21 former students from Our Lady of Lourdes Secondary School for girls in Mankon, Cameroon reunited at Dublin Airport on Wednesday, April 26.

The group of women, known as the Pace Setters. traveled to Ireland to reconnect and to thank the Irish nuns who taught them more than 30 years ago.

They were met in Dublin Airport on Wednesday by seven nuns from the Holy Rosary Sisters, who were former principals and teachers at the school.

“It’s hard to believe,” an emotional Sister Mary Neville, 89, a former principal at the school in Cameron, told RTE at Dublin Airport. 

Reflecting, Sister Mary said: "The girls were anxious to make the best of their opportunity, and they worked very hard. I found them very conscientious and responsible people.”

She added: "I encouraged them to say what kind of school they want, how are you going to achieve that, and having great pride in your own compound, in your school, and in your own family.”

She continued: "Now they’ll be women, some of them grandmothers, well dressed and very mature. I’m so excited to be meeting them again."

One of the Cameroonian women, Marie Ndoping, said Sister Mary was "like a mother to us, she looked after us."

"I cannot say thank you enough," she added.

Sister Nuala Lahert, who was also a former principal at the school, told RTE that the Cameroonians are "a very special people and they have that sense of gratitude.”

“It means an awful lot to us,” Sister Nuala said, adding, "These women have done so well in Cameroon, in the UK and also in America and they're very loyal to us.”

Speaking to the Irish Times, former teacher Sr Mary O’Shea referred to the former students as “great craic altogether." She added that during her time teaching at the school in Cameroon, where she lived for 38 years, she “got a lot more than [she] gave."

Dr. Claire Minang, a former student who is now a pharmacist based in Houston and one of the organizers of the reunion, told RTE News: “They taught us about self-confidence. They made us understand that we matter, that we are enough as women in this masculine world.

“We got out of there knowing so much more, knowing that we could be whatever we wanted to be."

Former student Gwendylene Tanyi told the Irish Times said that she sent her children form the US to Cameroon to attend the school: “That’s how much trust and faith we have in the sisters.

“They were strict, let’s be clear, they were very strict and at that time we didn’t understand why tough love was necessary,” she added.

Former student Judith Mbuy Nwana told RTE: "We are forever grateful."

On Friday, the former students visited the Holy Rosary Sisters Convent in Artane in Dublin to celebrate the reunion, as well as an celebrate the upcoming 90th birthday of Sister Mary Neville.

Ruadhan Jones, a journalist with Irish Catholic News, shared this video from the gathering on Friday:

A beautiful gesture, a song composed by 21 Cameroonian women here in Dublin as a tribute to the Irish Holy Rosary sisters who taught them. A heartfelt love for the Irish nuns pic.twitter.com/As9NsSbFaT

— Ruadhan Jones (@RuadhanJ) April 28, 2023