Sister Celestine (Norah Carroll) was one of three Carroll sisters from Dunkerrin, Co Offaly who entered the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace in the late Nineteen Thirties and Forties. One sister and two brothers remained in Ireland, married and provided the several nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews who attended her funeral in Rearsby in August 2016 and had travelled frequently from Ireland to be with her as her health and strength declined. She loved these younger relatives, as they loved her, and their visits to the convent were always a real joy. Celestine had always stayed in close contact with her family, was interested in all their doings and enjoyed visits home until she was no longer able to travel.
Sister Celestine – Nonie to her family – was the eldest child in her family and she arrived at the novitiate in Nottingham on 5 September, 1939, her 16th birthday. The two sisters who followed her to the convent, Sarah (Sister Declan) and Margaret (Sister Joseph) pre-deceased her, dying just over a year apart in 2002 and 2003 respectively.
Sr Celestine’s compassionate disposition fitted her well for nursing. She trained at Leicester General Hospital and qualified as a State Registered Nurse (SRN) in 1947. Her first appointment was to St Hugh’s Nursing Home, an acute medical facility run by the Sisters at Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire. Sr Celestine spent many happy years nursing at St Hugh’s and she also served as a nurse at other places run by the Sisters - St Charles, Carstairs, Lanarkshire, Scotland, a residential facility for children and adult women with special needs, Mount Carmel Convalescent Home, Rothesay, Scotland and Nottingham Diocesan Mother and Baby Home, Borrowash.
In 1980, after a sabbatical at the Redemptorist Retreat Centre at Hawkestone Hall Sister Celestine was ready for a new direction and became a very well loved parish visitor in Glasgow, first, at Christ the King Parish and then at St Thomas’ Parish, Goole, East Yorkshire. This, too, was a very satisfying ministry for her which she continued until the convent in Goole was closed.
In 1999 Sr Celestine “retired” to Rearsby, settled in very well and assumed a very active role in the community. She loved to help in the chapel and refectory. A very observant person, she would quietly undertake any tasks that had been left undone. For a number of years she faithfully answered phones and doorbells and was most welcoming of all who called. When finally ill health prevented her being so involved with the community or with visitors she was greatly missed, by visitors as well as by the Sisters. During her final years when she was confined to a wheelchair her patience and kind disposition continued to endear her to many. Children loved her and right up to a week before her death one would find some of the children who came to Sunday Mass crowding round her wheelchair and vying with one another to talk with her or take her back to her room.
Sister Celestine loved music, especially Irish and Scottish songs and melodies and enjoyed listening to CD’s. The “Songs of Praise” TV programme on Sunday afternoons was special for her. She also enjoyed “Country File” on TV which brought back happy memories of her life in the Irish countryside. She enjoyed a sing-song, had a nice singing voice and frequently started the singing for us at Mass, Holy Hour and other prayer times.
Throughout her life Sister Celestine was a very prayerful woman and in her later years spent many hours daily in the chapel. Over recent times when she was confined more to her bedroom her rosary beads were constantly in her hands. She died on August 8th, 2016. Her nephew, Fr Willie Teehan, celebrated the funeral liturgy. His prayer at her graveside that the earth of Rearsby might lie easily on her touched all our hearts.
"So yes, we are forever beginning, and the best we can do is be very grateful that each new beginning is one more chance to grow. "
Margaret Byrne, CSJP