Wednesday 29th February 2012 marked the end of an era in St Angelas National School, Castlebar with the retirement of Sr Frances who has now written herself into the history books, as the last Sr of Mercy to serve as principal of St Angelas N.S. The sisters came to Castlebar in 1853 and have a long involvement with education in the town. To date eight Mercy Sisters have served as principals at the school. Sr Frances came to Castlebar in 1974 and became principal in 1986, an office she held for ten years, When family circumstances dictated that she take a career break to care for her ailing mother R.I.P. an acting principal was appointed for two years and this paved the way for the appointment of the first lay principal of the school.
During her time as principal Sr Frances witnessed many changes, The introduction of the new curriculumin 1971 saw a more child centered education. The child would now be enabled to realise their full potential as a unique individual, with a special emphasis on their social development, and a preparation for further education and lifelong leraning. She strove might and main as teacher and principal to further these aims. This she did through listening to and working with a very dedicated and supportive staff, B.O.M. and Parents' Assoiciation. St Frances is a quite, gentle unassuming person who led by example, She is a person of deep faith and prayer and these qualities were reflected in her respect for and treatment of her stall, parents, pupils and all in the work place. She treated everyone equally and with fairness-indeed fairness is a hallmark of Sr Frances. She had a special love for and interest in the undeprivileged and was almays there for the poor and marginalised, for whom Catherine McCaulay founded the Sisters of Mercy.
She had an open door policy and a listening ear for all, and was noted for her understanding of the individual needs of families, for her support of them and her confidentiality at all timers. Her time - table knew no bounds as she viisited familiesin in the evenings and late at night when the daylight hours didnt facilite them visiting the school.
Following her career break Sr Frances returned to St Angelas to work as Learning Support Teacher for the past number of years. Once again she gave this priviilege and worth while job one hundered per cent and made a significant impact on the lives of her pupils, all of whom loved their helping teacher as they called her She always believed in the philosophy that the teacher should have three special qualities, A readiness to forgive a childs misdemeanours, a reluctance to punish them and a willingness to forgive them. She believed in a positive affirming attitude which certainly helped her pupils to grow in confidence and self-esteem and to progress in theiracademic work.
During her time as principal she presided over a school in an era of great societal change when our country became inter- cultural rather than insular, and pluralism became a reality. On leaving the school she has witnessed the presence 27 different nationalities attending it. The presence of these pupils is in no small way due to the influnce of the Mercy Srs and their ethos of welcome, acceptance and tolerance, togeather with the high standard of education which has always been a hallmark of Mercy Education. Sr Frances saw the school as an extension of the home a place where children are given a good grounding in moral and religious principles, whatever their beliefs and instilling in them worthwhile life skills.
We salute you on your retirement Sr France we thank you for what you did for education in Castlebar. We wish you many years of good health to enjoy a happy well-earned retirement and in saluting you we also remember the former Mercy Principals and sisters who served at St Angelas since the early days of education in 1853. Our hope is that the Mercy ethos and values continue ad multos annos. Photo Tom Campbell.