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Kathleen Corcoran


Slingan, Clogher, Westport and Convent of Mercy, Westport

There were many truly remarkable facets to the long life of Ms Kathleen Corcoran of Slingan, Clogher, Westport who passed away peacefully in her 95th year at the Sisters of Mercy Cuan Chaitríona Nursing Home, Castlebar last month, surrounded by family, relatives and friends.
This extraordinary and inspirational lady endured a lot of suffering in her life but overcame physical handicap and acute shyness to become a radiant light and powerhouse of energetic service in a wide range of charitable and voluntary organisations in the Westport community.
Born on April 24, 1921, Kathleen was the last surviving member of the family of the late Catherine and Peter Corcoran. She was predeceased by her sisters Annie (Sammon), Nora (Staunton) and Josie; her brothers Sonnie and Austin - who was laid to rest recently in Ashbourne, Co Meath.
Although a lay person, Kathleen’s name was totally synonymous with the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Westport which, in every sense, was her second home.
Within the Westport community, justifiably renowned for its dedicated voluntary groups and individuals, few, if any, could ever hope to match the phenomenal level and range of dedicated community service of Kathleen Corcoran who did so much for so many.
Remarkably, Kathleen was in her 40s before she really became involved in the local community, outside of the Convent of Mercy where she was immersed in her dedicated work as a seamstress and as one of the child carer of the orphanage children.
The stepping stones through her river of acute shyness were provided by members of the fledgling St Patrick’s Drama Group (founded in 1964) whose services had been sought to entertain orphans on Christmas Day morning while a portly and jovial Santa (Jackie Foley) distributed gift parcels to the delighted children in ‘Kathleen’s Room’ at the Convent of Mercy. Kathleen’s sincere thanks and appreciation included a genuine offer to help St Patrick’s Drama Group in any way she could. Her offer was taken up immediately. The group needed help with costumes for a forthcoming production. Kathleen was ‘roped in’ and, for the first time ever, she ventured ‘down town’ to attend rehearsals at Westport Town Hall. To her surprise, her initial anxieties and apprehensions quickly disappeared and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience of sharing the banter, craic and laughter within the group at rehearsals. She never looked back. Kathleen went on to share her great talents with a wide variety of groups and organisations, members of which gathered from near and far to attend the obsequies and form an impressive guard of honour at her funeral.
In her early childhood, Kathleen contracted polio and was hospitalised for long periods. Although she made a partial recovery she could only walk with the aid of leg calipers and walking or cycling any distance was not possible for her. And so, to ensure she received a good education, Kathleen became a resident at the Children’s Home beside the Westport Convent of Mercy school.
From a very early age, Kathleen displayed a remarkable talent and aptitude for crafts and handwork. She went on to become a staff member and with plenty of scope to develop her skills and talents was subsequently appointed the convent seamstress. Kathleen’s passionate love of music was used to constantly raise her spirits.
At Kathleen’s concelebrated Funeral Mass in St Mary’s Church, Westport on August 7, the chief celebrant, Canon Anthony King (former President of St. Patrick’s Club at Westport Town Hall), in a very moving homily and eulogy said the large and representative congregation reflected the deep sense of appreciation of a woman who touched the lives of so many people with her modest manner, her gracious good humoured personality, her generosity of spirit, her gifts, skills, talents and extraordinary capacity to help others and resolve many crisis situations. “Ask Kathleen about it” was a password in the community.
“Good leaders, we are told, step to the fore with a vision to take responsibility in difficult situations, but great leaders have the gift to motivate people, arouse courage to face what must be met and work together to do the job - that was the kind of leadership that Kathleen gave. She gave it quietly, modestly and firmly - and so often with her gift of good humour” said Canon King, adding that the words of the Gospel “salt of the earth and light of the world” were very appropriate in describing Kathleen, a great Christian woman and faithful disciple of the Lord. Canon King said he did not know the author of these wise words: “No single great deed is comparable to the multitude of little kindnesses performed by unselfish souls who forgot their own sorrows and scatter happiness on every side and strew all of life with hope and good cheer” but the author certainly had in mind the kind of person Kathleen was. For over half a century Kathleen had contributed greatly and quietly to many clubs and organisations in the parish, and in particular to groups at Westport Town Hall where St Patrick’s Club became her second home.
