The Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy from St. Leo’s Convent in Carlow have had a very long and generous relationship with the Knockbeg Community. Whether at prayer, cooking or nursing their dedicated service has been a great blessing to us here.

We are forever in debt to the Sisters for their very special ministry among us.

FOR ALMOST sixty years, you could always find Sister Juliana Mooney in the kitchen at Knock beg.

As a Sister of Mercy, she was first asked to go out to the allboys boarding school in 1953 and, though she wasn't too keen on the idea, she did as she was bid.

'I'd had some training in cooking in the convent here in Carlow and I was selected to go to Knock beg because I was the only one available,' the now 90 year old nun vividly recalls. 'I didn't welcome the selection because I loved it in Leo's but at the time, we'd no choice.'

'If I'd known that I was going to be there for 60 years, I'd have had second thoughts!' she laughs. 'It was hard work but I was young and able for it.'

Sr. Juliana, who hails from Rathangan, County Kildare, initially only had two girls to help her in the kitchen, cooking all the meals for some 80 boarders plus the resident priests. As the years progressed, she was in charge of feeding up to 180 mouths but the early days when there were few kitchen conveniences must have been the toughest.

'In the 1950s, we hadn't very modern means of cooking but, sure, we managed,' she says, good-naturedly. 'We did have an Aga cooker and everything was prepared by hand. We got our vegetables from Paddy and Mary Dooley who had a shop on Tullow Street and a good bit of our meat came from Brennans on Dublin Street. Willy Dunny on Castle Street used to give us the bread and I kept chickens so we'd have some eggs for the boys. Some of the chickens would end up on the plate, too!'

'I cooked all the meals, so thank the Lord I had good health,' the sprightly woman continued with the sharpest of memories. 'I got up at 5.30 a.m. because I had to get the water boiled for breakfast. The rising bell for the boys was at 7 a.m. and their breakfast at 8 a.m. I'd finish up at around 4 in the afternoon and the girls on the evening shift would look after the tea.'

'I used to cook things like beef, and rashers and sausages and deserts of all shapes and kinds,' she adds. ' The boys were more interested in the deserts, I think, especially the Eve's Pudding which they called 'cakey.' Sometimes, even now, when I meet the past pupils they'd ask me about that.'

'During the 58 years, I saw big changes,' she says. 'We became more modern, we had to move with the times. We got an electric mixer at one stage and that was marvellous, especially for making the likes of apple tarts and things.'

'I lived out in Knockbeg and I did miss the company of the other sisters but we'd come in to the convent for special occasions,' Sr. Juliana remembers. 'In the whole house of Knockbeg, there were only about eight women working. I got on well with the other girls and the priests, too. They were thorough gentlemen, I have to say. They worked really hard, too, from early morning to late at night. It was a big responsibility. I never experienced anything except kindness from the priests, especially Fr. Micheál Murphy. He's a very kind, thoughtful person.'

'I retired when I was 75 years old because I got sick but I wrote to the Mother General and asked her if I could go out to Knockbeg during the day to help them out a bit,' Sr. Juliana smiles. 'So I did that until last week when I felt it was time to get out of their way then. It was tough work but I was happy there, I never had a moment's regret.'


Sr. Juliana Mooney has been awarded a Papal ‘Benemerenti Medal’  for her generous, dedicated and inspiring service to the students and staff of Knockbeg College for over 58 years.

At a ceremony in the College last Saturday afternoon Msgr. Brendan Byrne, former Rector of Knockbeg and currently the Diocesan Administrator, made the presentation to Sr. Juliana on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI.

Sr. Juliana’s’ long and exceptional service to the Catholic Church through her ministry in St. Mary’s, Knockbeg College, has been quite remarkable.  Since 1953 as catering supervisor she managed every aspect of food services there – in good times and bad.  As a member of the ‘college community’ she participated in and led many of the liturgical celebrations, kept a keen interest in the progress of the students, and, with her Mercy sisters, honoured the vision of Catherine McAuley humbly and quietly on a daily basis.

Sr. Juliana was born near Rathangan in Co. Kildare.  Of four girls in her family she and her sister, Sr. Monica, RSM, entered the Sisters of Mercy Order responding to the Lord’s call and serving him with unassuming distinction.  College Rector, Fr. Micheál Murphy said           “Sr. Juliana’s service to this College has been inspiring based as it is on her faith in God and trust in Mary, mother of Jesus”.

The presentation was made during a special ceremony marking the end of the ‘boarding’ aspect of the College.  Past pupils, former staff and many with a variety of links to the College attended.

Sr Juliana-------An inspiration to us all