Sr Margherita Rock obituary: An anchor of the Mater hospital

The care and education of children and the care of vulnerable people became the key themes of her working life

Sr Margherita Rock

Born: May 13th, 1937

Died: July 29th, 2019

Sr Margherita Rock, who has died at the age of 82, was a driving force behind many developments to improve the lives of children and vulnerable people.


She was best known for her long association with the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, and her former colleague Prof Tim Lynch told her funeral ceremony that the hospital had lost one of its key anchors when she died. Hundreds of staff escorted her coffin from the hospital chapel on her final journey from the Mater.

Margaret Rita Rock, as she was christened, was the fifth of seven children born to Michael and Bridget Rock in Caltra, near Ballinasloe, Co Galway, in 1937.

Like many families of that era they were devout Catholics, and the rosary was recited every night. Margaret Rita’s aunt, Sr Celestine Rock, was a nun with the Sisters of Mercy order, and may have been an influence when her niece decided to enter the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy at Carysfort in Dublin in September 1957.

Sr Margherita completed a diploma in teacher training at Carysfort, but found herself on a different path when her superiors asked her to study social science at University College Dublin. A Master’s degree in social work at the Catholic University of America in Washington followed, and Sr Margherita had found her calling. The care and education of children and the care of vulnerable people became key themes of her working life.

Much of this work was centred around the Mater hospital, which was founded by the Sisters of Mercy. At her funeral Prof Lynch noted that she was the last nun involved in the running of the hospital, and he said she was of the stature of Sr Catherine McAuley, who had founded the order.

“Sr Margherita was not corporate, not profit-driven, not self-serving, but sought to do good for people of all types and creed and race,” he said. “She was a model of mercy.”

Sr Margherita was a founder member of the Mater Child Guidance Clinic and the Mater Child and Family Centre in Ballymun. She was also a founder member of St Paul’s Special School for Autistic Children in Beaumont, and the Catherine McAuley School for Children with Dyslexia in Baggot Street.

The list of programmes she helped establish, and the groups she worked with, are too numerous to mention, but the beneficiaries included parents, childcare workers, pre-school children, and children with special needs and mental health difficulties.

For almost 30 years she was a member of the Mater department of child and family psychiatry team, which provided a specialist service to some 50 primary schools in north Dublin.

A second phase of her life began in 1987 when Sr Margherita was appointed executive chairwoman of the Mater hospital’s board of management. Despite financial difficulties during her term of office, many new services were introduced including the breast screening programme, the infectious diseases unit and the national spinal injuries unit. Other programmes and facilities were improved, such as the intensive care facilities and the national cardiac surgery unit.

Some initiatives were particularly close to her heart. Her championing of child art psychotherapy led to it becoming a Master’s programme in UCD, while the placement of the healing hands sculpture and eternal flame in the nearby Four Masters Park to mark the millennium brought her great pleasure.

Sr Margherita also found time to serve two terms as convent leader with her Sisters of Mercy community, and to sit on other trusts and boards, including the Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street, and the Dublin Neurological Institute.

Friends and colleagues described her as a very humble and selfless person despite the impact she had made in the Mater community and further afield. She was known as a very supportive mentor and a giver of great advice, whether it involved professional or private matters.

She got great joy from her collection of classical music, a passion that began when she took piano lessons as a child. She also volunteered at the Mater Charity Shop on Dorset Street every Saturday she was free.

Sr Margherita Rock is survived by her siblings Nancy, Josephine and PJ and predeceased by her brothers John Joe and Mikie and her sister Maisie.