Sister Bridget Teresa Burns or Bridie as she was widely known was born in Knockalough, Keash, Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland daughter to Thomas and Mary Ellen Burns (née Quigley) the second of four children.
She received her early education at Keash National School, Ballymote and as a boarder at Marist Convent, Tubbercurry. Having completed her Secondary education Sister Bridie entered Saint Brigid’s Novitiate, Carrick-on-Shannon, County Leitrim in September 1947. Some years later her youngest sister Collette followed in her footsteps. Sister Gertrude predeceased her by fifteen years and is buried at Nympsfield.
At her reception on 6th September 1948, Sister Bridie was given the name of Cathaldus by which she was known for many years.
After her Profession on 8th September 1949, she was assigned to the two year old community of Sunninghill where she taught in the Junior School until 1951 when she went to Digby Stuart Training College, London from where she graduated as a Primary Teacher in 1954.
Returning to Sunninghill community, she joined the staff of the Junior School and was soon appointed as community bursar when her talent as an administrator was noted.
In the mid 1960s Sister Bridie transferred to the Fulham community as Provincial Bursar of the then Anglo-Irish Province a post she filled until 1971 when once again she returned to Sunninghill this time as Community Leader until 1977 when she went to Rome as General Bursar which however was of short duration as she was elected Provincial in England.
Mid 80s saw her again in Rome this time as Leader of the Congregation a ministry held at that time for a period of ten years. Her visits to worldwide areas of the Congregation gave her great pleasure in seeing the vibrancy and vitality with which the Marist charism was shared in far flung places and where she made many friends. Worldwide, there were few who were not touched by her gentleness and kindness.
In 1994 on finishing her mandate she had a well earned sabbatical break spent in the Holy Land where she relaxed and imbibed the atmosphere of the places made holy by the very presence of Christ during his active life on earth.
Completing her sabbatical break she returned to England and to her old Alma Mater Sunninghill where she resumed her previous role of bursar, this time for the school. In 1998 she transferred to Hythe as Community Leader until 2004 when Nympsfield became her home.
Sister Bridie worked tirelessly as bursar of the Marist Retreat Centre Nympsfield until in 2007 cancer struck for which she underwent maximum chemotherapy treatment. She selflessly carried her illness never allowing it to hinder her work in the Centre and in the community. “You fought it like steel” was the comment made by her consultant oncologist on one of her last visits to the hospital in Gloucester confirming her willing-to-live spirit to continue her service to others.
Sister Bridie’s life was lived to the full in the service of the Congregation. Coupled with her expertise and skill in financial things she was a woman of prayer of wisdom and insight which she shared with all.
It was only for the last week of her life with increasing weakness that she was confined to her room where she was lovingly cared for by her community and visiting nurses. Having said farewell to her family, her brother, sister and sister-in-law who came to visit her several days earlier, Sister Bridie in the presence of her community, Sector leader Sister Pauline O’Neill and Sister Helena Whelan slipped away peacefully to her maker after mid-day on 28th October 2010.
Her Requiem Mass on 10th November in Nympsfield chapel was celebrated by Canon Jeremiah Cronin from Hythe assisted by a number of clergy. In the congregation were Sister Bridie’s family, her sister Marie and three nephews from Ireland, Sisters from Rome, England, Wales and three from the Sector of Ireland together with many villagers and friends including representatives of groups that attend the Retreat Centre.
In his homily Reverend Brendan Burke a long time friend from early Sunninghill days said “Bridie will be remembered for her kindness, her caring and above all her generosity. She gave and never counted the cost; and this was her attitude to one and all. She was all things to all irrespective of age, faults or intelligence. Her good works will be her passport to heaven.”
To the singing of ‘May the choirs of angels come to greet you’ Sister Bridie was taken to her resting place only several feet from her sister Sister Gertrude in the little Nympsfield cemetery by Saint Joseph’s Church and adjacent to the convent; by the graveside a final commendation bade farewell with ’A blessing at a graveside’ and the singing of the Salve Regina and Marist Hymn.
Re-echoing the words of committal we say and sing:
May the choirs of angels come to greet you
May they speed you to paradise
May the Lord enfold you in his mercy
May you fond eternal rest.