Australian Nun Among Dead in Malaysian Plane Crash

Sister Philomene Tiernan

Of course, every life that was lost aboard the Malaysian jet which was shot down over eastern Ukraine was of immeasurable value.

Lost are vacationing Dutchmen, a helicopter pilot, AIDS researchers, university students, and entire families including 100 children.

My goal is not to tell you that one life was worth more than the others–only to show, by citing the contributions of one individual who lost her life this week, how much all of humankind has lost with the deaths of these 298 individuals.

Sister Philomene Tiernan was a much-loved and long-serving member of the staff at Kincoppal-Rose Bay School in Sydney, Australia.   Sister Philomene was returning home after attending a conference in Britain, a theology course in Ireland, and a spiritual retreat in Burgundy, France.   She had also used the trip to visit St. Francis Xavier Church in Paris where Saint Madeleine Barat, founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, is buried.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, just the day before the doomed flight, Sister Philomene had phoned the principal of the suburban school where she taught–regaling her with tales of her European sabbatical.   The principal, Hilary Johnston-Croke, said, “We are absolutely devastated…the shock has been incredible.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Sister Tiernan had been associated with Kincoppal for three decades and had spent time as the director of boarding. Mrs Johnston-Croke said she was more than just a member of staff to students and teachers.

“We are absolutely devastated. For me she’s been a great mentor and she’s also a personal friend so we are just devastated,” she said. “The shock has been incredible.

“Sister Phil Tiernan is a greatly beloved member of our school community. She’s a sister of Sacred Heart, she’s been associated with the school for over 30 years.”

Hundreds of students and teachers attended an assembly at the school’s Rose Bay campus on Friday afternoon to talk about the teacher loved by all.

It is understood a number of people spoke about Sister Philomene during the assembly inside the Maureen Tudehope Centre.

Teary colleagues put their arms around each other and hugged as they walked out of afternoon assembly. A number of teachers were seen consoling students who had just heard the tragic news.

It is understood Sister Philomene had a sister who lived in Melbourne and many nieces and nephews from Sydney. Some of her younger relatives are students at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in North Sydney.

 

Premier Mike Baird of New South Wales extended his sympathies to Sister Tiernan’s family and friends, and to all who lost loved ones and colleagues.  “I offer my thoughts and prayers,” Mr. Baird said,

“…to the families and loved ones of those on board the Malaysia Airlines flight.  ‘This is a shocking and terrible tragedy which will be felt right across the world.

“There is no doubt an event of this scale will affect many people in this state who will have family and friends involved with this tragedy.”

The Kincoppal school is planning a celebration of Sister Philomene Tiernan’s life in the near future.

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Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

May their souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Amen.

 


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