Sister Augustine Sheridan was born in Navan, Ireland in April 1927. She was baptized Margaret Esther but was always known as Gretta in the family. She was one of a family of five children: two boys and three girls. Her early education was in the local national school and then she had two successive jobs. The first was as a housekeeper to the local parish priest and then she cared for an uncle who was ill and living alone.
During this time she must have heard about the new religious congregation that had arrived in Drogheda, just thirty kilometres away. She joined MMM in 1946 and took the name of Augustine as she had great devotion to this saint all her life. After profession, she worked in the hospital kitchen in Drogheda for four years. Her culinary skills must have been very evident; her talents were appreciated and used over many years.
Years in Nigeria
Sister Augustine went to Anua, Nigeria in 1952. The hospital was growing and expanding and Sister Augustine worked in the household management in the very busy community. Later she moved to Akpa Utong and Minna, where she helped with antenatal and child welfare clinics and housekeeping duties. Her quiet, gentle presence was much appreciated and she loved her time in Nigeria. In total, Sister Augustine spent thirteen years there; she returned to Ireland after the outbreak of the civil war in 1969.
During a break from her Nigeria assignments, Sister Augustine had spent four years in the apostolic nunciature in Dublin, where MMM had a community. The Sisters worked as secretarial and housekeeping staff. In 1970 she was assigned to the apostolic delegation in London. In 1972 she returned to the nunciature in Dublin, where she spent another four years.
Following the Second Vatican Council there was a move to update Sisters in their professions and develop hidden talents. Sister Augustine recognized the need for occupational therapy. At nearly fifty years of age she bravely undertook the job of upgrading her basic education and obtaining professional qualifications. She went to Scotland in 1976 to complete her GCE and qualified as an occupational therapist at St. Loye’s School of Occupational Therapy in Exeter, England in 1981. She also qualified in reflexology and built up quite a clientele on her return to Ireland in 1983.
Years in Beechgrove
In Drogheda, Sister Augustine continued her work in occupational therapy and reflexology. She also undertook leadership roles in MMM. She had a special ministry in visiting the sick in hospitals around the area. As a ‘local girl’ she was well known by many families and they often requested a visit. She did this until she was no longer able to drive. When her health began to fail she was cared for by the Motherhouse clinic staff. She moved to Áras Mhuire in 2018. On 16 November 2020, as her journey on earth was ending, Srs. Gabriel Ashe and Rita Higgins accompanied her throughout the day, while her neice, Eithne, stayed with her until 22.00hs. She returned peacefully to God in the early morning of 17 November, in the presence of the night staff.
On the morning of her funeral, Sister Monica Prendergast led the liturgy of farewell from the Motherhouse, assisted by Sister Ruth Percival. Sisters Monica and Augustine had worked together in leadership and made a marvellous team. As her remains were being brought to Our Lady of Lourdes Church, a guard of honour of MMMs lined the avenue. The Mass was celebrated by Father Paul Murphy, with music provided by Sisters Christine Lawler and Rita Higgins. Presentation Sister Colette McCluskey accompanied on the organ. Only twenty-five mourners, Sisters and family, were permitted to attend the service. The burial took place in nearby Saint Peter’s Cemetery. May Sister Augustine rest with God forever.