Sr. Eunice Quigley, Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa

Sr. Eunice Quigley was drawn to missionary life very early, as a young girl growing up in Dundalk in the 1960s. While at school, she attended a retreat at Mt. Oliver Convent and learned about the work the Franciscan Missionary Sisters for Africa (FMSA) were doing with poor and marginalised communities overseas. She knew immediately that she wanted to devote her life to helping others in the same way. After her formation with the Sisters, she was sent to Zambia and taught high school for three years.


A pivotal change for Sr. Eunice came in 1980, after a year home in Ireland she was transferred to Zimbabwe, which had just achieved independence. “There was great excitement at that time, with the building up of the nation” she says. Sr. Eunice was in her element, being a part of the movement to help young Zimbabweans access new pathways out of poverty.

However, when the AIDS epidemic hit Zimbabwe the impact on many young people was devastating, not only having to live with the illness but the associated social stigma. The economy suffered for years with worsening job and life prospects for many, especially those affected by HIV and AIDS.

Inspired by Sr Miriam Duggan – based in Uganda at the time but in Zimbabwe to teach about her successful ‘Education for Life’ youth programme– Sr. Eunice set up ‘Youth Alive Zimbabwe’. In 1999 she left St. Dominic’s High school and the teaching profession to establish an interdenominational youth organisation which would empower youth and young adults with life skills to adopt positive attitudes, values and behaviour. Its mission is to see Zimbabwe realise an HIV and AIDS free generation in which young people are enabled to fulfil their dreams and ambitions in life with respect for humanity.

In response to the evolving needs in the communities, Youth Alive now implements life skills education, health and wellbeing, child protection, gender-based violence and women empowerment interventions. The organisation also reaches vulnerable groups in marginalised communities through psychosocial support, nutrition, education and vocational skills training, and assists women through saving and lending groups.

Sr. Eunice devoted more than 40 years to her work in Zimbabwe, where she also celebrated her 50th Jubilee with her Sisters in the FMSA. “There is a joy in the long-term commitment, in seeing where we’ve come from and being a part of where we are going,” she says. “They are very highly qualified young professional staff and Sisters now who are spear-heading Youth Alive programmes. They’re all Zimbabweans. They are training the local teams out in the communities, choosing the natural leaders to continue the programmes. That’s the only way that we continue to empower communities,” she says. “I am grateful to my congregation FMSA and to Misean Cara for their support down through the years. I am proud of this Irish support.”

Recently retired and now back in Ireland, Sr. Eunice reflects on her life’s work as a missionary and how she’ll soon be passing on the leadership and future of Youth Alive Zimbabwe to the local FMSA Sisters, “Ireland has a history of reaching out to the needy. We ourselves have suffered from famine, from racism and discrimination. In the beginning I was working for people here, now I’m working with them. My role now is to walk alongside them.”

To learn more and find out how you can support Youth Alive Zimbabwe visit www.youthalive.org.zw

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