THE funeral of Dungannon aid worker Sally O’Neill Sanchez, who was killed in a car crash in Guatemala, has taken place in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa.
The human rights worker was laid to rest at the Cementerio San Miguel Arcángel on Friday afternoon, following Reqieum Mass in the Basílica de Suyapa.
Sally and her three co-workers tragically lost their lives on Sunday, 7th April in the Central American country.
According to local media in Guatemala the Fire Service believe the weather conditions caused their vehicle to fall into a ravine, that is estimated to be 300 meters deep.
Ms O’Neill Sanchez joined Trócaire in 1978 and dedicated her life to working with the poor, the marginalised and victims of human rights abuses.
She was Trócaire’s head of region for Latin America until her retirement in April 2015 after 37 years of service, but the charity said she remained a driving force for human rights in Central America.
Trócaire CEO Caoimhe de Barra attended last Friday's ceremony and described Sally’s farewell as “beautiful and dignified”.
“It was great to see such a wonderful turnout of Sally's close friends and family, and so many people who admired her, and her tireless work, at the ceremony. It was an extremely sad occasion, but it was also a fitting tribute to Sally's courageous and often audacious spirit, which will remain with us,” she told the Courier.
“While Sally’s loss will be felt keenly by the people who relied on her as a defender of truth and justice in Central America, the ceremony was yet another reminder that all of us must honour her legacy by fighting for the causes she devoted her life's work to.
Sally’s husband Roger and her three children, Xio, Rhona and Roger, were joined by Sally’s four sisters, three brothers, and one brother in law, as well as hundreds of Honduran friends and colleagues at the ceremony.
”The mass on Friday was in the beautiful Basilica in Tegucigalpa and was celebrated by Cardinal Óscar Rodriguez Maradiaga and by Fr German Calix, who is head of Caritas Honduras,” added de Barra.
“Sorcha Fennell, Sally’s former Trócaire colleague, spoke at the mass, along with Sally’s daughter Xiomara Sanchez, plus the director of the Global fund for Human rights Regan Ralph and the Irish Ambassador who covers Honduras from Mexico, Barbara Jones.
“The burial ceremony was led by Jesuit priest Padre Melo, who runs Trócaire partner organisation ERIC. Padre Melo invited members of the congregation to name the values that Sally stood for and led a beautiful incantation based on these values.
”Sally’s sister Kate spoke about Sally’s place at the heart of the family growing up in Dungannon. The extent of Sally’s family network become evident as the days went by and she is much loved by her siblings, nephews, nieces and many more besides. The farewell to Sally was beautiful and dignified.”
Sally’s former colleagues in Trócaire will come together for a memorial Mass next month in Maynooth to celebrate her life.
She is survived by her husband Roger, children Xiomara, Rhona and Roger, grandchild Pat and extended family.