Sr Brigid McQuillan (Sr Marie Bernard de Jésus), 1922 – 2022

“May she rest in peace and pray for us!”

Sr Brigid McQuillan dj, (Sr Marie Bernard de Jésus),

at the age of 99,

79 years of religious profession

Sr Brigid died on the 8th of October 2022 at St Michael’s Care, Westgate on Sea, England. The details of her funeral will be announced once known.

Bridget McQuillan was born in Monaghan, Ireland, on the 23rd of December 1922, and baptised on the same day in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Lough Egish.

She was one of a devout catholic family and enjoyed all the advantages and freedoms of a good, loving home on the family farm.

School was something she enjoyed even if it meant early mornings and a long walk to and fro. Bridget was artistic, and loved music, dancing, drama and needlework as well as her Irish language lessons, history, maths and book-keeping.   She was a mischievous child and mostly managed to escape punishment at school, but it sometimes caught up with her at home if stories arrived before she did!  The occasion when she brought home a stray goat was just one more prank than her poor Father could cope with …  she had to learn the hard lesson of differing opinions and choices! 

The happy home life in a deeply catholic family led Bridget to think of becoming a Sister – But where?  Her inspiration came when a Daughter of Jesus from Monaghan on a visit from her work in the States, spoke of her own calling.  So the mischievous and enterprising Bridget left home and crossed the water to England in 1941, with all that that meant at the time.

The usual pattern of formation was disturbed as travel to France was not possible during the war.  However, the Sisters of St Joseph’s Convent, Abbey Wood had already set up a formation programme for a group of young women who wanted to join the Congregation, so Bridget and a companion from school joined the group and took their vows in 1943.  It wasn’t until five years later that she first visited the Mother House in Brittany.  By this time, she was well used to her religious name of Sister Mary Bernard – a name very dear to her and one which her family have always used for her.

Sr Bridget’s first placement was in Colne, Lancashire, where she began her teaching career and entered whole-heartedly into the parish visiting which was a priority for the community.  It was here that she found a similarity between the Church and the social life of home.

In 1950 she fell ill with T.B. and returned for care to the Mother House.  In the five years she was there her health was restored and she had mastered the French language, and developed a deep love of the Congregation and its mission to honour the Sacred Humanity of Jesus.  In 1955 she returned to Abbey Wood and continued her studies and part-time teaching. 

1956 to 1966 saw Sr Bridget move briefly to High Wycombe and then to Welling where she taught catechetics, visited in the parish and rendered service in the community.  For all her mischief as a child Bridget had a mind of her own and this sometimes clashed with others, gifted with other ideas …and sparks would fly!   But with goodwill, peace was always restored (and Bridget could be heard laughing again!)

A move to Rickmansworth in 1966 provided Bridget with an opportunity to take secretarial training in London which she enjoyed and excelled in.  This prepared her well for an appointment as a school secretary in St Thomas More school in Bexleyheath, which she combined with parish work – a mission close to her heart and where her faith, good humour and wit were well appreciated.

In 1982 she retired from her school commitment and took a Pastoral course in Scotland.  The course renewed her energy and love for the Church and its people, and she quickly found a service between the parishes of Greenisland, Peterborough and Thetford before finally retiring to Westgate-on-Sea.

But “retiring” is the wrong word for Sr Bridget!  Here, in Westgate, in her 90’s she continued her commitments to the Church, and to the community – writing up the community log book, reminding the sisters of the different celebration days, and ensuring that these were marked with an artistic table arrangement, flowers and a lighted candle.  She was well known along the seafront where she would take a walk – with no stick – and make friends with the pram and dog walkers!  To maintain that level of service in spite of problems of deafness and failing eyesight is a great witness to her commitment to Jesus and his people.

In the early days of 2022, Bridget’s health deteriorated and she recognised the need for more care than the community could provide.  She moved to join other sisters in St Michael’s where she appreciated the care given, even if the old spark of spirit disagreed with it at times!

Bridget was a character – perceptive and shrewd with a great sense of humour and a commitment to what she believed in.  She is missed among the people she met and visited.  Even after many years, the people of Greenisland asked “How is little sister Bridget?” and have sent loving appreciation and condolences on learning of her death.

We know that she is well now – rejoicing with family and friends and hearing the words that we all hope to hear “Come, good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your Lord…”

May she rest in peace and pray for us!

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