|Religion||Christian (Roman Catholic)|
|Order||Sisters of Mercy|
9 January 1937|
Brosna, County Kerry
Eileen Fitzgerald, better known as Sr Consilio (born 9 January 1937) is an Irish nun who set up Cuan Mhuire, a charitable drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation organisation in Ireland. Among numerous awards which she has accepted for the organisation, in 2011 she was awarded an honorary MBE by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of her lifelong work in helping individuals and families suffering from alcoholism and other addictions.
Eileen Fitzgerald, who is better known as Sr. Consilio of Cuan Mhuire, was born on 9 January 1937. She was the fifth child, of three brothers and three sisters, born to Maurice and Mary Agnes Fitzgerald. Sr. Consilio was raised on a farm in Clougvoula, Brosna, County Kerry. Sr. Consilio went to secondary school in at the Convent of Mercy in Abbeyfeale.
The Sisters of Charity encouraged their nurses to do visitations of the sick or needy on Gurranabraher—a local housing estate. The nurses who chose to do so, went in pairs and were easily recognisable in their navy uniform coats. Sr. Consilio spent most of her off duty in Gurranabraher where she got to know and love the people. Years later when she was doing her midwifery in St. Finbarr's Hospital, Cork she found herself once more in Gurranabraher – this time in the capacity of a midwife.
Joining the nuns
As part of Sr. Consilio's training as a nun she taught second standard in the Primary School. . In her second year she taught infant boys and fifth standard. She also got her first taste of work in St. Vincent's Hospital, Athy. The Matron, Sr. Dominic, was her mentor who had a profound effect on the young Sr. Consilio.
Awakening of concern for the homeless and addicted
During Sr. Consilio's time working in St. Vincent's Hospital, Athy, she would come in contact with, and befriend, many "road men"—those men of no fixed abode who went from county home to county home, and found temporary lodgings in a little house at the bottom of the garden at St. Vincent's. They got their at a side table in the main dining room. She would come to know these men well from her work in the kitchen; she also looked after their sleeping accommodation and chatted with them at nighttime. In her own words she said
I was interested in them and found them to be intelligent, often well educated people. Some of them had even changed their names as they didn't want to be recognised—they were so ashamed of their lifestyle. I often talked to them about their families and encouraged them to write home, particularly if their mothers were alive. I often thought how my mother would worry if a brother of mine were in a similar position. As time went on I began to realize more and more that these people were my brothers, and I said to myself: ‘Some day, somewhere, somehow, I will have a place that these people can call home
In 1965 she convinced the nuns in Athy to convert the dairy of the convent into a 'drop in' centre, where she could greet her visitors and listen to their troubles. This dairy became the focal point of Sr. Consilio's work with the homeless and the addicts. By this time, a few tradesmen had begun to recover from their addiction and they set to work on the dairy. Thus a functioning unit began. In 1965 Sr Conillio founded Cuan Mhuire and dedicated her life to the work of the charity.
In November 1972, a farm of land came up for sale just outside Athy. Sr. Consilio, encouraged by the support of her Mother superior, paid a visit to the local bank manager. He asked Sr. Consilio how she would pay for it. She told him that "Our Lady would provide". Sr. Consilio attended the auction in full nun regalia and she came away from the auction with a forty two acre field and no way to pay for it. The bank manager asked Sr. Consilio how she managed to pay for the land, she simply replied: “Our Lady helped me”.
Recognition of Work
Sr. Concilio has been publicly honoured on many occasions. Sr. Consilio has accepted every award or nomination on behalf of Cuan Mhuire. The awards include:
- 1975 Nurse of the Year In recognition of her work and professionalism
- 1977 Received a civic reception by the Lord Mayor of Galway and nominated as one of the "People of the Year"
- 1993 Nominated for Dublin Lord Mayor Awards and was placed on Dublin's civic honours list. The Lord Mayor of Dublin at that time was Alderman Gay Mitchell, T.D..
- 1996 Kerry Person of the Year at this presentation Marion Walsh, Cathaoirleach of the Kerry Association, said:
Sr. Consilio has vast experience in meeting suffering in others, but the serenity she radiates is proof that happiness can be found in the midst of suffering. She is a very worthy recipient of the 1996 Kerry Person of the Year Award, and Kerry people from all over the world should be proud of her humanity and achievements
- 1997 Athy Person of the Year
- 1999 Conferred with Honorary Life Membership of the Royal Dublin Society
- 1999 Winner of the Irish Sun "Sunshine Person of the Year"
- 1999 Hall of Fame Award sponsored by Allied Irish Bank and the Kerryman – This award honoured not just Sr. Consilio but the members of the Fitzgerald family who have worked for Cuan Mhuire. It honoured in particular, her brother Johnny Fitzgerald, who has done so much building work in all of the Cuan Mhuire centres and her sister, Sr Agnes who works in Cuan Mhuire, Bruree, Co. Limerick.
- 2000 Sr. Consillio was conferred with an Honorary Fellowship of the Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery at the Royal College of Surgeons An honour which she shares with, among others, Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
- 2002 Honorary Fellow Waterford Institute of Technology in fitting recognition of Sister Consilio's dedication to improving the life of others.
- 2002 Degree of Doctor of Laws (LLG) conferred by The Higher Education and Training Awards Council
- 2003 Voted, by Radio Kerry listeners, "The Greatest Kerry Person of All Time"
- 2003 Awarded Duhallow Person of the Year.
- 2010 CHKS international quality improvement award for 2010.
- 2011 Sr. Consillio was awarded an honorary MBE by the Queen of England in recognition of her lifelong work in helping individuals and families suffering from alcoholism and other addictions.
- Cuan Mhuire A Haven of Hope the Life and Work of Sister Consilio by Nora McNamara :HSI Publications
- The In God's Hands Story of Sr Mary Consilio and Cuan Mhuire Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. by Costello, A Gemma : Veritas Publications Cite error: Invalid
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-  Cuan Mhuire Web Site
- Sr. Consillio awarded an honorary MBE, Irish Examiner
- The Cuan Mhuire A Haven of Hope the Life and Work of Sister Consilio by Nora McNamara : HSI Publications'
- Honorary Fellowship of Waterford Institute of Technology Waterford Institute of Technology.
- Irish Independent article on the greatest Kerry person of all time, Irish Independent
- CHKS international quality improvement award for 2010, Irish Times (2010)