02th March, 1928—01st October, 2021
Sr. Fergal was born in Portarlington, County Laois, the daughter of Vera (née Whelan) and Michael Kenna. She was baptised Mary Josephine and was known as Mary. Her early education was with the Mercy Sisters in Monasterevan and from there she joined the Civil Service and worked for fifteen years in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. She enjoyed the work but always felt called to do more with her life. A chance encounter with Mother Mary Martin in the Post Office in Balbriggan where Mary worked changed the whole course of her life.
Mother Mary was trying unsuccessfully to use the public phone and Mary went to help her. They got chatting and the subject of the Medical Missionaries of Mary Congregation came up. Mary liked what she heard, but was not sure if her qualifications would be useful. Yet another chance encounter solved that problem when she met Sr. Anita Marshall MMM on a mission appeal who was a qualified secretary and bursar. Mary then realised that the Healing Ministry needs people of all qualifications and that she too could be an MMM.
She entered on 3rd October, 1960, at the age of 32, taking the name of Fergal and has led a wonderful, fulfilled life ever since. After her initial religious formation, her administrative skills were put to good use, both in the Convent and in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. Her first overseas missionary assignment was to Kitale in Kenya where she held a variety of roles, Financial Administrator and Sister in Charge for six years.
She then moved to Uganda where the AIDS pandemic was rampant and where the Sisters did their utmost to bring the disease under control and to care for the many victims and the large number of orphans. Fergal was the Bursar there for twelve years, and was also involved in the lives and needs of the staff and local people and was very popular. She retired from Africa in 1993, but being an active woman never really retired.
Based in Dublin, she looked after the finances in both Artane and Raheny communities. But she was also deeply involved in Creative Writing, Adult Literacy, keeping in touch with all kinds of people. She was a lovely woman, outgoing and friendly, helpful and interested in everyone she met and never forgot a name or a face. She was a caring member of any community of which she was a part. She was also very entertaining and at a party or a social gathering always contributed a party piece, be it a poem, a story or a yarn.
Fergal’s health began to deteriorate gradually and on 28th August, 2019, she transferred to Beechgrove for the extra care available. She was a serene and quietly joyful asset to the large community. Sadly, she developed serious health challenges and was admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. Her condition deteriorated and she died peacefully at 12.15 am on the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions, and the first day of our General Chapter in Ghana – a most fitting day to die!