THE 2017 Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award will be awarded to Sr Orla Treacy, a Loreto Sister in South Sudan. Sr Orla, from Bray, Co Wicklow, will be presented with the award by Cllr Niall Kelleher, Mayor of Killarney Municipal District, on Saturday evening, November 4, at a ceremony in the Killarney Avenue Hotel.
This year marks the tenth year of the memorial commemoration of the Monsignor, organised to raise awareness of his humanitarian work during World War Two when he and his colleagues in the Rome Escape Line saved over 6,500 people from the clutches of the Nazis who had occupied Rome at the time.
Sr Orla was nominated by Martin Rosney from Bray, Co Wicklow.
Born in 1973, she moved with her family at the age of two to Tralee where her father Blaise Treacy took up the position of Kerry County Secretary. She was educated initially at Presentation Convent Tralee, until at the age of six when her family moved to Bray, Co Wicklow, where she attended Loreto in Bray, completing her Leaving Cert in 1991. Having studied at the Mater Dei Institute she subsequently taught in Irish schools.
After spending a summer in India with the Loreto Sisters, at the age of 24 she decided to join the Order. Based at the Loreto Convent in Rathfarnham, she was professed as a Loreto sister in September 2005, but within a year, she headed to the large African state of Sudan with four other Loreto nuns to establish a mission in a diocese the size of Italy with just two secondary schools.
She has spent the last 11 years in Sudan, experiencing the trauma of South Sudan becoming an autonomous independent state in 2011 followed by civil war in 2013. Today, South Sudan is widely considered one of the most fragile states in the world with continuing conflict and unrest. Sr Orla is now the principal of Loreto Secondary School in Rumbek in Lakes State, in South Sudan where they have over 500 boys and girls.
The chairperson of the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Committee, Jerry O’Grady, said, “Sr Orla possesses and displays the bravery and humanitarian commitment we have come to associate with the recipients of this Award. At a young age and with a bright future ahead of her in Ireland, she decided instead to dedicate her life to those in need in what was already then a virtual war zone.”
Sr Orla Treacy with students at her school in Rumbek, South Sudan. Pic Courtesy of Paul Jeffrey/Loreto Sisters