Sr. Veronica was born in Bekan Cross, Co. Mayo in 1928. She attended school in Mayo and worked as a clerical assistant in the Department of Agriculture for eight years. She had her first contact with MMM through a colleague there, Kathleen Grealy, whose sister Josephine was already professed. Kathleen used to sell raffle tickets for the missions in the office and Von became interested in our work.
Veronica joined MMM in 1955. After profession she was assigned to Angola, at that time a Portuguese colony known as Portuguese West Africa. She first went to Chiulo in 1959 and served for five years as secretary, bursar and housekeeper. She then went to an even more remote mission, Cuamato, close to the border with Namibia for six years. In 1970 she returned to Chiulo, where the hospital was growing and a nursing school was starting. Again Veronica was secretary and community bursar and also gave lectures in the nursing school in professional ethics. She left the country in 1975 when civil war broke out after independence and attended a year’s course in pastoral studies in Gaba, Uganda.
‘Von’ returned to Ireland and became a member of the formation team, accompanying women interested in joining MMM. She was then local secretary at our Motherhouse in Drogheda and spent one year as secretary to the papal nuncio in Dublin. In 1979 she was again local secretary and business administrator in Drogheda. In 1980 Sr. Veronica was appointed leader of the local community and was a member of the MMM Ireland/England Regional Team.
After helping with mission awareness in the USA, in 1986 Von returned to Angola to begin a new foundation in the city of Lubango. She was involved in MMM vocation and formation work, again accompanying women interested in joining the congregation. She was president of the local religious leaders’ conference and taught English at the local seminary. She directed a very successful typing school in the Lubango Pastoral Centre.
After a year studying pastoral care in Boston, MA, USA, she served as MMM Area Leader in Angola from 1994 to 1997. In 1997 she was elected to the MMM Congregational Leadership Team and was Zonal coordinator for Europe for six years.
Von then began a new ministry in hospitality at our house in Bettystown, near Drogheda. For twelve years she welcomed everyone and cared for our Sisters on holidays with joy and efficiency. She built relationships with the other religious communities in the area and also enjoyed playing bridge in the local club.
Von ‘retired’ to the Motherhouse in 2015 (at age eighty-seven). Still active, she was on the reception and telephone team that link Beechgrove with the rest of the world. She served as assistant leader of Fatima community and brought older Sisters shopping downtown. She continued her bridge-playing in Bettystown, living life very much to the full.
On 9 January 2018, Sister Veronica sustained a fall and never recovered from it in spite of the great care she received in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. In February 2018 she moved to Áras Mhuire, where she was lovingly cared for by the staff. Her death on 7 March was a huge shock to everyone because her approach to life was that of a much younger woman, full of energy and vitality. She was blessed with a happy disposition and a light-hearted approach, regardless of what crises appeared on the horizon. Her faith sustained her through all the ups and downs of life.
Fr. Brendan Carr, CSSp, an old friend from Lubango days, was the main celebrant at her funeral Mass in the packed auditorium. He was assisted by Fr. Denis McNelis, the parish priest of Laytown, near Bettystown. In his homily, Brendan mentioned how in the last few weeks of her life Von often expressed her gratitude to God for such a happy and fulfilled life. May she now be united with the God she served so well.