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Leading Ladies inspiring the Borough

16 March 2017

Deaconess Lynda Gibson, Deputy Mayor Councillor Noreen McClelland and Sister Mary Jo Corcoran pictured at the Leading Ladies event in Corr’s Corner.


Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council’s Good Relations Programme hosted the latest in the Leading Ladies series, with Sister Mary Jo Corcoran and Deaconess Lynda Gibson, speaking to 74 ladies in Corr’s Corner Hotel on Thursday 9 March.  Through Leading Ladies, the Council brings inspiring and influential women into the area to share their unique perspectives on what building positive relations means to them.   

Sister Mary Jo talked about Mary Ward, a Yorkshire woman, born in 1585 who founded the Institute of the Blessed Virgin.  She also discussed Teresa Bell, a young Dublin woman, who in 1821 founded the Institute in Ireland.  She set up her first of many convents worldwide in Rathfarnham and called it ‘Loreto’, from which the Irish Branch of the Institute took its name.  Originally from Wexford, Sister Mary Jo is one of the Chaplains at Antrim Area Hospital and is the supervisor and director of the training programme “Clinical Pastoral Education” for the education of Chaplains in healthcare. 

Deaconess Lynda Gibson was a Deaconess with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, initially working in 1974 to 1976 in the Steeple estate (Antrim) and in Rathcoole (Newtownabbey). After a break to raise her family, Lynda was appointed Director of the VINE Centre, Crumlin Road, Belfast in 1994. Upon leaving the VINE Centre in 2007, Lynda became the first full-time female Chaplain in HMP Maghaberry, taking early retirement in 2012. 

Both ladies spoke about their passion and commitment to their calling.  The similarities in two very disparate women was illuminating, especially regarding their roles as the first Chaplain in Antrim Area hospital and first female Chaplain in the prison respectively. 

The positive feedback the Council receives indicates the ladies attending these events find them challenging, enlightening, humbling and beneficial.  They enjoy the opportunity to mix with others from across the Borough, learn from each other, share good practice and make new friends.