01 Jul 2022

African odyssey: Charity trek in honour of late Limerick nun

African odyssey: Charity trek in honour of late Limerick nun

Sr Bridget Ambrose from Shanagolden passed away on June 23

THEIR feet will tread the small roads around Shanagolden, Ardagh and Loughill or the streets of Belfast but in their mind’s eye, they will be travelling through two continents and eight countries to reach Johannesburg in South Africa.

And with every step they take, they will carry in their hearts the memory of Sr Bridget, sister, aunt and friend of the needy.

Sr Bridget Ambrose from Shanagolden died on June 23 but family members, are now undertaking their very own African Odyssey to help raise money for the outreach centre that was at the heart of her work in South Africa.

The walkers, some 30 or so of them, will walk a total of 11,553km or 7179 miles and, as of last weekend, they have already touched down on African soil, according to Sr Bridget’s niece, Katie Liston, who is keeping tabs on everybody’s distances. And they hope to reach Johannesburg by Christmas.

“She was passionate about those whom she met through her outreach work at Nazareth House Johannesburg,” Katie said of her aunt. This work involved support for disadvantaged children, women and families affected by HIV transmission and domestic violence as well as pastoral support.

Called Mama Mosa (kind, graceful mother) by the children, Sr Bridget continued with her outreach work right through the pandemic. Just days before she died, she was once again filling up her little blue car with food and clothes to bring to people in need in Yeoville. But she contracted Covid-19 and died in hospital.

“Who will tell the people of Yeoville Sr Bridget is dead?” was the response of a policeman who cried when told of her death.

“She died in the service of her community and, even though it has been immensely sad for her siblings not to be able to be with her in her sickness, they have taken great solace from the messages they have received,” Katie continued.

“Her loss is felt deeply by family and friends in Ireland but especially by those in South Africa whose lives were touched by her generosity and lifelong commitment, and whose loss is impossible to quantify.”

Born the eldest of 12 in Ballycormack Shanagolden, and known to her family as Biddy, Sr Bridget joined the Order of Nazareth sisters at a very young age and trained as a nurse. In 1965, just months before her mother died, Sr Bridget was sent by her order to South Africa, and worked in various cities and townships until the very end.

“She worked up to the end,” her sister in life and in religion, Sr Mary said this week. Both she and another sister, Nora, also a member of the Order of Nazareth described Bridget as a very able, efficient and down-to-earth person who loved coming home to Ireland and kept up contact with her large, extended family.

That family is now once again rallying to Bridget’s aid by organising their Walk to Jo’burg in her memory.

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