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A Valiant Woman

Lily McNicholas Ireland's Own, May 3rd 2013,pg20 /21. Via OurIrishHeritage.org

Lily McNicholas
Ireland’s Own, May 3rd 2013,pg20 /21.
Via OurIrishHeritage.org

In March, 1998, we celebrated the Mass of Resurrection for Lily McNicholas, a friend from where I formally lived. Only then did I discover the heroic things Lily had done as a nurse in the British Army in World War II. It happened in the English Channel when an enemy submarine torpedoed a Dutch hospital ship that Lily was serving on.

As the ship began to sink, Lily gave up her seat in her life boat to an immobile soldier. No need to ask why. She did it without hesitation. As the ship began its final plunge, Lily slid down the broad side into the water. Not able to swim, she depended on her life jacket for survival. In the midst of all this havoc, Lily came upon a one legged soldier struggling to keep stable in the water. Again, without hesitation, she grabbed hold of him to keep him from drowning. After many hours, a rescue ship picked them out of the water with Lily’s hair bleached white from the salt water. For her heroic act above the call of duty, the King of England bestowed the Order of the Empire Medal on Lily McNicholas.

One word in the dictionary describes Lily’s state of mind. She had the gift of maturity, the ability to live in some-one else’s world. In the Gospel, Jesus saw a fig tree not bearing fruit over a period of time. It had not matured! The Master said, “Cut it down!” I must mature, that is, grow up to be unselfish and conscious of the needs of others before my own. Only then will I bear fruit! Young Lily McNicholas was willing to die that others might live.

Some nights, as I look over the happenings of my day, I am sad when I see how completely I was taken up with my own concerns, comforts and with little thought for the needs of others. How immature on my part! Is not a sin a sign of immaturity? In sin, I choose my own selfish needs and turn from God. At Lily’s Funeral Mass 17 years ago, I resolved to forget my own fears and anxieties and think of others. To this day, I still think of her when my thoughts drift from the needs of others.

Fr. George Mc Kenna

August 1, 2015 - Posted by | Bulletins | , , , , ,


  1. Great story father, wouldn’t the world be a much better place if all would think like that! Hope you are well. D. Hurley

    Comment by Anonymous | August 1, 2015 | Reply

  2. Beautiful!  In these days when a  self-serving phrase like  “It’s not my problem”  is becoming so common it’s heartening to hear Lily McNicholas’ true story.   “One righteous person is worth a whole world of unrighteous people.   Blessings to you and your family dearest Father McKenna, Mary Lou Wingert    

    Comment by fathermkenna | August 2, 2015 | Reply

  3. Thank you for sharing these many great stories, and you life work. May God bless u always. Tpd and familyn

    Comment by Tom Dubrick | August 2, 2015 | Reply

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