I am finding it difficult to find the right words to describe Sue Philippart – a parish volunteer, education volunteer, campaigner, school teacher and friend in the diocese of Menevia in Wales.
Some of you may know already, that Sue died in the early hours of Wednesday 25 March, following a serious fall – the very same day as her Mum’s (Gerry) funeral at Our Lady, Star of the Sea church in Mumbles, Swansea.
The very last message I had from Sue was on 4 March to let me know that her “lovely Mum passed away suddenly but peacefully in her sleep on Sunday 23 February, so life has been in turmoil ever since. I know you totally understand as you’ve been through the same yourself.”
Sue at a CAFOD briefing in Swansea with her granddaughter
She went on to say that she was at Mass the week before Lent Fast Day with her father and sisters and a fellow parishioner, Sarah O’Kane
“did my Lent appeal beautifully. Sarah is a beautiful soul.”
Fundraising at Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Mumbles
Sue gave me details of her Mum’s funeral in her parish, Our Lady, Star of the Sea in Mumbles on Tuesday 9 March and that two priests Fr Michael and Fr Mansel Usher (her former parish priest) were con-celebrating the Requiem Mass.
And her last message to me was: “Donations in lieu of flowers are to go to CAFOD. Would you mind putting my beautiful Mum, Gerardine Mary McNeff, in the Book of Remembrance please. Lots of love and hugs, Sue xxx”
Tragically, Sue had suffered a fractured skull in the fall and was put into an induced coma in hospital in Cardiff. She had emergency surgery and a request for prayers went out to family, friends, colleagues, pupils, parishioners to pray for Sue to make a full recovery. Sue was also remembered at our Mass in Romero House.
Sadly it was a few weeks later that Fr Mansel broke the awful news that Sue had died peacefully in the early hours of the morning. He had been with her and her family.
“May she rest in peace. Amen.”
We can only do the work we do at CAFOD because of wonderful volunteers like you. And Sue really was a volunteer in a million.
Sue Philippart, Gemma Salter, Fr Mansel Usher and Sarah O’Kane
She was beautiful, intelligent, fun-loving, prayerful, reflective, caring, compassionate, supportive – a do-er who put her faith into practical action.
She oozed infectious enthusiasm with her winning smile and can-do attitude.
Mrs Philippart with some pupils after a CAFOD assembly
She was a gifted primary school teacher who will be sorely missed by her colleagues and pupils at St Joseph’s Cathedral School in Swansea where she raised awareness and inspired prayer and action for a more just world.
Share the journey walk from St Joseph’s school to St Joseph’s Cathedral – with Canon Benedict Koledoye (Dean)
She championed CAFOD’s core values: compassion, hope, dignity, solidarity, partnership, sustainability and stewardship with daily acts of kindness and expressions of solidarity and hope.
Sarah O’Kane, Fr Mansel Usher and Sue Philippart
Not only in fundraising activities, but Share the Journey walks in solidarity with refugees and migrants in the Year of Mercy and campaigning with her parish and school children to write powerful messages to the World Bank; her class drew their own sun power pictures to highlight the need for renewable energy for the world’s poorest people so that they can access vital services such as schools and health clinics.
Fairtrade campaign outside Sainsbury’s in Swansea
A talented teacher, Sue was part of the Swansea-Siavonga partnership and visited Zambia with the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms.
Sue with Sr Mary
It was a life-changing trip which also included a visit to a CAFOD project: the St Francis Intergrated Care programme in Zambia where she met Sr Mary Courtney – a religious sister of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa who was the programme co-ordinator.
Sue was over the moon, and if it was possible to be more supportive of CAFOD, then she was.
Parishioners from OLSS with Geoff O’Donoghue and Fr Michael Apoghiran
CAFOD’s Operations Director, Geoff O’Donoghue, visited Our Lady, Star of the Sea parish and met with Sue and the wonderful group of committed and generous parishioners who support CAFOD’s work with prayer and fundraising. And he wrote to her after his trip to Mumbles to say:
“It was a great pleasure to meet Fr Michael, yourself and all the other supporters at Our Lady’s – it is very energizing to meet the levels of commitment and motivation that were so evident in your parish community and in the concern you have for others.”
Her fellow Education volunteer and good friend from OLSS, Sarah O’Kane sent us this:
“Sue was the CAFOD Parish Rep for Our Lady Star of the Sea in Mumbles and when I joined the Parish in October 2016 I asked if I could do anything to help her…well, as she used to say, the rest is history!
We became a good team, I was constantly inspired by her contagious enthusiasm for CAFOD (due to which I also became, like Sue, a CAFOD School Volunteer.)
Sue cared deeply about justice, especially where children and education were concerned. She was always ready to go the extra mile, literally in fact, when Sue went to Zambia twice, on British Council exchange visits, she carved out time from an incredibly busy schedule to visit Sister Mary in a project supported by CAFOD. On her return home, Sue persuaded the Parish to earmark funds to continue to support Sister Mary’s Project.
We will all miss Sue’s huge smile, her warmth, her strong faith, her love of life and her wonderful enthusiasm.”
And a fellow Education volunteer in Menevia, Jane Stubbs, added:
I only knew Sue for a short time, but what an impression she made on me. I first met her on the train from Swansea to Cardiff for our CAFOD training. Sarah introduced me, and straight away it was like speaking to a long lost friend, her smile, warmth and enthusiasm for everything we talked about will always stay with me.
It was a privilege to have known her.
And from Fr Mansel Usher:
During my time as parish priest of Our Lady Star of the Sea, Mumbles, Ms Sue Philippart, who has been a member of the parish all her life, became an invaluable supporter of a number of projects that were either already in existence or were new to the parish.
One of the projects already underway was the parish`s support for CAFOD. When I appealed for volunteers to help raise the profile of CAFOD`s activities both within the parish and within schools, Sue, along with Mrs Sarah O`Kane responded with tremendous enthusiasm.
The parish were already generous supporters of CAFOD but with the help of Sue and Sarah the level of support rose significantly. It was always a delight to work with Sue and Sarah. Any requests for help to promote events such as the Lenten Family Fast Appeals or the Harvest Appeals were always responded to with unconditional generosity.
Her “unconditional generosity” is something that I will sorely miss in our dear departed sister Sue. She is someone I knew I could totally depend upon, someone who would go out of her way to give everything to help support such a worthy cause which she totally believed in.
It is hard to believe Sue is no longer among us. In losing Sue I, like so many people, have lost a very dear friend, a beautiful person of deep, unwavering faith.”
Sue’s family have sent up a fundraising page in her memory with proceeds to CAFOD; she will live on in our work. We are incredibly grateful to Sue’s father, Chris McNeff and to all her family for thinking of CAFOD at this awfully difficult time. She would be so proud of you all.
St Joseph’s Cathedral School, where Sue taught for many years, has produced a wonderful montage which we share here.
We will forever miss your radiant smile, your unfailing enthusiasm and your warm and loving friendship. Thank you Sue, from us all at CAFOD.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13)
Sue gave all of these in abundance. May she rest in eternal peace.