'Sister' Kathleen Duffy, an Irish nurse who touched the lives of thousands, was a stalwart of the Archdiocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage for almost 60 years and was honoured with the Freedom of the Borough of St Helens, died on Wednesday 27 May aged 85.
Kathleen worked all her life in the accident and emergency department of Providence Hospital in St Helens. She treated thousands of people, becoming famous for her no-nonsense methods of healing rugby players. If, after a match, a player ended up injured at Providence because of a bad pass, the pass was known as a ‘Sister Duffy pass’. The hospital visit would result in short painful treatment which always worked.
She lived for 85 years and spent all that time helping others. Even on her summer holidays and after her retirement, she would help the sick in Lourdes in southern France on the annual Liverpool Archdiocesan Pilgrimage. This summer would have been her 60th pilgrimage.
Because of her dedication, she received many honours, none of which she really wanted; she was a humble person who just wanted to get things done. However, she was bestowed with the Freedom of St Helens in 2000, and Pope John Paul II awarded her the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice for her services to the Church. The flag at St Helens Town Hall was flown at half-mast on the day of her death.
She liked nothing more than seeing family and friends and enjoyed a game of cards and a bet on the horses occasionally.
Kathleen Duffy was born on a farm in Crookedwood, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland in 1930, the eldest of five children – Richie, Annette, Marie and Ellie. She attended Taughmon National School and Loreto Convent, Mullingar. Aged only 19, she decided to come to St Helens, where she had two cousins, and trained to be a nurse in Providence Hospital on Tolver Street. She worked there all her life until its closure, when she retired.
However, retirement did not stop her. She then volunteered to help young people in St Helens for many years, and finally worked with the blind and in the town's Millennium Centre. She was a sacristan at Holy Cross and St Helen church and attended daily mass; her faith was the centre of her motivation to help others.
She was also a eucharistic minister and it was while visiting the sick that she was taken ill.
She died on Wednesday 27 May after a short illness. She will be missed by her brother, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, cousins and her many, many friends, all of whom feel privileged to have been touched by her life.
Her body will be received into Holy Cross Church, Corporation Street, St Helens, WA10 1EF at 7.30pm on Tuesday 16 June, when mass will be celebrated. Her funeral mass will take place at 12.15pm on Wednesday 17 June, followed by cremation at St Helens Crematorium.
May she rest in peace.