Always shunning the limelight, she was never happier than when she was working behind the scenes doing as she used to say herself, “whatever little I can do for the club”. But the little was a lot and nobody could do it more quickly and more enthusiastically than she could. There was hardly a parish activity which did not benefit regularly from her boundless energy and goodwill.
Canon King said the many beneficiaries of her energy and talents included the organising committee of the Senior Citizens socials, the wardrobe department of St Patrick’s Drama Group, Westport Musical Society, the ICA, Apostolic Workers Society, St. Vincent De Paul, Parish Renewal Programme, St. Joseph’s Young Priest’s Society, Pastoral Council and of course, her skills and talents added greatly to the quality of stage production at St Patrick’s NS and the Sacred Heart Secondary School.
While she was always reaching out to help people, she was also inviting them to become involved and use their gift to enrich the parish community. Her persuasive and gentle way drew the best out of people and enabled them to discover their own talents and gifts which many were unaware of themselves.
Canon King said Club 21, at Westport Town Hall, was Kathleen’s very special group. This gathering of young ladies was a creative and talented place - a social and working group - patterns and designs and a broad variety of activities - a feminist enclave in a world which was precious for its friendship and camaraderie. When any amorous and brave young man would venture to poke his head inside the door to admire the talent, he would have to face Kathleen with her stern question - “And what do you want”? He would make a sudden departure!
Kathleen was firm. Many a time Canon King was rebuked for his attire - “It is time for you to buy new shirts”! Your pants are frayed. Bring them up and I will deal with it”! It was a motherly directive which he would not dare ignore. Canon King said it was always very obvious that Kathleen’s many relatives (including nine nieces, four nephews, 40 grand-nephews and grand-nieces) held a special place in her heart and that their love always embraced her intimately and this affection was particularly appreciated by her in her latter years.
Canon King said deep gratitude and appreciation were due to the Sisters of Mercy for the special place that Kathleen Corcoran always enjoyed within the community in Westport and in her Autumn years.
Kathleen’s unique personality became a ‘mother figure’ for very many orphans at Westport Convent over the years and herself and Sr. Clare were always there to welcome them back in later years for a visit or holiday stay in a ‘home from home’.
Canon King said reflecting on the life of Kathleen Corcoran was a refreshing reminder to all people and priests with links to Westport parish, of the compassionate witness of the Sisters of Mercy’s varied ministry throughout the parish - in schools, families and dedicated works of service, also their Christian commitment to their students, primary and secondary, and indeed the wilder community who were helped in many ways by the Sisters of Mercy to prepare and cope with the challenges of life. “Deep down in the hearts of the people their gratitude and appreciation holds firm during these testing times”, said Canon King.
Symbols of Kathleen’s life brought to the altar at the commencement of her Funeral Mass included her Papal Award, the Bene Merenti Medal for services to the church.
Participants in the liturgy included Sr. Pius, Ann McGreal, Ronan Pepper, Ger Commins, Mary Commins, Maureen Donnelly, Melissa Walsh, Peter Corcoran, John Mulroy, Mary Mulroy, Marian Walsh, Joanne Sammon, Eamonn Staunton, Padraic Gavin.
At the conclusion of the Funeral Mass, which was enriched by the magnificent music and singing of St Mary’s Church Choir and soloists, Maura Donnelly, on behalf of all Kathleen’s relatives, expressed appreciation and thanks.
Burial took place in the family grave in Killmaclasser Cemetery, Clogher.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasual ins na bflaitheas.