Home > All news > Waikato Hospital’s angel of mercy retires

Waikato Hospital’s angel of mercy retires

Sister Carmel Horan is leaving Waikato DHB after more than 40 years.

She has ministered to generations of patients and families who use our services and also worked with a huge number of staff and has seen many changes to Waikato DHB over the years.

Her familiar face will be greatly missed in the wards, departments and along the hospital corridors.

Sister Carmel and Barbara Tolich at the Chaplains’ conference, Sacred Heart, Hamilton in 1996.

In 2013 St Carmel’s work was recognised with a Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Pope Francis. In 1995 she received a Queen’s Service Medal for Services to the Community.

Sr Carmel is a member of the Sisters of the Mission. (The Congregation of Our Lady of the Missions, also known as Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions, and as RNDM from the French name Religieueses de Notre Dame de Missions, is a Roman Catholic religious congregation of women. They were founded in Lyons, France in 1861 by Adèle Euphrasie Barbier (1829 – 1893). The Congregation’s presence is felt worldwide. Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions reside in Italy, Australia, Bangladesh, British Isles, Canada, France, India, Kenya, countries in Latin America, Myanmar, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Senegal and Vietnam. The primary focus of the Congregation is education of women and children. The Congregation also provides health care services for the poor and underprivileged and organises medical camps, free schools with meals for the less privileged children).


Below is an article which appeared in NZ Catholic newspaper in 2013.


By Michael Otto

In 1978, the Catholic Church had three popes and Jimmy Carter was president of the United States of America.

It is also the year Sr Carmel Horan, RNDM, thinks she might have started working as a chaplain at Waikato Hospital in Hamilton.

Sr Carmel isn’t sure exactly when she started, but she thinks it was 35 years ago.

Sr Carmel’s work has been recognised with a Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Pope Francis. It was conferred at the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Hamilton at a Mass on August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“It couldn’t really settle into my mind that it was really happening. It blows you away, I guess,” Sr Carmel said, adding that she was delighted so many from the hospital were at the Mass.

She first started visiting the hospital after her superiors among the Sisters of the Mission thought this work would be suitable, given her experience in caring for elderly sisters.

“I wasn’t overly keen, I think, and they said go for one year.”

One year has turned into many. Three and a half decades later, Sr Carmel loves her work. Asked what the best thing about it is, she replied: “The privilege of serving God through the hospital. Meeting people — they are so lovely and we are working with such lovely staff.”

Sr Carmel has tried to encourage staff in recent times, with big changes in their workplace underway. The Waikato District Health Board has been undertaking a $430 million building and redevelopment programme at Waikato and Thames Hospitals, due to finish next year.

Sr Carmel jubilant at receiving her award from Pope Francis.

Sr Carmel jubilant at receiving her award from Pope Francis.


A member of the multi-denominational chaplaincy team at the hospital, Sr Carmel is a well recognised figure around the wards. Patients wanting to talk to her call out “sister” from their beds.

“We say we are there for anyone and everyone,” she said.

Hospital chaplaincy brings the full range of joys and sorrows.

You experience them all, often within a few hours, because it is such a big hospital, she said.

“You can have three people dying more or less at the same time. Not too frequently, that number in one day, but you can.”

Sister Carmel with a mum and baby

Down the years, it has not been uncommon for patients who first met Sr Carmel a long time ago, asking for her again.

“You see these ladies, you saw them when they were babies, and now they have babies. . . . [Patients] say to the nurse, do you know if Sr Carmel is still here?” Sr Carmel said.

“Well she is doing something around the place,” she said with a laugh.

Sr Carmel resumed work a few days after receiving her award. She had been away after having a fall.

A recipient of a Queens Service Medal for Services to the Community in 1995, Sr Carmel has no immediate plans for retirement.

“That could happen any time, I realise, you don’t know. Only the big man up there knows.”

Michael Otto

NZ Catholic

Telephone: 09 360 3067


General media enquiries
Mobile: 021 671 239
Email: news@waikatodhb.health.nz

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
You may also like
Special delivery of premature twin simulators to NICU
Five Waikato SMOs awarded their Fellowship all at once!
Waikato Hospital enrolled nurse Leonie Metcalfe
Leonie Metcalfe enrolled nurse wins NZNO award
Dr Kelly Byrne, Anaesthesia research
Research explores post-operative pain relief options