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Winifred (Freda) Mary Killeen was born in Claremorris, county Mayo, during September 1916, the daughter of Patrick Joseph Killeen and Brigid Keane. Of her date of birth she writes: ‘What the exact date was I’ll never know. My Mother used to say it was 9th September, my Father, the 10th. The birth-certificate registers September 19th, and the baptismal-certificate states that I was baptised on 9th.’

Freda Killeen became a religious of the Society of the Sacred Heart. She entered at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Mount Anville, Dublin, on 14 September 1937 and was professed at Rome on 10 February 1947.

The papers that comprise this collection of archives were deposited at the Provincial Archives by Sr Killeen during February 2003.

In autobiographical notes, Sr Killeen describes a happy family life. Her father was a successful farmer and businessman. Sr Killeen was the eldest of three children, having a younger sister and brother, Nuala and John. She writes of evenings in their home: ‘And, as my mother was a very good pianist, our evenings were filled with music: my father playing the violin or singing to my mother’s accompaniment, and all 3 children delighting in singing & dancing, until we, in turn, could join the family-orchestra.’

In her autobiographical notes, Sr Killeen goes on to describe her education. By 1921, the family had moved to Dublin for schooling and to be with cousins. At first, the children were taught at home by governesses and attended classes ranging from ‘arts & crafts, to music-lessons, dancing, eurythmics & elocution.’ Sr Killeen then attended several schools in Dublin, namely, Nightingale Hall, Loreto College, St Stephen’s green, and finally, Mount Anville as a boarder. With her sister, Nuala, Sr Killeen began school at Mount Anville during September 1932. She attended for two years while Nuala left in 1936. Later, Sr Killeen studied at University College Dublin, graduating in 1946 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and German and the Higher Diploma in Education in 1948.

Prior to leaving school at Mount Anville, Sr Killeen spoke to Margaret Mary Walsh, rscj, about her vocation and desire to become a religious. She advised that Sr Killeen go to the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Pressbaum, near Vienna, as an au pair. Sr Killeen writes that: ‘A fruitful year in Pressbaum prolonged itself to two years.’ Also, she travelled around Europe as her father was anxious that she should see the world prior to entering a convent. After leaving Pressbaum, Sr Killeen took a degree as a concert pianist at the Royal Academy of Music in London and later worked as a presenter at Radio Éireann. Sr Killeen writes of her interest in music in her autobiographical notes: ‘…Nuala and I were chiefly interested in music – spending much of our time in preparing for various Feiseanna, & winning competitions in different parts of the country.’ On attending a social occasion at Mount Anville, she met Margaret Mary Walsh, rscj, and again spoke to her about her vocation. Sr Killeen entered at Mount Anville soon after this.

As a religious, Sr Killeen has travelled extensively, having served in several different provinces. In January 1962, she was a member of a group of five rscj who founded a house at Nkozi, Uganda, where she was Superior. Later she served in Canada and Austria. Also, Sr Killeen lived in several Irish houses. She has worked in different capacities throughout her religious life, for example, as school teacher, organist, facilitator in theology courses, spiritual direction and retreats etc, as well as in administrative posts such as superior. Currently, Sr Killeen lives at Cedar House.

This collection of papers comprises varied records treating of different aspects of Sr Killeen’s life. For example, there is material relating to her education and employment and her devotion to Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock, county Mayo. Also, there is material relating to Sr Killeen’s association with Uganda, a tie which endured after she left that country. Moreover, as superior of Nkozi and because of the part she played in the foundation at Kalisizo in 1964, Sr Killeen features heavily in papers held by the Provincial Archives and pertaining to Uganda.

Bernie Deasy

25 February 2003