Sr Philomena O’Sullivan honoured for her lifelong dedication to missionary nursing

Sr Philomena O'Sullivan, a Columban sister originally from North Cork, has been named June Cork Person of the Month in recognition of her fifty years work as a nursing missionary in Korea.

Sr Philomena trained as a nurse at Mercy University Hospital in Cork from 1949.

She left for Korea in June 1955 with Sister Mary David Mannion and spent six months in Mokpo before moving to the northern part of the country where she and her colleagues established a Clinic Foundation.

“Fifty-five years ago this month, I arrived in Seoul, Korea with my companion, Sr David Mannion. We travelled by boat from Cobh, Co Cork to New York and were met on arrival by sisters from our Boston house.

“From there, we travelled on a Swedish freighter from Los Angeles to Tokyo, via Manila. From Tokyo, we boarded a US army plane to Seoul in Korea,” said Sr. Philomena.

“Following our arrival in Korea, we set out by train for Mokpo, a southerly seaside town. Back then, it was a 12-hour journey; these days it’s merely a short two hour trip.

On arrival in Korea in 1955, Sr Philomena and her colleagues faced a turbulent environment in what was the end of the Korean War which brought significant challenges in treating the many thousands of people who attended the Clinic.

“We were able to source medicines from the U.S., samples from doctors’ offices and some of the pharmaceutical companies. We also received help from the U.S. army which enabled us to treat the local people at our clinic,” she said.

After 17 years working in post-war conditions, Sr Philomena was transferred to Mokpo in the south of the country, to continue her work with the poor and the sick at a local hospital where she was given position of Regional Superior of all the Sister Communities in Korea.

Sr Philomena travelled home to Ireland in 1971 to study midwifery at St. Finbarr’s Hospital.

Following a stroke which brought her back to Ireland in 1977, she returned to Korea in 1979 where she worked in paediatrics and out-patient clinics.

Sr Philomena continued her work in Mokpo until 2009, having spent more than 50 years working in Korea.

On her return to Ireland, she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee with her fellow Columban Sisters in Maghermore, Co. Wicklow on August 24, 2009 and has received two honorary awards for her work during her time in Korea.

The Cork Person of the Year awards organiser, Manus O’Callaghan, said, "To this day, Sr Philomena O’Sullivan is considered an iconic figure in South Korea and I’m delighted that we have this opportunity to acknowledge her lifelong dedication to missionary work.”   

Sr Philomena O’Sullivan will go forward, with the other Persons of the Month chosen, for possible selection as Cork Person of the Year, at a Gala Awards Lunch at the Rochestown Park Hotel on January 19, 2018.


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