Derry lost an icon on Christmas Day with the sad passing of Sister Aloysius McVeigh of the Sisters of Mercy.
A respected teacher and artist, Sister Aloysius died at the Foyle Hospice and was buried on Saturday December 27 after mass at Long Tower Church.
The 85-year-old nun, originally from Dungiven, captured the hearts of Derry people over three decades ago when she created the city's most famous icon 'Our Lady of Derry.'
From an early age Sister Aloysius has always loved painting and was one of the few Derry people to study Fine Art at Yale University.
After joining the Sisters of Mercy she spent many years teaching in St. Eugene's Primary School, St. Patrick's, St. Mary's College and St. Mary's College in Belfast.
The last 30 years of her teaching were devoted completely to art and after that she became the artist in residence at the Playhouse.
Sister Aloysius's work can be seen at the Stations of the Cross in St. Patrick's Church, Pennyburn, Holy Family Church, Ballymagroarty, St. Eunan's Cathedral, Letterkenny and numerous churches across Ireland.
Before the funeral mass on Saturday there was a procession of symbols and one of them was an icon. Accompanying words written by Sister Perpetua of the Sisters of Mercy said:
"Icon and Aloysius became synonymous in the last decades of her life. With gratitude we honour the skill of her craft. We honour the icon that she herself became."
In a homily delivered by Bishop Edward Daly, Sister Aloysius was celebrated as a "creative genius" with a "powerful imagination."
He told the congregation that in the last weeks of her life, Sister Aloysius looked back on her happy childhood as Bridie McVeigh, on the 68 years she spent as a nun and on her teaching career.
"She particularly loved the girls in St Mary's in Creggan where she spent 20 years of her life. She spoke endlessly about them and was overjoyed when a group of girls from the school, accompanied by their teachers and Principal, recently visited her and sang and played for her around her sickbed. She said that it was a joy just to see the uniform again."
Bishop Daly, who first met Sister Aloysius 50 years ago, told the congregation her "magnificent icons are treasured" and in each of them "she did something beautiful for God."
After 22 years at the Playhouse she was "excited about future plans for the Playhouse; she will now watch over the project from another place."
He added: "Sister Aloysius will live on in our memories. She will most powerfully live on in her many art works in churches, religious houses, private homes and public buildings – symbols of her great gifts and skill."