/ 2019

Of Horse Talk And Humans

Author:   /  Categories: General

FATHER CHRIS WILLIS, pictured on the right, looks back at the life of Sister Pauline Mulligan…

From 1995 until 2002, Sister Pauline Mulligan, a Daughter of Charity, worked as a Parish sister at St Patrick’s Leeds, an inner-city parish with a large general hospital.

She was actually experienced in management, but she hid this well. It was not why she was in the parish. As with all Daughters of Charity, Sister Pauline’s cloister was the streets that she walked, and her prayer, at least in part, was to recognise Christ in the poor.

The charism she possessed was, as though by instinct, to gravitate towards the poorest person in any gathering, whatever that gathering might be. By the “poorest,” I do not merely mean the most materially deprived. The poor may be the anxious bishop or priest, the depressed lady, the traumatised child.

Somehow Sister Pauline instinctively knew who needed her attention and for the length of time she was with them, would walk a little of the way in their poverty with them. And I think she simply held them in prayer.

She once visited me when I was in another parish in another part of Leeds. She asked if I would take her to visit the poor. In truth, the parish was not deprived, but I thought of one lonely man who lived in a small hovel of a flat at the top of what had once been a large house.

He had a serious drink problem and many health issues. Sister Pauline was delighted. She took charge immediately, suggesting that Tom (not his real name) should receive the Sacrament of the Sick, then Holy Communion.

Then, after some minutes in silence, she talked with Tom about horse racing, about which, to my surprise, she knew a good deal. The visit over we said our farewells and headed for home. I recall that Sister Pauline didn’t want to eat.

“That man has given me all the food I need today,” she remarked. The following day, Tom phoned me, a rarity in itself.

“Thank you for bringing Sister to visit me yesterday,” he said. “Because of the dignity of her visit, I have decided to stop drinking alcohol.”

Tom kept his promise. Sister Pauline died on May 12, 2016. She was 88. I sprinkled her coffin with holy water at her funeral in Dublin, solemnly and I hope tenderly, offering incense. May she rest in peace.


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