Tipperary’s ‘Flying nun’ named Volunteer of the Year

Sr Patricia Wall received the Christine Buckley award in Sligo

Sr Patricia Wall has been named Volunteer of the Year at the Volunteer Ireland Awards for her dedication to a local community in Co Tipperary.

Sr Patricia is known to many as the "Flying Nun" for skydiving aged 75 to raise funds for Aware and her local family resource centre. Having battled depression herself while a missionary in New Zealand in the 1960s, she wanted to raise much needed funds and the "flying nun" was born.

Since her retirement as a school principal more than 20 years ago, she has set up three organisations to support the Slieveardagh community – which is on the Tipperary-Kilkenny border – and she is still involved in the day-to-day running of all three.

The Millennium Family Resource Centre, Ballingarry Community Development and Slieveardagh Rural Development came together to nominate Sr Patricia for the impact she has had on the community.


She picked up the Christine Buckley award on Friday night in Sligo – named in memory of the late campaigner, activist and co-founder of the Aislinn Education and Support Centre.

Other winners on the night included Mohammed Rafique, a former Rohingya refugee, who gives his time to the Muslim community and local cricket club in Carlow. Rafique moved to Carlow in 2009 as part of a UNHCR resettlement programme. He also volunteers as the media coordinator for the European Rohingya Council who advocate for the human rights of Rohingya people globally.

"Volunteers are the backbone of communities across Ireland," said Volunteer Ireland CEO Nina Arwitz. "Sr Patricia exemplifies everything that is wonderful about the spirit of volunteering in Ireland, from her high adrenaline sky diving to her long-term commitment to the local community. And Mohammed Rafique demonstrates the huge contribution and positive impact that new arrivals to Ireland make, something we are proud to highlight.

“Volunteers are often unseen but the contribution they make to Irish society is immense. These awards give us a chance to say thank you and celebrate the difference volunteers make every day.”


Animals & Environment: Suzanne O'Neill – Sean Walsh Memorial Park, Dublin.

Arts, Culture & Media: Treasa Martin – Ballymun Local Community, Dublin.

Campaigning & Awareness Raising: Mohammed Rafique - Rohingya Council, Carlow.

Children & Youth: James Dempsey – Big Picture Youth Cafe, Dublin.

Community: Patricia Lynch – Dunshaughlin Local Community, Meath.

Health & Disability: Mae Murphy – Drumkill Day Care Centre, Monaghan

Safety and Emergency Services: Michael Cardiff – St John Ambulance Ballyfermot, Dublin.

Social Work and Social Inclusion: George and Mary Sugrue – Chernobyl Children International, Kerry.

Sports & Recreation : Benny Grogan – WATCH Cycling Club, Louth.

Outstanding Group: Ballyphehane & Togher Community Arts & Crafts Initiative, Cork.

Volunteer Manager Special Commendation: Eithne Kiely – Sligo Social Services, Sligo.

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen

Damian Cullen is Health & Family Editor of The Irish Times