Greg Daly and Luke Silke
Brave Emma Mhic Mhathúna [pictured] got “tremendous strength” from her “deep faith” after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, her parish priest has said.
The 37-year-old mother of five died on Sunday after being told in May that she had terminal cancer, a 2013 smear test having been misread. She was one of 221 women affected by the Cervical Check scandal, and in July reached a settlement of €7.5 million after taking legal action against the HSE and Quest Diagnostics, the US-based company that analysed her results.
Her death has been met with “a huge sense of loss and huge sense of sorrow”, according to Ballyferriter’s parish priest Fr Eoghan Ó Cadhla, who told The Irish Catholic how he got to know Emma when she first moved to the parish.
“She rang me last year when she came and she said she’d been to Lourdes and that she had brought back holy water for the parishioners,” he said, adding: “She travelled with us then in May to Knock on our parish pilgrimage. We had a parish pilgrimage to Medjugorje two weeks ago, and she had intended to travel with us, with the children, but that didn’t work out, as she was in the hospital at that stage.”
Describing her as “a lady of great faith”, Fr Ó Cadhla related how she had attended Mass daily as a young girl with her mother in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, Dublin, where the second of two funeral Masses was celebrated for her ahead of her burial beside her mother at Maynooth’s Laraghbryan Cemetery. Fr Ó Cadhla was the chief celebrant at the first funeral Mass, which took place on Tuesday October 9, at Séipéal na Carraige in Baile na nGall, Co. Kerry.
The family requested that donations be made to Dublin’s Capuchin Day Centre in lieu of flowers.
“She was a good woman of deep Faith, and until she was diagnosed she was studying theology in Maynooth and Irish. She was involved in the Legion of Mary in Maynooth, and has many, many friends from the Legion of Mary,” Fr Ó Cadhla said, noting how Ms Mhic Mhathúna took “tremendous strength” from her faith.
“There’s no doubt about that – her Faith really kept her going,” he said. “She was a marvellous woman, a marvellous woman of faith and she passed it on to her children as well.”
Commenting on how she had been among those who brought up gifts during the papal Mass in Dublin’s Phoenix Park in August, Fr Ó Cadhla noted how “she said of all the things that had happened to her since she became ill and since she was diagnosed with the terminal illness, this was the highlight of everything for it, it was the greatest day of her life. It meant so much to her”.
Ahead of the papal visit, Ms Mhic Mhathúna had described the coming of Pope Francis as “a privilege” for people of faith and for those like her who were “coming near the end of the road and would like to see the Pope and feel a little peace there”.
Speaking of her love of prayer, the Mass and Our Lady, she said: “People ask me where I get my strength and I tell them it’s my Faith. People go on pilgrimages for various reasons, we all have our own stories. Personally, I sought acceptance. I’m going to die. There is nothing I can do about it, so I have to accept it.”