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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Philomene Tiernan, RSCJ Dies in MH17 ... Revered and Loved by Many Sacred Heart Alums and Educators

Center photo back row L-R: Luke Reed, Lynette Toohey RSCJ and Anne Corry RSCJ (partially hidden)
Front row L-R: Phil Tiernan RSCJ, Janet O'Sullivan, Helen Sinclair, and Rita Carroll RSCJ

July 19th

"Soul touches soul, words and other contacts are not necessary... God allows the paths to cross, that souls may waken in each other the deeper springs that for the most part lie untouched."

Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ (1857 - 1914)
6th Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart

The above quote is taken from the perpetual spiral-bound calendar "The Life Lived" which celebrates the Centenary of Janet Erskine Stuart, RSCJ - (click here to order).   And, to order your very own Janet Erskine Stuart Centenary Memorabilia - click here. 

The above collage of photos were all taken in England during the Janet Erskine Stuart Centenary Celebrations.  As a very large group of RSCJ, Sacred Heart Educators and Alums, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart together on Friday, June 27th.  The next day many went via bus to Cottesmore to visit the birthplace and home of Janet Erskine Stuart and from Sunday, June 29th until  Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 we all were immersed in what was referred to as The Seeking Spirit Programme.

Approximately 82 of the 112 attendees were members of the Society of the Sacred Heart, little did anyone know that one of the attendees who was enjoying a summer sabbatical would never return to her home in Australia. 

Mary Philomene "Phil" Tiernan was born on June 17, 1937.  Phil entered the Society of the Sacred Heart and made her First Vows on August 9, 1959. She made her final profession on July 21, 1965. Tragically, Sr. Tiernan was on board Malaysian Airline Flight MH17, which was shot down over the Ukraine on July  18, 2014.

Shortly after making first vows Sr. Phil taught at Stuartholme and later at Kincoppal-Rose Bay where she worked for more than 30 years as teacher and director of boarding.  She also served as Provincial of the Australia/New Zealand Province from 1993 - 1999.  

Sr. Tiernan was lovingly referred to as "a grandma that everyone just loved" by current students.   Alumna, Lucy Thackray said, "Sister Philomene Tiernan was one of those all-too-rare people that made everyone she met feel special." The Honorable Malcolm Turnbull, tweeted, "Many women including my wife and daughter Daisy were inspired by the love of Sr. Phil Tiernan, RSCJ.  God bless her and all who died in MH17." 

Sr. Aideen Kinlen, RSCJ and Sr. Tiernan had been together on retreat in France where they visited the home of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, Foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart in Joigny and also the reliquary in the church of St. Francis Xavier in Paris.   

Prior to this trip, Sr. Tiernan was enrolled in a faith and spirituality renewal course at All Hallows College for the entire month of May.   Sr. Kinlen stated that "Sr. Phil really loved her stay in Ireland and said it was 'great craic'  here."  

I met Sr. Phil Tiernan in England where she had come to take part in the Janet Erskine Stuart Centenary Celebrations.  We had an opportunity to dine together and afterward it was easy to see why she was so loved and revered by fellow educators, current students and alumnae.  In conversation she was like a magnet that drew you in with her warm smile.  We both shared the pride of having roots in Ireland.  

This summer also brought Sr. Tiernan and a few family members to the Netherlands where her Uncle Patrick E. T. Tiernan would be remembered as a war hero.  Patrick Tiernan left Murgon in 1942 and joined the army and became an airman for RAAF.  ironicly Sr. Tiernan's Uncle Pat who was flying a Halifax MZ715 bomber was shot down on June 16, 1944. Seventy years after her Uncle's death, Sr. Tiernan along with other relatives gathered at the Dodewaard Cemetery to pay tribute to him.  

Aideen Kinlen who knew Phil for over twenty years states that while in retreat together the subject of death came up and Sr. Kinlen shared a poem entitled "What Will Matter" which Sr. Tiernan indicated she looked forward to sharing with others stating, "Oh that's wonderful, I'm taking that home to Australia with me."

"What will matter is not your competence but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, 
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone."

by Michael Jospehson 2003

Photo of Phil Tiernan above by Sr. Mary Schumacher, RSCJ


  1. Thank you, Maureen, for putting together this wonderful tribute to Sr. Phil. Like you, I meet Sr. Phil at the JES Conference in England. What a delightful person - so generous, warm and full of life. She is dearly missed.

    1. Ray, you are so welcome and I thank you for posting the photos/info on our wonderful Pilgrimage to Cottesmore. I will post more photos and stories about our experience at the JES Conference as time permits. In the meantime, continued prayers for all who are feeling a lasting loss now that Sr. Phil has gone to God!