Carmel Phelan Joyce

On behalf of the Fr. McGrath Centre and Carmel’s fellow employees I would like to offer our sympathies to her most beloved daughter, Jennifer and Carmel’s partner and our old friend, Joe Butler, whom we know adored her and to all her brothers and sisters. We would also like to thank them most deeply and sincerely for everything both of them did for our friend over the five most difficult months she must have faced in her life.

Our friend Carmel was a spirited, independent, passionate and highly intelligent individual who, heart and soul, believed in the ‘not for profit – but for children and people’ ethos of our Family Centre.

Carmel started in the Fr. McGrath Centre as a CE trainee when we had little more than two small rooms open to us and a tiny office in a very derelict building with not a clue as to where our heat light and maintenance costs were going to come from one month to the next.

Three weeks ago and seventeen years on I and Board members met with our accountant and Carmel’s friend Margaret Moylan to sign off on our annual audit that Carmel had been working on for months in spite of what she knew was a fatal illness. That meticulously balanced audit was presented by -(and it is widely acknowledged by the Family Support Agency and nationally in the National Forum of Family Centres in Ireland), one of the most capable administrators and financial managers in the Country, our administrator – Carmel Joyce.

And this audit told a very different story then the first one she helped her former FAS Supervisor, Joe Butler prepare all those years ago.

Carmel, as our senior financial officer and administrator, was pivotal to building our community charity into a substantial company that has more than sixty people on the payroll who work daily with children, parents and older people to improve their lives and their community environments.



That Carmel was central to developing the Fr. McGrath Family Centre as one of largest and most successful of its kind in the country, had helped found the first Community Savings bank we established in Kilkenny – the Butts Community Bank – and was pivotal in supporting the Kilkenny Job Club, Neighbourhood Hall Project and Kilkenny/Carlow Contact and St. Catherine’s Crècheteams – was well understood by our communities and all our staff and funders.

But that’s not why Carmel was precious to us.

This is why she was.

We think it is best expressed by a local teenager, Craig Doyle, who knew Carmel since he was an infant and this is a post he placed on Facebook – one of hundreds local children and parents posted over the last few days on our Facebook site

‘R.I.P Carmel God only takes the best and you were the best. Carmel you where one of the nicest workers in the Fr McGrath. You’d do anything for anyone you had a heart of gold. You’ll be sadly missed by the staff of the Fr McGrath and the children who go there and also by your friends and the butts community. You are an angel. Now may heaven be your bed’


Carmel had one of the most important and challenging senior management jobs in our organisation but no matter how busy she might have been it all stopped when a child needed help or attention, a neighbour with making a phone call or help with a form or what she was probably best known for by us all –an ear to listen and good advice for everybody who needed it – and all of us at some stage over those many years, needed it.

Carmel was the girl who never said no – and as Craig said ‘had a heart of gold’. Her dynamism and exuberance combined with that always smiling face and could never do enough for you nature was why we all loved her so.

Those that knew and worked closely with Carmel over those many years knew that Carmel’s work in the Centre was not a job – it was her vocation. She loved the children, families and people of our communities and she threw herself with the passion she showed for everything she loved – into making life someway better for all of them.

She passionately believed and lived the ‘not for profit – but for people’ ethos of our Centre and she inspired all those around her to focus on that ethos and that all other obstacles could be overcome if we did.

We are heartbroken at the passing of a great friend, confidante, mentor and strong shoulder to all of us lucky enough to have met or worked with her – she was there for ‘those seen but not heard, sometimes heard but not listened to’ ..and we believe she often saw those that most of the rest of us missed.

That quote was from her thesis on the Fr. McGrath Centre completed at the height of her illness. What a woman!

Farewell our friend – Carmel Phelan Joyce. A great soul and beautiful human being has passed through our lives and our community and all of us are better people and richer for the privilege of having known her.

She is a loss not just to us and our communities, but to humanity.

Carmel is survived by her partner Joe Butler, her daughter Jennifer and her sisters Patricia, Mary and Catherine and her brothers Matty, P.J., Eugene, Tony and Brendan.

May she rest in the peace she richly deserves.