It was with deep sadness and regret that the community of St. Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt learned this week of the death of former Principal, Sister Immaculata O’Connor (RIP)
Sister Immaculata died in the early hours of Saturday 1 February 2014 in the Convent of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Bordeaux in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. Requiem Mass took place on Monday 3 February 2014 in St. Conleith’s Parish Church in Newbridge, followed by interment in St. Conleith’s Cemetery.
Born in Feenagh, County Limerick in 1933, Sister Immaculata joined the staff of St. Mary’s in 1956 as a teacher of French. She later served as Vice-Principal of the school before taking on the role of Principal between 1977 and 1995.
It was in 1978 – one year after she was appointed Principal – that the first cohort of boys enrolled in St. Mary’s.
The admission of boys to the school led to a period of rapid growth in pupil numbers.
Consequently, further extensions to the school building became necessary. Sister Immaculata prepared an ambitious building programme for submission to the Department of Education.
She understood that such a programme would require significant financial investment and, through the formation of the Friends of St. Mary’s in 1984, she garnered community support and commitment to raising the funds needed for the building project.
As a result of her tireless efforts over many years, a £6 million extension to the school opened in 1994.
Current Principal of St. Mary’s, Deirdre Gillespie, paid tribute to Sister Immaculata saying: “Sister Immaculata was highly regarded by everyone in the St. Mary’s community.
“Her leadership, vision and dedication to St. Mary’s contributed immeasurably to the development and success of the school we know today.
“Members of staff, past and present, and former pupils of the school remember her with great fondness and affection, recalling her kindness, understanding and regard for others. She remained an interested and loyal supporter of the school.
“Throughout this week, St. Mary’s will remember Sister Immaculata and her significant influence on the school through special assemblies and prayer services.”