An Irish missionary nun is to receive a Presidential Distinguished Service Award for her lifetime of work in Sierra Leone and her courageous efforts in co-ordinating a response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak there.
Sr Mary Sweeney, a Sister of St Joseph of Cluny and a native of Co. Donegal, has worked for over 40 years in the most challenging conditions in Sierra Leone.
Equal to all challenges encountered, the sister was instrumental in the establishment of St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired in Makeni, located three hours north of the capital, Freetown.
The school today caters to the needs of 220 students and has offered education, skills training and life opportunities to countless young people.
Sr Mary showed her true mettle in the 1990s when, with the outbreak of the brutal civil war, she remained in Makeni, even when rebel fighters commandeered St Joseph’s.
Later, with the spread of the deadly Ebola virus across West African nations, Sr Mary again refused to quit Makeni, and worked tirelessly to gain and distribute badly needed supplies to the most vulnerable.
Through her efforts, international attention became focused in Sierra Leone’s plight, while supporters in Ireland and Britain responded to her call for assistance.
The President Awards ceremony takes place in December.