New York nun tracks down her birth mother 60 years after being sold as a baby

New York nun tracks down birth mother after being sold to American couple by a Mother and Baby home in Ireland
Picture: The Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus

A New York nun has spoken about how she managed to track down her birth mother – 60 years after being sold to an American couple by a Mother and Baby home in Ireland.

Sister Brigid O’Mahony is a nun with the Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and has spent all of her life in America except for the first two years after she was born in the Bessborough Mother and Baby Home in Tipperary in the 1950s.

Her mother had to give her up and she was effectively ‘sold’ to an American family, a fate that befell thousands of Irish babies throughout the 20th century. Sr Brigid told her story in an interview with the Irish Post in 2017.

Picture: The Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus

“As soon as I could think, my American parents told me I was from Ireland, from a work home.

“They explained to me that babies were sold to American parents, and that I was lucky enough to be sold to them as many of the children in these homes never got out.

“As I got older I realised that the Irish mothers that babies out of wedlock were ashamed, and normally hid it from families so I thought there’s no way I’m going to try to find some dear poor woman and potentially wreck her life.”

However, with the help of another woman who had been sold out of Bessborough, Brigid did eventually decide to find out more. The Mother and Baby home provided some information but it was very limited.

“Every single marker for how you would identify your family was redacted. The nuns had given the information but all names, addresses, phone numbers, everything had been blacked out.

“Except there was this one letter in the box from my mother that she had written with one of my [biological] sisters to the Sisters in 2002, looking for me.”

The realisation that her mother and Irish family had been looking for her gave Brigid the confidence to pursue her search. She made an appeal in the Tipperary Star, which was spotted by a relative who helped her contact her mother who had moved to Limerick.

When they first met at Shannon Airport, she was delighted to be met by her 13 brothers and sisters, and by her mother who was identical to her.

“I was frightened but she said ‘it’s like you went away for a little while and now you’re back,’ she picked up our relationship from the moment I left all those years ago.

“The family was so warm and accepting and loving. In their minds I was coming home, in my mind I was visiting.”

Brigid first met her family in 2012 and they have remained in close contact ever since.

You can read a fuller interview with Sr Brigid in the Irish Post

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Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling