A connection with Carrick on Suir’s past was lost last weekend, when one of the town’s oldest daughters passed away.
Sr Vincent Power passed away in the village of Le Dorat, near Limoges in France, where she was a member of the Sisters of Mary and Joseph. She had been unwell for several months, but just a year ago she enthusiastically celebrated her 100th birthday with a weekend of festivities in the French village, in the company of her religious sisters and family from Ireland.
During her long life, Sr Vincent lived through many milestones in both Irish and European history. She remembered the War of Independence and Civil War as a child in Carrick-on-Suir, and the burning of the local hospital at that time was marked in her memory.
She also lived through World War II as a nun in France. She described how during that time Nazi soldiers would search the convent, and she was also present at the village of Oradour sur Glane soon after the Nazis committed the shocking atrocity of wiping out a whole village.
During the war, her family didn’t receive a letter from her for several years and did not even know if she was alive. But on the ending of the war, she returned to visit Carrick-on-Suir with the rare sight at the time of fresh peaches from the convent garden.
A nun for 82 years, Sr Vincent left Carrick-on-Suir in 1927 at the young age of 16.
Young Nellie Power spoke little French when she arrived at the house of the order in France with another young novitiate from Carrick-on-Suir. She remembered how it was just a few weeks to Christmas and one of the older nuns took her out to see the store windows decorated in Paris. Sr Vincent also recalled how at that time she had heard the stories that the French ate horse and at many meals her young friend would give her a kick under the table and whisper ‘horse’ when their dinner arrived.
But it was not an easy life for Sr Vincent. In those days she rarely had an opportunity to travel home to Ireland - unlike in recent years when she dearly enjoyed spending time each summer in Carrick.
During her working life as an ‘educatrice’, St Vincent worked in orphanages run by her order and in French prisons in the cities of Paris, Montpellier, Bordeaux, Rennes, and many other cities. The order was decorated by the French government for this work.
Sr Vincent once explained that when working in prisons she would never enter a cell without knocking and asking permission of the prisoner. She believed that even in such austere conditions you could find a way to respect people and allow them to retain their human dignity.
Sr Vincent was a great letter writer who kept in touch with all generations of the family over the years as they grew up and dispersed throughout the world.
She got to visit the families of her sisters Kitty, Mary and brother Eddie in the USA and regularly came home to Carrick to visit her mother and siblings, Tom, Biddy, Nick, John, Vincent, and their families. Sr Vincent is survived by her brother Vincent. All her other brothers and sisters have gone to their eternal reward
Even though French seemed to come to her more naturally than English, after a life in France, Sr Vincent never lost her fluent Irish nor her love of the old songs she learned from her own father as a child - especially ‘Be good sweet maid.’
She loved nothing more than a sing-song with her many Carrick nieces and nephews on their visits to her in France, and on her visits home.
In May 2011, Sr Vincent marked her 100th birthday at the mother house of her order in Le Dorat.
A celebration Mass was held and she was presented with a letter of congratulations from the President of Ireland at the time, Mary McAleese.
Speaking on that day, her nephew Nicholas Power said: “As we grew, Sr. Vincent showed us the power of nature, she taught us to believe and be strong, to stand on the important things in life - love, faith, generosity. Her life has touched us all.”
A group of nieces and nephews travelled from Ireland to attend Sr Vincent’s funeral, which took place in her beloved convent of Le Dorat on Tuesday morning. She was laid to rest in the nearby village cemetery afterwards.