Documentary Short Film Trad/World/Ethnic

Sister India [Full Feature]

Sister Loreto left her birthplace Ireland over seventy years ago to become a teacher in Chennai, India. She has chosen to live out the rest of her years in India as the last Irish Nun in Chennai out of 131, never to return home. This is her story in her own words.

I had a near death and life altering accident after returning from honeymoon in the winter of 2014. We had just returned from India for Christmas Day, when a ferocious bacterial infection tried to swallow me whole. The images that filled my mind for that month in hospital were all of India from where we had just returned and never felt so happy. My only memory of being on a ventilator and in a coma, was hallucinating meeting hundreds of Indian people, like ghosts, greeting me one after the other. Waking up in A&E after a second surgery, I figuratively let go of all my belongings in the outside world. Afraid for my life and getting a tragic diagnosis of some kind, nothing mattered that didn’t make me extremely happy, and all that made me happy in such a fearful time was the extreme love I felt for my wife and the people in my life who loved me. To accompany those feelings were many images in my mind of our beautiful time spent in Asia, where I had also been letting go of all my belongings at home, and of all routine and familiarity.

Days before leaving India for Ireland, Aideen and I had the pleasure of meeting the sweetest old lady, sister Loreto Houlihan. She had been a nun and an English teacher in Chennai for almost 70 years but listening to her talk was like being warmed by a hearth somewhere deep in the Irish wilderness. She could not have been more Irish. I wondered at the time, what it must have felt like for her to be so far from home. How did she cope with being so isolated and detached from her friends and family for all that time? A year after surviving my ordeal and getting an all-clear, I was invited to return to India and meet Sister Loreto again, to this time make a documentary about her, and the celebration of her 70th year in Chennai. I was also returning to meet my ghosts, to thank them for being there with me in the dark and murky time I spent between this world and the next. Her story in her own wonderfully warm words answered so many questions of mine. Through her I was able to make some sense of my own life, and celebrate finding my own peace and extreme happiness in such a dark frontier.

This is the full documentary. My love affair with India, and my love for a woman who despite all odds, also found her extreme happiness many thousands of miles from home with only memories of her loved ones and the love of her family to keep her strong. I hope I have succeeded in capturing some of the utter joy that India has brought Loreto and I, and thank you each and every one of you who was here with me online in the New Year of 2015, wishing me well and sending your love.

Every like and share is very much appreciated.

28 comments on “Sister India [Full Feature]

  1. John McAloone

    I enjoyed this film so much. It reminded me so much of my Great Aunt who also took a similar path to Sr Loretto although a few years earlier. My Great Aunt was Sr Mary Celine who became Mother Superior at Church Park and who was Principal at Sacred Heart Matriculation School until her early death there in 1964.
    They must have known each other as they were both at Church Park from the late 40’s to 60’s.

    • Ah wow John. You can find Lorteo on Facebook here Worth finding out if they knew each other.

      • John McAloone

        Hi Myles. I did manage to get in touch with the convent through their website. I did get a reply saying that they would ask sister Loreto if she remembered my Great Aunt but there were a couple of other sisters who would also have remembered her. Unfortunately since Covid 19 has taken over things in the world I haven’t heard any more from them. It would be great to here more from them.

  2. Lovely documentary.. as a student im so proud of sister Loretta.. a proud moment for every Josephites..

  3. Margaret Rosair

    Great work Myles,I wish there was more.

  4. Bridget D’costa

    A generous faith filled woman who really cared for the poor children. Did the work of god without even knowing she was doing gods will. A humble woman. An angel of god. Love

  5. John Norris

    Absolutely beautiful!

    • Geraldine Curran

      I have watched this film over & over again enjoying it more & more each time. Sr. Loreto is indeed an inspiration to us all. The love she spreads & has spread in her life is truly evident. I am originally from Peg Houlihan’s home Town Carrick on Suir. I know her family. They are very privileged to have such a wonderful, loving, kind, caring person in their family. There are not enough words to explain the warmth & admiration I have for Sister Loreto. I can thank my niece who made me aware of this film. I have shared it with my family & friends. My wish is that more people will learn of Sr. Loreto’s life as her story & love May give us the love & contentment we are all searching for. Thank you Myles for making this beautiful film.
      Kind regards

      Geraldine Curran

  6. Pingback: My near death accident and healing through the story of a very special woman. – Myles O'Reilly's Music Journal

  7. Anne O'Brien

    Such an inspiring documentary. I work as a nurse I the Mercy University Hospital in Cork- this inspires me to continue to give my best- Thankyou

  8. Such a lovely film, great sound design too, Myles, thanks so much for sharing.

  9. Very uplifting. Great work!!

  10. This would be lovely to see. Looking forward to seeing it on a cinema screen hopefully?

  11. Pingback: Sister India | Presentation Sisters Union North East Ireland

  12. My sisters and I were students of Sr Loreto at St Joseph’s Presentation Convent, Madras many years ago. We now live in Australia. Sr Loreto is a true example of Christ’s love for humanity ! She is one beautiful human being ! Compliments to Myles O’Reilly on the making of this trailer! However, we would love to see the full film! How can we get to view it? Is there a DVD that we can purchase and from where? Or can you please send us the link to the full film? Many Thanks!

  13. Sr. Rosamma

    i am so delighted to know that a film is made based on the life of Sr. Loreto. Yes she deserves to be known better through the media .
    She has been and is an inspiration to me as a presentation sister from india . Her ever welcoming smile with such grace and blessings attracts and consoles anyone who meets her . May Sr. Loreto be a rock of strength to many more people . Congrats to Mylles O’railly.

    Sr. Rosamma

  14. I was born in madras in 1944 the year sister arrived and as a child studied in the same convent she taught at
    I have met her on my visits back she is /was a lovely lady most charming and provided the best tea and biscuits and conversation meeting her was always my pleasure god bless her she was beautiful

  15. Looking forward to seeing the film

  16. Would love to see this movie….

  17. quentin adams

    What a beautiful film of a beautiful lady.

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