A Rosemount native who has spent 30 years working on the missions in Zambia was recently honoured by the country's president in recognition of the contribution she has made to education.
Sr Celestine Daly (born Rita Daly) was awarded an 'insignia of honour' by President Edgar Lungu during an independence day event in the capital city of Lusaka last month.
The Lusaka Times reported that the 74-year-old was given the award "for her role in pioneering the establishment of a programme to train volunteer teachers, to decongest classrooms and increase access to education" in the Mazabuka district of the country. She was one of 18 people who received presidential honours at the event.
Sr Celestine is from the Sisters of Mercy order and was working as a teacher in Clara when she was first invited to work on the missions in Zambia in 1988. She initially thought she would work there for one year and then return to Ireland.
Three decades later, she continues to reside in the African nation where she helps to support young teachers.
She generally returns to Ireland for visits once a year and was home for a month last summer. During her previous visit, in 2017, a fundraising night was held in The Stile Bar, Rosemount, in support of her continuing work in Zambia.
Speaking to the Westmeath Independent during that visit, she spoke about some of the difficulties experienced by the people with whom she works.
“Shoes are a luxury (in Zambia). In some schools, the very poor schools, they allow the kids to come in bare feet, but most of the schools require that they have shoes and socks and a uniform.
“Thanks to the people of Ireland and other places we’ve been able to help a good number of children to reach school. For me, I think education is the key to future development,” she said.
She added that she hoped to continue working in Africa for the foreseeable future.
“If the Lord gives me good health, I would like to stay with the people. My plea is that I would have the health and strength to stay on,” she said.
A Zambian friend of Sr Celestine's recently wrote a letter to the Sacred Heart Messenger magazine which showed the esteem in which the Westmeath woman is held in her adopted country.
"I really admire Sr Celestine. Her simplicity and her thoughtfulness, especially on sharing good news with everyone she meets, regardless of status or creed... Long live my friend, Sr Celestine," wrote Towela Chongo Mweete.