Queen Elizabeth

A Dublin based British nun told the press she was 'shocked and humbled' to learn she will receive an award from Queen Elizabeth in acknowledgment of her decades-long commitment to social justice in Africa.

Sister Helen Spragg told the Herald she was surprised to receive news of the award in Dublin, after a letter asking if she would accept an MBE from the queen was posted to her Irish address.

The Medical Missionaries of Mary nun, now based in Booterstown north Dublin, will travel to Buckingham Palace to receive her award in May. The unexpected honor recognises Spragg's work in Rwanda to improve health care for poor communities.


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Sr Helen, 49, told the Herald: "It came as a bit of a shock. It was a bit humbling. I suppose you could say it was shocking, humbling and exciting. The award really recognises the work of a team of which I was part.'

Sr. Helen told the Herald she decided to join the Irish order of nuns at the age of 25 when she was working as a pharmacist in her native Sheffield. She travelled to Dublin and spent her first two years of her religious life in the city before being transferred to Kenya.

'I suppose I joined because I was idealistic and I wanted to work with people who were on the margins. I wanted to live in a community that was based on prayer and I liked adventure,' she said.

Sr. Helen worked for several years as a pharmacist in Uganda before being sent to a remote part of Rwanda in 1998 to develop community health care.