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Ireland Veteran homeless campaigner Sister Stanislaus Kennedy opens up about cancer diagnosis

12:50  09 february  2020
12:50  09 february  2020 Source:   dublinlive.ie

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a person standing in a garden smiling: Sister Stanislaus Kennedy in the Sanctuary Garden © Provided by Dublin Live Sister Stanislaus Kennedy in the Sanctuary Garden

Sister Stanislaus Kennedy has opened up for the first time about her cancer diagnosis in 2018, admitting she couldn’t bring herself to say the word at first. The veteran champion of the homeless is now in remission after an 18-month battle which forced her to slow down and take a step back. Sr Stan, 80, revealed: “I was in shock really because I didn’t want people to know I was sick, but it trickled out.

“I never thought I was going to die, I didn’t think about that at all. I drew on my faith… that helped me. “I was slowed down more quickly than I had planned. I have my frailties and my fragilities and they’re part of me. “But to be honest they’re the parts of me that keep me level-headed. The greatest gift has been the gift of people.” Six decades of campaigning, activism and outreach on behalf of the disadvantaged have made Stan a national figure.

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She founded the country’s biggest voluntary organisation fighting homelessness, Focus Ireland, and later set up the National Immigration Council. But in an RTE documentary celebrating her life’s work she admits her outspoken views often got her into trouble with her Catholic superiors. Stan broke ranks to speak out in favour of the marriage referendum and a paper she wrote about church resources years earlier earned her a reprimand from the Vatican.

Handout photo of Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, Life President and Founder of Focus Ireland at the launch of the 2009 Focus Ireland Annual Report in Dublin. © Patrick Bolger/PA Media Handout photo of Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, Life President and Founder of Focus Ireland at the launch of the 2009 Focus Ireland Annual Report in Dublin. She revealed: “At a very young age I was speaking out about poverty and injustice, but this didn’t go down well with the order [Sisters of Charity]. I wrote a paper saying the Church had resources and it wasn’t using them for the poor. Well, all hell broke loose because it was picked up by the media. “People were furious, bishops were furious, I got a letter from Rome, in the end of it I was silenced.

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Brian Kennedy flicks his almost trademark black mane over his shoulder and thumbs his cup of coffee around the saucer. You would forgive the musician, who was diagnosed with rectal cancer just five months ago, some time to both breathe Brian says he was in complete shock after the diagnosis .

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But then I rose up again and started speaking out again.” Her battle for a fairer society saw the nun persuade the government to part with IR£1million for social housing at Dublin’s Stanhope Green in the 1980s. But Stan says the level of homelessness we are witnessing in 2020 is “horrific” and could have been avoided. She said: “I can remember in 1987 predicting that within the following six or seven years we could have eliminated long-term homelessness.

“It could have happened, except that the Government reneged on its commitment to provide houses. Now it is way beyond crisis. “A home is a basic human right. I believe it should be a constitutional right.”

  • Being Stan: A Life in Focus is on RTE One on Thursday at 10.15pm.

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    Pic of young Wicklow family's room shows depressing reality of Ireland's housing crisis .
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