Sœur Bridget BANNIGAN (Mary Bredan)
soeur anglaise
Bridget was born on the 28th January 1923 to a loving and closely knit family. She took great pride in saying that she lived on the “long Hill” in Lough Egish, Co Monaghan. As a child she was poorly but loved to be out to play with her brothers who always put her in as “goalie”, much to her poor mother’s alarm … She enjoyed a happy childhood and often spoke of her family where she learnt the values she practised throughout her life: her strong faith, discretion and loyalty, care for people – and what she was taught at home as “neighbourliness”, irrespective of religious or other differences. “You go and help” was a phrase she recalled often as part of a family attitude.


After the local primary school she became a weekly boarder in Carrickmacross, and it was here that she gradually became aware of the Lord’s calling to Religious Life – but where ? She didn’t feel attracted to the local Sisters’ way of life – she wanted to be closer to people, to have a bit more openness …so when a Daughter of Jesus, home for a visit from the States came to talk to the girls in school, Bridget knew “that’s the sort of Sister I want to be”.


The hard decision to leave home and country was made harder because her older sister had already left home, and a younger one had recently died, but Bridget’s faith, and that of her dear parents, gave her the courage to set out for Kermaria, via England. Little did she know, or many others at the time, that war would be declared within a few weeks of her arrival. This made travel to the Mother House in Brittany impossible, and Bridget and her companions did their formation in St Joseph’s Convent at Abbey Wood. They made history by being the first D.J’s to make their Novitiate, and take their vows, in England. It was a tough and demanding time for everyone, and it was perhaps here, sheltering in the cellars of Abbey Wood that Bridget deepened her conviction of Jesus’ love for her and others, as well as that “openness and closeness to people” was part of her calling.


Bridget’s first “obedience” was to Rickmansworth in 1943, where she developed her love of teaching. Due to poor health she didn’t get to training college until she was older than the average student. She found this hard, but her past experiences in Princes Risborough and Welling confirmed her ability and love of teaching. In 1968 she moved to High Wycombe and taught happily in St Augustine’s primary school, where she was much appreciated. In 1970 she accepted the deputy headship of the school. She recalled her years there with great affection – an affection which was reciprocated by her colleagues and many friends.


In 1984 she reached official retirement age and although she dearly loved teaching and the school, she decided to withdraw in order to leave place for a younger teacher. She took a Sabbatical year in All Hallows in Dublin where she made many friends was able to renew contacts with her family and country. In 1985 she came back to a small community in Thetford and gave herself happily to pastoral work with the same commitment she’d shown as a teacher. She loved the people and was loved by them for her understanding and devotedness. She knew how to listen and respond with wisdom and sympathy.


After 16 years in Thetford, at nearly 80 years old, Bridget was asked to take charge of the community in N.I. It was a hard assignment for her, especially to the North which was not the Ireland she had left, and after so many years. However, always generous, she found her place preparing children for the sacraments, and was soon a much loved member of the Greenisland parish, joining the choir and sharing in the ecumenical efforts at a difficult and dangerous time.


The community in Greenisland closed in 2011, and Bridget returned to Ricky where she adapted yet again! Sadly in 2012, after a fall, she accepted to move here to Lourdes where she has again shared her gifts of graciousness and her lovely smile with residents and staff alike – even if the poor staff nearly needed stress therapy when Bridget consistently used the stairs instead of the lift!! That was remedied when Bridget moved downstairs, rosary in hand, and could see the grotto of Our Lady in the garden. I think we can be sure that Bridget is smiling on us now from heaven and is deeply grateful, as we all are, to the staff here for their love and care of her.


We thank you, Bridget, for the gift that you have been to us, to your family and to your many friends!


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