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Ireland’s Sister Orla chosen for Hugh O’Flaherty Award

An Irish Loreto Missionary Sister will be the recipient of this year’s 2017 Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award.

Sr Orla Treacy, a Loreto Sister in South Sudan, was selected as this year’s recipient by an independent award panel from a shortlist of five nominees.

Over the past few months nominations have been invited for people or organisations which have displayed the same humanitarian ideals and principals as Mgr O’Flaherty and would be deserving of the award.

Sr Orla, from Bray, Co. Wicklow, was nominated by Martin Rosney, also from Bray, Co. Wicklow, and will be presented with the award by Cllr Niall Kelleher, Mayor of Killarney Municipal Authority on Saturday 4th November at an award ceremony in the Killarney Avenue Hotel.

Born in 1973, when she was two years old, her family moved to Tralee where her father Blaise Treacy took up the position of Kerry County Secretary. She was educated initially at Presentation Convent Tralee until 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 Presentation College Cork, Loreto Letterkenny, St Muredach’s Ballina and Loreto Crumlin. Having spent 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 nun 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. Chairman 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.”

When told that she had been selected for the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award, Sr Orla said: “The work of Mgr Hugh O’Flaherty has inspired so many in their fight against injustice for the protection of vulnerable populations. I am genuinely very humbled to receive this award. On behalf of Loreto sisters and all our staff at Loreto Rumbek, South Sudan, I graciously accept this honour. The girls and young people we work with in South Sudan fill us with hope for a better future for this country”.

This year marks the tenth year of the Memorial Commemoration of Mgr O’Flaherty, organised to raise awareness of the humanitarian work carried out by him when, during World War II, together with his colleagues in the Rome escape line, he saved over 6,500 people from the clutches of the Nazis who had occupied Rome at the time.

On 30th October 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the monsignor’s death, a permanent memorial to him was unveiled in Killarney town centre.

The memorial is a life-size sculpture of Mgr O’Flaherty by Valentia based artist Alan Ryan Hall. On 8th May 2016, a plaque commemorating him was unveiled at the German College, Rome, where he lived from 1938 until 1960 and from where he organised the World War II Rome escape line.

Admission to the Humanitarian Award ceremony in the Killarney Avenue Hotel on Saturday 4th November will be open to all.

More details on the 2017 memorial weekend, as well as detailed information on Mgr O’Flaherty’s life and work, can be found on or obtained from the Memorial Society at

Picture: Sr Orla Treacy pictured with students at her school in Rumbek, South Sudan, courtesy of Paul Jeffrey and the Loreto Sisters.