‘The people of Killarney opened their doors to my parents and they soon found a home filled with friends’

The late Sr Pauline (Polly) McShain

A FORMAL proposal to open a book of condolences for Sr Pauline McShain – whose parents donated Killarney House and Gardens and Innisfallen island to the people of Killarney – will be made at a meeting of Kerry County Council this Monday morning.

A nun with the Society of the Holy Child Jesus Order, she passed away at her long-time home in Philadelphia on Saturday, at the age of 91.

At a meeting of Kerry County Council in Tralee this morning, Deputy Mayor of Killarney, Cllr Niall Kelleher, will propose that a vote of sympathy be sent to members of the extended McShain family and to the Society of the Holy Child Jesus Order.

He will also call for a book of condolences to be opened, possibly in Killarney House or in the town hall in Killarney, to allow the people of Killarney and Kerry to express their sympathy.

The only child of the of the late John and Mary McShain, Sr Pauline – affectionately known as Polly – lived and worked in the US and dedicated her life to the care of others through the religious order she joined in 1946.

Cllr Niall Kelleher

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, and the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey.

She dedicated her time to offering support and guidance to individuals living with HIV and she also 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.

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, the historic 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.

One of the magnificently restored rooms in Killarney House

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.

Cllr Kelleher, who is also Vice President of Killarney Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, said during his tenure as Mayor of Killarney he supported efforts to have John McShain posthumously inducted into the prestigious Order of Innisfallen but the plans never materialised as Sr Pauline McShain was unable to travel to Ireland due to ill health.

She was also unable to attend the official reopening of the €10 million refurbished Killarney House but she sent a message from her home in the USA.

“This house holds great meaning to our family. Many years ago, my parents chose to spend the remainder of their lives in the town enchanted by the natural beauty of Ireland and the delightful spirit and humour of its people,” she said.

Sr Pauline added: “The people of Killarney opened their doors to my parents and they soon found a home filled with friends and family thousands of miles from America”.

Mayor of Kerry, Cllr Norma Moriarty, also pair tribute to Sr Pauline who she described as “an exceptional and very warm person who was a great friend of Killarney”.

The Cathaoirleach of Kerry County Council, Cllr Norma Foley, has expressed her condolences to the family and friends of Sr Pauline McShain who died in Philadelphia at the weekend.

“Her family has left a lasting legacy to Killarney and the people of Kerry through its generous donation of Killarney House and Gardens as well as Inisfallen Island to the people of Ireland which have greatly enhanced Killarney and Kerry’s tourism and recreation offering.

“On behalf of Kerry County Council, I extend my condolences to her family and friends. May she rest in peace,” she said.

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