Eileen Harrington was born in Ballinakilla, Bere Island in 1911 to John G and Minnie Harrington. She had one brother, Patrick (the former Principal of Bere Island NS) and three sisters, Margaret Tierney born in 1912, Annie (Nancy) Long born 1915 and Joan Riordan born 1917.
After completing Primary School on Bere Island, she and her sister Margaret took the Princess Beara from Castletownbere to Bantry.
They joined the train and went to Dublin to attend Junior Carysfort Preparatory School, Sion Hill, following on from which Eileen went to Mary Immaculate College of Education in Limerick, where she entered the Mercy Order in 1931. Her final religious profession was in 1937 when she took the name Sr Mary Benedict. She began teaching in Limerick city and taught in some Primary Schools for 20 years before she volunteered for the Florida Missions.
St Mary’s Catholic School, Florida
Sr Benedict spent 20 years teaching in St. Mary’s Catholic School, Rockledge, Florida from the day it opened in 1959, becoming principal of the school in 1962. She studied at the University of Notre Dame, where she qualified as a specialist in early childhood education. She taught all grades but especially enjoyed teaching Kindergarten.
Sr Mary Benedict was lauded as an educator of young children. She celebrated 50 years in religious life and 25 years at St Mary’s in 1983. She had many ministries, including leadership and participation and was widely regarded and known as the local Mother Teresa.
Papal and Presidential recognition
Over 1,200 people from throughout Central Florida, whose lives had been touched by Sr Benedict, packed St Mary’s Catholic School for a Mass recognizing her 50 years of religious service. The chief celebrant was Bishop Thomas Grady. This was followed by a reception where many tributes and letters of congratulations were read, including tributes from Pope John Paul II, President Reagan and the Florida Governor, Bob Graham. The Mayor of Rockledge proclaimed the week as “Sr Benedict Week”.
She returned to Ireland after her retirement and passed away at St Mary’s Convent, Limerick on December 20, 1990.