THE only child of the couple who donated the stunning Killarney House and Gardens to the people has passed away.
Sr Pauline (Polly) McShain has died in Philadelphia where she lived and worked with the Society of the Holy Child Jesus order which she joined in 1946.
During the 1990s, she became a volunteer with Siloam, a non-profit organisation in Philadelphia, which offers services to support and guidance to individuals living with HIV. She later became involved in research for the American Province of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus and worked closely with the planning committee of the Voice of the Faithful organisation in Philadelphia which was established to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse and to support priests of integrity.
In the late 1950s, Sr Pauline’s father, John McShain, was part of a syndicate of wealthy businessmen that purchased the former Earls of Kenmare owned Killarney Estate, which encompasses 25,000 acres, including the middle and lower lakes of Killarney.
In the years that followed, the bulk of the priceless property passed into the hands of the state and, following the death of Mrs Mary McShain in 1998, at the age of 91, Killarney House also came into the people’s possession.
In 1973, the McShains gifted Innisfallen Island and the ruins of its historic abbey to the people of Killarney. Six years later they turned over the estate to the government, for what was described as a nominal sum but before signing the agreement, the McShains insisted on a condition that the lands would be incorporated into Killarney National Park in perpetuity.
The late John McShain was the most successful and dynamic construction contractor in the US and his building credits included the reconstruction of the White House (1949-52), the Jefferson Memorial (1939-41), and the John F Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts in Washington DC (1971). He also built the Pentagon in 1941 and the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1959.
His wife, Mary, a native of Philadelphia, was a Lady of the Grand Cross of the Holy Sepulchre and a Dame of Malta. In 1976 she was the recipient of the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, the highest honour the Vatican can bestow on a laywoman. The following year she was presented with honorary doctorates from three universities.
John and Mary McShain are interred in their native Philadelphia and their only child was Sr Pauline. She graduated from Rosemont College with a BA in English and she secured Masters degrees in Secondary Education, Religious Studies, Guidance and Counselling.Sr Pauline taught both in the United States and in Nigeria, before she worked as a secondary school principal and as Vicar for Religious in the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT, and the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey.
There had been plans to present S Pauline with the Order of Innisfallen award – the highest award Killarney can bestow – last year but she wasn’t well enough to travel to Killarney to accept the offer.
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