Sister Sheila - Former St. Louis principal laid to rest

Sr Sheila Canty
Sr Sheila Canty

The Ballymena community and farther afield has been saddened by the death earlier this month of Sr Sheila Canty RIP at the age of 92.

Sr Canty had been residing in Rathmines for the last few years and despite failing health she always kept in

touch with St Louis Grammar School in Ballymena where she was Principal from 1975 – 1982 and Chair of the Board of Governors until 2005.

Sr Sheila may have been small in stature but her impact upon the staff and students of St Louis was significant.

Of the years 1975-1982 Sr Sheila wrote: “These were the years of confusion and insecurity in the educational world; the years when financial restrictions left no money for building; the years when the Cowan Report changed overnight the hopes for the school’s future into fears for its survival; the years when there was a tremendous expansion in pupil enrolment, resulting, each September, in the perennial nightmare of providing extra accommodation, the years when fears and hopes alternated in rapid succession.”

These were also the years when Sr Sheila had great personal suffering to endure from long recurrent bouts of illness. Were she not a person of indomitable perseverance and absolute dedication to her work of education, she could not have weathered the storm as she did.

Physically frail, but fearless in defence of principles, she provided the strong leadership that allowed the boys to be integrated into the traditions of St Louis and gave them the freedom to make their own contribution to those traditions.

Several vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, in a time when such vocations were rare everywhere, testified to the inspirational quality of her principalship.

It is planned to have a memorial service in the school to celebrate her life later on in the term.

Her funeral was attended by representatives of the school and a minute’s silence was held in her respect at the time of the funeral.