Belfast Telegraph

Tributes to nun with a passion for theatre

Much-loved Omagh-based Sister given an MBE for cross-community work dies at 74

By Donna Deeney

Tributes have been paid to an inspiring nun who set up a cross-community theatre and was recognised by the Queen for her work.

Sister Aengus Fitzpatrick, a Sister with the Loreto Convent, died yesterday aged 74 after a short illness.

Born Mary Fitzpatrick in Dublin, she joined the Loreto order at the age of 16, taking the name Aengus after her brother.

She will be laid to rest following Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Omagh, where she will be best remembered for establishing the Hazel Wand Theatre School.

Operating initially out of a classroom in St Brigid's College, where she taught drama, English and religion, Hazel Wand moved to its current location in the Co Tyrone town in 1993.

In 2010 Sr Aengus received an MBE for her contribution to the performing arts.

Leeann Daly, a former student of Sr Aengus who later returned to the Hazel Wand to teach alongside Sr Aengus, described her as a "completely unique" woman who was "adored and respected" by everyone.

Ms Daly said: "Aengus named the School 'Hazel Wand', taken from The Song Of A Wandering Aengus, a WB Yeats poem.

"Her vision was to instil a cross-community ethos through Performing Arts.

"All students welcome, no divisions, a truly unique and inclusive space, filled with vitality and energy.

"Sr Aengus, who was affectionately known to her students as 'Sr A' and 'Aengy', was held in the highest regard by every student who bounced up the stairs in Hazel Wand.

"She was adored and respected by all, parent and student alike, and was unparalleled in her artistic vision, a superb director, but a teacher first.

"Many students have taken everything she taught them and are now living a life in the arts, some as teachers, some as students and some as performers.

"I can personally say as a drama teacher myself that I remember everything this phenomenal lady taught me, every word.

"She shared her passion and her love with me and every other person fortunate enough to meet her, she didn't try to make us understand why drama was good, her energy and passion was infectious.

"She was completely unique, she had a means to envision things while we stood around wondering how it would ever work. It always did. She worked up until June 30, 2017, always putting her students first."

Many of her past pupils paid tribute to her on social media where she was remembered with great fondness.

Among them was Jackie Duffy, who described Sr Aengus as "an amazing teacher who set so many people on their path in life". She added: "She was an inspiration to so many and will be remembered with fondness and love. RIP."

Belfast Telegraph