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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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In Remembrance: Mairéad McInerney McAteer ’06

Nearly a hundred families, friends and community members came together to honor the life of Mairéad McInerney McAteer ’06 in the Chapel of Saint Joseph April 21. PHOTO COURTESY OF JILL WELSH

Nearly a hundred family, friends and community members came together to honor the life of Mairéad McInerney McAteer ’06 in the Chapel of Saint Joseph April 21. 

McInerney McAteer passed away Feb. 4 at age 39 from triple-negative breast cancer, 15 months after her diagnosis. 

McInerney McAteer graduated from St. Joe’s in 2006, where she was active in Campus Ministry and participated in immersion programs in Appalachia, New Mexico and Northern Ireland. A social worker, McInerney McAteer centered her life on social justice, with a focus on making the healthcare system more accessible and equitable, specifically for those in underserved communities. 

Jill Welsh, director of the Faith-Justice Institute, first met McInerney McAteer when McInerney McAteer was a service learning student at St. Joe’s. The two later developed a close friendship. Welsh said when McInerney McAteer walked into a room, she had an energy that made people feel welcomed.

“I know I wasn’t alone in feeling that energy and warmth and inclusion,” Welsh said. “She always created a sense of belonging just by the way she engaged with you.”

Welsh said even amidst her battle with cancer, McInerney McAteer created “community and connection wherever she was.” Welsh recalled a doctor’s visit she attended with McInerney McAteer where, after discussing treatments, she asked her oncologist how he was and what he was doing to take care of himself.

Upon receiving her diagnosis, McInerney McAteer used her Instagram to educate others on breast cancer. Welsh said her advocacy “built this sense of solidarity with all those who have been impacted by cancer.”

McInerney McAteer’s treatment was affected by shortages of chemotherapy drugs that changed standard treatment protocols. These shortages forced her oncologist to flip protocol, with McInerney McAteer starting her treatment with the most difficult part of chemotherapy.

Lisa LaMela ’06, one of McInerney McAteer’s closest friends, said McInerney McAteer always ensured those around her knew how to help their community. LaMela said during the winter months, McInerney McAteer made sure people knew about resources that helped provide shelter to those experiencing homelessness and phone numbers to call if they saw somebody in need.

LaMela added that McInerney McAteer referred to her and their other closest friends as “hawkmates,” despite the term’s typical use for romantic partners. LaMela said the term felt fitting for their group and illustrated how important St. Joe’s was to McInerney McAteer.

Katie Burke Kennedy ’06, a close friend of McInerney McAteer’s, described McInerney McAteer as “full of joy and life.” Burke Kennedy said the Thursday before she died, McInerney McAteer was laughing with their friends about stories from St. Joe’s.

Burke Kennedy said McInerney McAteer leaves a legacy about speaking out against injustice.

“Her life challenges us to never back down and to…stand up, whether it’s to advocate for someone you’ve never even met who lives on the other side of the planet, or whether it’s to advocate for yourself and people in your situation,” Burke Kennedy said.

LaMela echoed that summary of McInerney McAteer’s legacy.

“Sometimes, people have a tendency to sit back and wait and see if someone else takes care of a problem, LaMela said. “But Mairéad would tell us to be the one to stand up, and be the one to bring attention to a cause that is important.”

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Hannah Pajtis
Hannah Pajtis, Features Editor
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