A NUN who has spent more than 40 years serving the most vulnerable children in London’s East End has received a special award honouring her work .
Sister Mary Lawrence received the Irish Youth Foundation’s fourth annual Nessa O’Neill award at the charity’s prestigious Hibernian Hero Award ceremony.
The Co. Clare native, who moved to England when she was 15, joined The Convent of Mercy in Stepney soon after she arrived; marking the start a long career spent serving the city’s most deprived young people.
Some 41 years ago the Convent Sisters set up the St John Bosco Youth Club, named after the saint who dedicated his life to poor children, and Sister Lawrence has worked among the group ever since.
Although she has won many awards for her efforts over the years, her latest accolade comes from a charity which offers financial assistance to the club, to allow it to continue its vital work.
An IYF spokesperson told the Irish Post: “On behalf of everyone involved with the Irish Youth Foundation and the Women’s Irish Network, we are delighted to announce that the winner of the IYF Nessa O’Neill Award this year is Sister Mary Lawrence for her outstanding work with young Irish children in Tower Hamlets at St John Bosco Youth Club.”
They added: “We can think of no one who is more deserving of this award for her inspiring dedication to helping young people thrive in a deprived area for over 40 years.”
Now in its fourth year, the Nessa O’Neill award was created in honour of the IYF founding trustee, who also helped launch WIN in 1998, who passed away in 2009.
Following Nessa’s death IYF announced the inauguration of a special annual award to commemorate Nessa’s remarkable achievements and to acknowledge her considerable contribution over the years to the Irish Youth Foundation.
Nessa’s family agreed the criteria which they feel best represent her exceptional attributes and talents as a fundraiser: innovative, inspirational, enterprising and effective.
Previous winners include Shelagh O’Connor, Director of New Horizon Youth Centre in London, Trish McEntee, Fundraiser for the SCAT Bone Cancer Trust, and last year’s recipient, Teresa Gallagher, founder of the ICAP (Immigrant Counselling & Psychotherapy) organisation.
Sister Lawrence has recently been in hospital but it recovering well.
Katie Williams and Mary Pallott represented St John Bosco Youth Club and accepted the award on her behalf in London last month.
The Irish Post is the media partner for the Hibernian Hero Awards.