St. Mary’s of the Angels Whitefield.

In History, Our Parish by Pete Coghlan B.A. by admin

St. Mary’s of the Angels Whitefield.

St Mary of The Angels

The home for severely mentally handicapped children is built in the farm of the late Denis and Mary Doyle of Whitefield by the Franciscan Sisters, Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood. Denis and Mary Doyle had only one child; a girl named Mary Rose Doyle who decided in 1964 to enter a convent.In that same year Denis and Mary Doyle decided to offer their home and farm to the Franciscan Sisters to do as they pleased with it. Shortly afterwards, on March 17th, 1965 Mrs. Doyle died.The Bishop of Kerry, Dr. Moynihan suggested that the Sisters should set up a Home for retired Priests and old people. However, mainly through the efforts of Canon Sears, Bishop Moynihan became convinced that a Home for Mentally Handicapped Children had a greater priority.

On the 26th October 1966, Bishop Moynihan laid the foundation stone for the Home for the Mentally Handicapped Children for the Diocese of Kerry, and building began forthwith and on the 26th April 1968 the Home was officially opened. One of the first arrivals to take charge of the Home was Mother Fatima, a native of Waterford and with four sisters set to work to build up a Home.

They had to depend entirely on voluntary subscriptions from the people and so Mother Fatima had to visit every Parish in the Diocese to beg for help and on the whole was success even though was refused in some Parishes.

At first only a small number of children were admitted but by the time Mother Fatima left in July 1974 the number had exceeded one hundred. Mother Fatima did Trojan work during her time at the Convent. Besides keeping an eye on the building and laying out of the grounds, she also had the headache of providing the funds.


However, she had great experience as she had completed a similar Institution in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) which we are told was held up as a show – piece for the Nations of the World. She had a great eye for colour and so the grounds with their plots of flowers and shrubs present a beautiful scene.

In 2005 on account of the falling numbers in vocations teh Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood Nuns handed over St. Mary of the Angels to the St. John of God BrothersAngels. We pray that they will manage the place as good as the Nuns did.


Mary of the Angels compound

St. Mary’s of the Angels Whitefield

Little by little the Government and County Council through great pressure began to realise and appreciate the work of the sisters. Grants were made available for equipment and extension. So that at present it is one of the best equipped and staffed homes of it’s kind in the country. There is a huge staff mostly of lay nurses and helpers, office girls, cooks, etc. There are five lay teachers especially trained and who carry on classes for the less handicapped.

The latest additions to the buildings is an extensive therapeutic swimming pool, some beautiful chalets for the nurses and two fully equipped work shops for older children. The buildings have become so extensive that a painter has to be employed full time to keep the buildings in shape.

Mother Aquinas succeeded Mother Fatima but she remained only a short time and then a Sister who had come at the very outset, Sister de Luce, was promoted Mother Superior and she ruled for five years until she was transferred to Gibraltar in November 1980. She was succeeded by Mother Mary Ita who is now in charge.

A beautiful Oratory was opened and blessed in July 1980.

The latest addition was a number of chalets opened and blessed by Bishop McNamara in February 1981. Those are intended as workshops and living quarters for older children.

Great credit was bestowed on Danny Breen for the beautiful work he did in making all the furniture, tables, and stools, all hand-made by himself and his son. He also made all the furniture for the lovely chapel.

One of the proudest occasions in the Homes History was when three children won medals in the World Olympics for handicapped Children in New York 1979. How proud they were when presented with their medals, one gold and two silver at a Gala evening in the GlenEagle Hotel, Killarney.


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