Rest in peace, Sister Raphael

Sister Mary Raphael
Sister Mary Raphael

The Sisters of Mercy Convent in Alnwick has paid tribute to the life of a former Superior following her death last month.

Sister Mary Raphael died ‘very peacefully’ on January 26, at the convent on Bailiffgate.

Last year, she showed signs of gradually reducing stamina and deteriorating eyesight and last month she received the Sacrament of Anointing which is given when someone is sick.

Father Des McGivern, priest at of St Aidan’s RC Church in Seahouses, performed a mass at her bedside, three days before she passed away.

Sisters have talked about the life of Sister Raphael, who died two weeks before her 100th birthday.

They said: “Sister Raphael was a gracious, thoughtful, kind, compassionate and generous person who was always eager to help wherever she could.

“She radiated joy and enthusiasm, had a big heart and gentle but keen sense of humour.

“Her life as a Sister of Mercy was one of joyful dedication and service.

“She will be greatly missed by her community, family and many friends. May she rest in peace.”

Christened Kathleen Mary Mather, she was born in Birr, County Offaly, Ireland, on February 10, 1915, and attended the local Sisters of Mercy school.

Sister Raphael suffered the loss of her father when she was 10 years old and her brother died when he was aged 10.

At 17, she left home and arrived in Alnwick on October 4, 1932.

In 1937, Sister Raphael began teacher training at Fenham Sacred Heart College and went on to teach at St John’s All Age School in Alnwick in 1940 .

In September 1944, she commenced teaching in Our Lady’s Convent High School and became headmistress in 1952.

After this time, she took an external degree in English, Latin and history at London University.

Between 1963 and 1981, she was Superior at Alnwick Convent and in 1985 she was elected Provincial of the Mercia Province until December, 1989.

She then moved away from Alnwick for the first time and became Superior in Abingdon from 1990 until 1996.

In 1997, she returned to Alnwick and in her retirement served as a Eucharistic Minister and Reader in St Paul’s Church.

The Sisters added: “Throughout her retirement, Sister showed a keen interest in the lives of her past pupils and looked forward to their visits and kept in touch by writing regularly to them.”

Father Des said she would not be forgotten.

“She was a great servant of God and a great servant of the parish and will be sorely missed by us all,” he said.

Maria Wilson, headteacher at St Paul’s RC School, added her tributes, noting her life of service to education.

“Sister Raphael will be remembered by many for her dedication and commitment to Catholic education in Alnwick and she was particularly influential as headteacher at Our Lady’s Convent School.”