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Eileen O'Kane Remembered: 1944-2021

Author: Kristina Cooper

Picture: Kristina Cooper

Eileen O'Kane Remembered: 1944-2021

Kristina Cooper remembers Eileen O'Kane, a popular and well-known person in CCR, who died on 2 May 2021 aged 77.

Eileen O’Kane, who died on 2 May 2021, aged 77, was probably not as well known nationally as some of the other CCR pioneers because  her work tended to be more behind the scenes making things happen. Initially Eileen had been very sceptical of the Charismatic Renewal, when she first encountered it in the late 1970s. Yet once she realised God was in it, she embraced it with her whole heart. 

A great organiser of conferences and pilgrimages at both the local and national level, her dynamism and leadership gifts were quickly recognised, and she was invited to join the National Service Committee for Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the mid- 1990s. She served on this for over two decades, including a spell as Vice-Chairperson. She was also founder member of the Committee of the Isles, which brought members of the NSCs of  CCR in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales together, and had been a member of the Brentwood diocesan service committee for over 35 years. 

A Forensic Brain And An Openness To The Spirit

Eileen combined very practical gifts and a forensic brain with an openness to the Spirit, which made her prepared to be bold and take risks if she felt the Spirit’s prompting. This made her an ideal  trustee for charities associated with the CCR such as CREW Trust, Sion Community and ICCOWE (International Consultation on World Evangelisation). She could be demanding, however, and sought complete transparency in all things.

I remember once asking her, as my line manager, if it was okay for me to hire a car to drive to the New Dawn conference. As I had done this for many years, I presumed this was just a formality. But no-she was stickler for proper procedures and wanted all the facts and figures, as well as proof that I had researched all the various other options. No way was she going to be soft on me because we were friends. At the same time, she was great to have in your corner, as you knew she would always fight for your best interests, and she had a great sense of justice and fair play.

Loving God And Others Through A Rich Life

As a child, Eileen had spent many years in and out of hospital. She told me that, when she was 12, she realised she had to accept that she would never grow to full size, but she never let this stand in her way.  She might have been small in height, but her big personality more than compensated for this. Once encountered she was never forgotten.

Her early struggles helped to forge her iron will and determination to live life to the full.  She was always the first person up on the dance floor, or to sing a ballad, and had a wonderful singing voice. She loved traditional Irish folk music, including tuneful anti-English rebel songs, which she would sing with great gusto-and then suddenly realise she was surrounded by Brits!

Eileen was a wonderful example of a single person who loved God and others and whose life was correspondingly very rich.  She was interested in everyone, from her cleaner, to the comings and goings of her family members, and her multitude of friends across the world. Her friends soon learnt, however, that Eileen didn’t do mornings and knew better than to ring her before 10.30am. Midnight, on the other hand, was another story!

Living Life To The Full To The End

For someone who was so widely travelled, Eileen remained very conservative in her food habits. Despite spending a month in China, not a morsel of rice passed her lips, and she never once tasted pasta or pizza.  Instead while travelling she lived on huge bars of Dairy Milk Chocolate, which she always packed along with her kettle so she could have a nice cup of tea wherever she was in the world.

Her health deteriorated  in the last years of her life leaving her housebound,  and on oxygen for much of the time. Despite this, she would go to great lengths to attend trustees meetings and what she saw as other important events. The Covid lockdown, ironically for Eileen, became a new lease of life.  Once again she was at the heart of things, running all kinds of Zoom meetings and ringing people up to check how they were doing.

Over the years, she had had several near death experiences, but had miraculously come through them all. Thus when she went into hospital this last time, even though the prognosis wasn’t good, it was a shock to hear that she had died.  She had always seemed invincible.

When she realised that this was the end, she asked for a priest  and to be able to die naturally with no tubes and machines. Her two sisters, Bridget and Maureen, along with  her brother-in-law, Joe, were with her at the end.  Together they laughed and shared memories until she quietly slipped away.

The saints are going to have to up their game, once Eileen arrives! 

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