An Irish nun has been congratulated by the President of Ireland for decades of work in Pakistan, and for being awarded the highest honour of St Mary’s University, Twickenham in London.
Hailing from Co. Clare, Sr Berchmans Conway (89) was presented with the Benedict Medal by the Archbishop of Westminster and Chancellor of St Mary’s University, Cardinal Vincent Nichols on Wednesday.
Spending almost 60 years in the country, Sr Berchmans taught children of all faiths at convents in Lahore, Murree and Jugnu Mohsin.
President Higgins said: “Through her words and actions, Sr Berchmans has not only inspired her students but also encouraged those she met to make positive and lasting contributions to society.
“Through her work and her dedication to teaching she has become a powerful illustration of the beauty and potential of teaching, and she has been an outstanding example of the power of inclusivity and inter-personal empowerment.”
The sister, who joined the Jesus and Mary Order in 1951 in London, was also awarded the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam in 2012 – one of the highest civil awards given by the President of Pakistan.
It celebrated her “constant adherence to the call of duty over a span of 59 years, which has made Sr Berchmans a living example to emulate”.
Sr Berchmans will become the fifth recipient, and the first woman, to be presented with the Benedict Medal, joining previous recipients Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Constantinople and Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of all-Ireland.
Speaking ahead of the award, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said: “Sr Berchmans’ dedication and commitment to the thousands of students she has taught is an inspiration to anyone committed to the vocation of teaching.
Irish Ambassador to the United Kingdom HE Adrian O’Neill said: “The Government is acutely conscious of the record of service and achievement overseas of many Irish citizens across our diaspora.
“Sr Berchmans is an outstanding exemplar of such service; her generous, sustained and distinguished contribution to education and mutual understanding has made a lasting impact, over several generations, in Pakistan. She is a very worthy recipient of the Benedict Medal, of whom her fellow Irish citizens are very proud.”