Fondly remembering the community impact of Sr Bernard as Covid-19 concerns escalate

Trouble, turmoil, toil – I make no excuse for using alliteration to describe all the week’s events since we last spoke together.

Let’s try and go over the week. Firstly, I ended last week talking about the Trump debate: Trump versus Biden. I saw it the next day, and I’m sure many of the readers did, when it was replayed on RTÉ. I felt that Joe Biden performed well for him, because he is not a natural debater. But somehow, he held his own with Trump, despite the constant interruptions and shouting by Trump – so much so that Joe Biden shouted (most unlike him ) “Shut up, man!” I thought he was right, because he momentarily startled Trump.

Then we had the announcement that Donald Trump had contracted coronavirus, and then he was brought off to the Walter Reed Medical Center. We had conflicting reports, both from the medical side and from his own backroom staff, as to how he was doing.

After three days, he emerged and said he was doing fine. We will see, as I believe that this particular virus stays active for at least 12 to 14 days, so it will be quite some time before we know the outcome.

The big question to be asked now is will Donald Trump use the fact that he had coronavirus to strengthen his case by shouting “I defeated the enemy, I came through, I conquered coronavirus.”

Of course, I wish himself and his wife well and hope that they both recover fully from COVID-19. But I am convinced that he will use it to show how really strong he is, and that he has managed to conquer it, and so should everybody else, despite the huge number of dead in the US from the pandemic.

So the next Donald Trump versus Joe Biden debate is not to take place. But we will have a debate between Mike Pence, the vice-president, and Senator Kamala Harris, who is the running-mate of Joe Biden. That will be worth watching. Meanwhile, Joe Biden continues to rank well in the polls, as Donald Trump bellows that he has defeated the deadly disease.

That was nothing until we had the huge shock on Sunday night, through the media, that Ireland was going to be put into Level 5 restrictions, instead of the Level 2 which we were at.

This was despite the fact that on the Thursday previous, Ronan Glynn, the acting chief medical officer, had said that although there were worries, they would leave us at Level 2 for the moment. And then there was the bombshell on Sunday night, which came from the Health Committee following the arrival back to work of Dr Tony Holohan.

So wham, bang – the chief medical officer comes back and we have this startling announcement, from Level 2 to 5, with no lead-up to it, no introduction by the Government, just the stark statement.

I detect immediately that medical politics are at work. However, the Government decided, in their wisdom, that we would go from Level 2 to 3, with its additional restrictions. And so that’s where we are this week. What ever happened to poor Mrs Holohan? We have never heard. Previously, Dr Tony Holohan took sympathetic leave from his position in order to care for her and their children. Of course, we all wished him well and sympathised. But I would like to know how she is faring during this huge tumult.

So here we are, after several days of upset and mayhem, and meanwhile we continue to have huge numbers of certified COVID-19 cases every evening.

I am glad we are in Level 3; yes, there are restrictions but these are ones we can manage, and in the meantime, we can continue on our careful path.

We continue to have great rugby news: Leinster last Friday, and on Saturday Connacht and Munster in very close games, but nevertheless winning through. Then of course we had the big GAA announcement that they were postponing all further games because of the way people, both after the match is over on the pitch, and later in the pubs, are not obeying the COVID rules.

I admire the fact that the GAA took it upon themselves to act like this. It is up to each and every one of us to ensure that we live by the rules, and in that way save both ourselves and others.

Then of course during the week, on Monday evening, we had a really sad event here in Athlone. Sr Bernard Lynch, a Convent of Mercy nun who was universally loved and praised in Athlone, had a massive heart attack whilst driving down John Broderick Street. The car, of course, went out of control right down the way until it came to the roundabout. Luckily, poor Sr Bernard had immediately passed away from the heart attack when she lost control of the car. By the grace of God, nobody else was injured, only, God rest her soul, poor Sr Bernard.

Let me tell you a little about her for those of the readers who weren’t acquainted with her. She was a truly humane, kind, lovely woman, in her early 90s, after years of teaching for the Mercy Sisters in Athlone. She lived on the Connaught side of Athlone on the Quayside, and she kept an open house and greatly helped those who were not literate and could not manage the filling of forms, or the deciphering of long-winded instructions which they had got. She was there for them all, to translate, to encourage and to give heart. She kept an open door both for homeless people and for people who, as I said, were having difficulty living in this modern world.

All the while she worked and helped the clergy in St Peter and Paul’s Church, but above all she was such a well-known, loving and warm figure. A wave of sympathy and true regret has swept through all of the people in Athlone, both those who knew her well and those who had heard so well of her.

Sr Bernard Lynch puts the minor disappointments and inconveniences we are all suffering to one side; it was her overriding humanity and mission in life which shone through everything she did for everyone else.

May she rest in peace.

That’s my lot for this week. Talk with you all again next week.

In the meantime, stay at home as much as you can, and keep safe that way.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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