by Bernadette Herbert
On the anniversary of the 13th apparition in Lourdes, 2nd March 2019, Veda Ryan slipped away from this world peacefully surrounded by her family. Veda was the Chief Nurse for the Westminster Lourdes pilgrimage, a voluntary role which she had held since 2012. She led the team of volunteer nurses who provide care and support to the sick and disabled pilgrims. A few weeks before the 2018 pilgrimage Veda found out that she had a serious illness herself and needed to start cancer treatment so she was not able join us.
Veda had volunteered as a nurse with the pilgrimage for a week each July since 2007. As Chief Nurse, however, the commitment became year-round as she participated in the planning and organisation of the pilgrimage, the recruitment and training of volunteers, and assessment of the medical/nursing needs of the assisted pilgrims. She did this whilst also working full time in the NHS and being a volunteer counsellor, a wife, mother, sister, aunty, good friend, church florist, gardener and cake baker. She seemed to have super powers, fitting in a lot more into 24 hours than most people.
One of nine children, Veda was born and raised in Trinidad. After graduating, she taught in a school for children with intellectual and physical disabilities run by Carmelite nuns. Veda became a Catholic at 21, and felt a strong calling to join the religious order. The nuns however decided that she should come to England to train as a nurse. She came to Harperbury Hospital, near Radlett, Hertfordshire, to train as a learning disability/mental health nurse; she then trained as an adult nurse and midwife.
Whilst working at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage she met John. They married in 1984 and had two children, Kathryn and Andrew. Veda worked as a midwife and senior midwife at the Lister Hospital until 2016, supporting many women and delivering hundreds of babies over the years. She then worked as a fertility nurse, followed by work at the local hospice. For a number of years Veda also volunteered as a counsellor having gained her degree in professional counselling.
People were important to Veda. She spent her whole career caring for and supporting mums, families, patients and clients. She was a generous and charitable woman who went out of her way to help others. As a nurse with the pilgrimage she made the assisted pilgrims feel special, taking time to make sure their individual needs were being met and attending to their comfort and medical/nursing requirements.
Veda loved going to Lourdes. She found it a spiritual and uplifting place, and enjoyed working as part of the diocesan Lourdes team. She was very pleased to be asked to be Chief Nurse and took great pride in taking on this role. She recruited many of our nurses and inspired in them the same love for Lourdes that she had. She would take them to the Grotto and the baths, and to participate in the Torchlight and Blessed Sacrament processions. A special place she liked to visit in the Sanctuary was the reliquary of Pope St John Paul II with whom she felt a strong connection, having met him in St Peter’s Square early in his papacy.
Veda was only 62 when she died. We in the pilgrimage team were not ready for it, let alone her husband, children, family or friends. Veda was an important part of our lives and a much loved and respected person.
She gave a lot of her time, compassion and professional skills to support the diocesan pilgrimage to enable the sick, frail and disabled to travel to Lourdes each year. We remember her with gratitude for all that she did, and for her love and kindness. We send our sincere condolences to her family and all those who mourn her. May she rest in eternal peace.
Chief Nurse Westminster Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage.