A member of the Sisters of Mercy has been presented with a Presidential Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her development and humanitarian work amongst the poor and marginalised in Kenya at Áras an Uachtaráin in Dublin.
Hailing from Dublin, Phisbsboro, Sr Mary Killeen received the award last week. Her missionary work in Africa began in 1976.
Speaking about her award Sr Mary said: “I accept the award not for myself but on behalf of all the people who work with me now and in the past, and the donors and volunteers who have made my work possible for the marginalised and poorest of the poor. The greatest reward is to see deprived children being given an opportunity to explore their God-given talents and to live with some degree of dignity and respect.”
Sr Mary entered the Mercy convent in Blackrock at the age of 20 and trained as a teacher at Carysfort College. She studied theology at Milltown Park and catechetics at UCD during the 1970s while teaching at primary schools in and around Dublin.
She went to Kenya as a primary school teacher to join the staff of Our Lady of Mercy primary school in Nairobi. Close by were the large slum settlements of Mukuru where she became involved in helping children unable to go to school.
She initiated a programme of education, health, and community services in Mukuru slums where 600,000 people live. Starting with a primary school, she developed the Mukuru Promotion Centre (MPC). The project now comprises of four primary schools with 5,600 pupils and skills training in masonry, carpentry, plumbing, art, crafts, dressmaking, knitting, hairdressing, beauty, cookery, catering, hygiene, and vegetable growing.
The programme includes a school for special needs children, a secondary school for 660 students, health clinics that have treated 800,000 people, social work services, street children rehabilitation, a support group for HIV/AIDS and business training. With a strong focus on personal empowerment, she has educated over 170,000 people – many of whom are now self-sustainable.
Sr Mary’s involvement also extends to other organisations working in Mukuru, including: St Marian’s Children’s Centre, St Mary’s Viwandani Secondary School, and Mukuru Slum Development Project.
She was chosen to represent the slum populations of Nairobi in addressing their issues to Pope Francis during his visit in 2016.