There has been widespread sadness following the death of Sr. Theresita O’Sullivan.

Teresa Veronica O’Sullivan was born a true blue Tyrone woman to her parents, Annie Theresa and Patrick Michael O’Sullivan in Coalisland, Co. Tyrone, on September 26, 1933.

She was warmly welcomed into a bustling young family and, together with her two sisters and five brothers, had a happy, carefree childhood in Coalisland and Newtownstewart.

Her primary school education underlined the values she had imbibed at home; secondary education entailed a train journey to Omagh where the young Teresa or Tess, as she was affectionately known, became an assiduous student at the Loreto Convent School.

In 1952 Tess received a call to Teacher Training in St. Mary’s, Belfast. After three happy years of student life, she emerged as a fully trained teacher.

Tess’s thoughts now turned to another call, and she made a decision to give her life to God in the religious life, this time with the Mercy Sisters in Enniskillen. September 1955 saw her begin her new life as a postulant in the Convent, Enniskillen.

Her steps were set firmly on this new path. She was already a mature adult with a vision of apostolic religious life. She valued the life of prayer, of community living and of deep concern for others, especially the needy and disadvantaged.

In August, 1956, Tess was formally received into the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, and given her new name in religion, Sr. Theresita (little Therese).

St. Therese of Lisieux became her special patron. This gave her great joy as she had a deep devotion to St. Therese and this remained with her for her lifetime.

In 1961 Theresita was asked to go to Dungannon to join the Mercy Community there and to teach in the new Intermediate School. She adapted very quickly to the changing scene and made firm friends in the Community, among the staff and with the people of the town.

In 1963 she returned to Enniskillen and was asked to join the staff of St. Fanchea’s which had opened in 1960. Sr. Theresita brought much experience to her new role as she joined a dedicated staff of Sisters and lay people under the principalship of Sr. Dolores. They formed a vibrant group, and the school was off to a flying start.

Change was in the air, but there was more to follow.

In 1955, the Sisters in Enniskillen had made a decision to help staff a grade school in Hialeah, Florida. This school was now thriving and looking for more volunteers. Sr. Theresita was asked to join the new American mission.

The world of American education presented a big challenge but she rose to it and was soon a busy teacher in Immaculate Conception School, Hialeah.

Theresita enjoyed the American scene, and proved most caring of the American children, and most welcoming of the Cuban children who were coming to Florida in large numbers.

They were fleeing from the Castro regime in Cuba, had little or no English, and so needed much nurturing in school and daily life. Theresita worked hard to give them chances and hope for the future.

In order to benefit her young students and their parents, she took many educational and catechetical courses, obtaining her B.A. in Education, M.A. in Religious Studies, followed by Postgraduate Studies in Education.

Thus she became well-versed in modern educational methods and in the developing catechesis in the Faith which helped so many after Vatican Two. The values of a faith-filled education were close to her heart.

Theresita’s willingness to change took her from Immaculate Conception, Hialeah , to St. Ambrose, Deerfield Beach and to St Bernadette’s, Hollywood. In 1985 she was appointed principal of Immaculate Conception, Hialeah and proved an inspirational leader for both staff and pupils, building up a happy school community, firmly rooted in the parish, and with an outreach to the parents and home life. She carried out this role for 14 years until 1999.

It was then she made her decision to retire and return to her original base in Convent of Mercy, Enniskillen.

Here she received a warm welcome from the Sisters , her friends and from her various family members. She was soon immersed in hospital visitation, and in the day-to day living of community life. Her gifts of art and creativity were to be seen in the lovely noticeboards she created, in the décor for feast days, in the celebratory songs she composed, and in the warm hospitality she extended to all who came to visit.

A gifted letter writer she helped with the Convent correspondence and kept close contacts with her family and friends.

In her later years, Theresita coped very well with declining health and serious illness, retaining her cheeriness and will to be part of everything. She remained a deeply prayerful presence among her Sisters, devoted to the call of mercy in her daily life.

When God’ s final call came on April 23, 2020, Theresita was peaceful and calm. Holy Week and Eastertide were for her, as for Jesus, a journey back to a loving Father. She went to God with open hands and open heart.

On April 24, she was remembered at the 10.00am Mass in St. Michael’s Church, Enniskillen. Following a short prayerful farewell service with the Sisters in the Convent Chapel, Theresita was brought to her place of rest in the Convent Cemetery.

Sr. Theresita is survived by her sisters Mai (Kirkpatrick), Phil (MacRory), her brothers John (Phil), Geoffrey(Christina), Noel (Mattie), Louis (Fionnuala), many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, and two great grandnieces.

She was predeceased by her brother, Patsy.

Theresita is deeply regretted by the Sisters of Mercy, Enniskillen, and the Northern Province, her extended family and her many friends in Ireland and Florida.

Her Month’s Mind Mass will be celebrated at 6pm. on Saturday, June 20 in St. Michael’s Church, Enniskillen, and can be viewed on the parish webcam.