training school. In 1987 she was assigned to our mission in Loolera, among the Maasai people, and spent a year there. This was followed by five years in Nangwa in charge of hospitality, and finally a year in Ngaramtoni, where she was sacristan and supervised the garden workers.
Sister Carmel returned to the Motherhouse in 1994 and helped on the switchboard for many years. She belonged to St. Mary’s Community and participated in community activities. She loved playing Scrabble every night. She also loved ‘scratch’ cards, winning small sums of money. She communicated with many, especially with the friends she left behind in Tanzania and her volunteer friends on the switchboard, as well as with her huge extended family and people who were lonely or bereaved. She loved her walking aid on wheels, which gave her great independence, and she frequently approached the speed limit!
Carmel was a woman of prayer, praying for the needs of the world, for MMM, her family, the abandoned and the suffering. She constantly petitioned the other Sisters for prayers for her many nieces and nephews and their children in times of exams and other critical events. She had great devotion to daily Mass. Her commitment to prayer increased in the last few months of her life as her health worsened.
Sister Carmel moved to Áras Mhuire for extra care in April 2019. Only three days before she died her condition suddenly deteriorated and she died peacefully on 19 May 2019.
At her funeral Mass Fr. Oliver O’Brien, Pallotine, was the main celebrant, assisted by Frs. Martin Mireja, also a Pallotine, from Tanzania, and Pat Kelly, SPS, chaplain of Áras Mhuire. Her only surviving sibling, Paul, came from Texas. Also present were members of her family, MMMs from the smaller communities in Ireland and old friends. We are grateful for her long life of love and dedication.