Sr. Cait Fitzgerald short Biography
Sr. Cait Fitzgerald of the Daughters of Charity Order who has died aged 89 was the founder of Drogheda Homeless Aid and the Drogheda Traveller Support Group and was a major force in the care of the underprivileged during her 21 years by the Boyneside.
Sr. Cait died at Mount Prospect Avenue, Clontarf on Wednesday last week and was buried in the order’s plot at Glasnevin Cemetery following Mass in St Peter’s Church, Phibsboro, Dublin. The Mass was celebrated by Fr Eamon Devlin, PP, and the co-celebrant was Fr Mark Noonan, both of the Vincentian Order. The First Reading was delivered by Sr. Cait’s niece Louise Halliday. The Prayers of the Faithful were read by Sr. Mary O’Toole and Sr Cait’s nephew Alan Murphy. Sr Angela Doyle was the pianist and Sr. Eileen Browne was the soloist.
Sr. Cait was born on 28th November 1930 to Gerald and Margaret Fitzgerald. She was christened Catherine Mary and was reared at Darrara, Clonkilty, Co Cork. She was sixth in a family of 12 children, six boys and six girls. Her father, a school teacher, had been widowed with five children and had remarried when she was born.
Sr. Cait is survived by her sister Una Kennefick, Tralee and brother Peadar, nieces, nephews, and extended family and friends. Her sister, Sr. Madeline of the Mercy Order, died in February last year in her 106th year. Speaking at her funeral Mass, Sr Goreti Butler said that following primary education, Sr. Cait had attended Sacred Heart Secondary School, Clonakilty where she attained her Leaving Cert in June 1949 and the went to St Mary’s Technical School, Dunmanway for one year where she met the Daughters of Charity.
From there, she gained entry to the Munster Institute Cork which specialised in the training of girls in poultry science, and which was administered directly by the Department of Agriculture. She qualified as a poultry instructress in 1952 with a Diploma in Poultry Keeping and Dairy. He first employment was in the Hatchery in Clonakilty for 12 months. From May 1953 to December 1957 she was a teacher on the staff of the Munster Institute.
In November 1957, Catherine, at age 27, applied to join the community of the Daughters of Charity. She was accepted and came to Sacred Heart Home, Drumcondra, Dublin as a postulant in February 1958. From April 1958 to August she was in the Postulum, Stillorgan and then began her seminary training in St Catherine’s Seminary, in Blackrock on 9th August 1958. The last three months of Sr Cait’s seminary training were spent at the order’s mother house in Paris.
From there she was missioned to Smyllum, Scotland where engaged in child care from December 1959 to August 1962. From 1962-72 Sr. Cait was a teacher of poultry keeping and religion at the Domestic Economy School in Dunmanway. In 1972 she was transferred to St Martha’s College, Navan which was similar to Dunmanway and continued as a poultry keeping instructress until the college closed in 1983. From 1976 Sr. Cait was also the Sister Servant at the order’s house in Navan.
She lived at St Vincent’s Fair Street, Drogheda, Ballymakenny Road and St Vincent’s Centre, Termonfeckin from 1983 to 2004. During this time, she was involved in preparing children from the Traveller community for Confirmation and was also involved in the Adult Literacy Service. In Drogheda she became very involved with a service for homeless people and she was instrumental, with others, in getting a centre opened where there was support services and accommodation. “Sr. Cait loved this work and had great empathy and sensitivity for those who were homeless and marginalised. She worked tirelessly”, Sr Goreti said.
She also had a prayer group for a group of women who met weekly in Chord Road, Drogheda. “In a letter to Sr. Barbe Angiboust in 1644 St Louise, our Foundress, wrote giving advice on how to serve – ‘I beg you to act as gently as possible with all the poor people you will meet in these circumstances’ . You could say Sr. Cait lived this advice to the full and was an example to many of us who witnessed her great care”.
In 2004 Sr. Cait moved to Henrietta Street in Dublin and spent some years visiting older people who were housebound in the area until her own health declined. She accepted her retirement from active ministry and saw it as an opportunity to become involved in a ministry of prayer within the house, for the suffering people of the world and their needs. Sr. Cait was very lose to her family and particularly her brother and sister Una and Peadar.
Two years ago, she moved to the order’s house in Clontarf as she needed more support and care. Sr Goreti said she settled in very well there and was very much part of the community, interested in everyone and everything and enjoying having visitors and chatting. She experienced the wonderful care and support of the sisters and staff at Mount Propect over those two years and she really did acknowledge and was grateful fo this. Sr. Goretii said that Cait had her struggles with ill health but her faith shone through. “Cait was very much a person who loved people, made friends easily and was totally committed to the community and those that she felt very privileged to serve. We thank God for having known her and been touched by her presence.”
In a tribute to Sr Cair, Paul Murphy, chairperson, Drogheda Homeless Aid said that the entire community in the Boyne side area would be deeply saddened to her of her death. He said that during her years in Drogheda she had started a service for the homeless, initially at Newtownstalaban, but then fulfilled her aim of establishing a shelter for men at “St Joseph’s”, North Strand. “It was her aim to restore dignity and hope to people who had fallen on difficult times and she went about that task with zeal and unselfishly.
Drogheda also owes her a huge debt in supporting the Traveller community in Drogheda and she overcame many obstacles in official and other quarters by establishing a halting site for Traveller families at Mell. It was there that she also set up a pre-school for Traveller children who then entered the local primary schools. We won’t forget her hard work for the community nor her great charm as a person.”
The entire community in Drogheda will be deeply saddened for the death of Sr Cait Fitzgerald of the Daughters of Charity Order who gave so much to the Boyneside town during her service here.
May she rest in peace