Vicky, a Mooncoin native who had lived in Limerick for years, was 48 when she passed away on Monday, November 14, after a lengthy cancer battle.
The gathering heard how Vicky changed life “for the women in Ireland and their daughters” and of her “ferociousness to fight for what was right”.
Today’s celebration of Vicky’s life was organised by her family in accordance with her wishes and organisers said today’s celebration was down to “how many people [Vicky connected to] in many different ways…and was her way of showing how much those connections meant”.
Vicky Phelans father John Kelly (right) with friends at a memorial service for Cervical Cancer campaigner Vicki Phelan at the Church of the Assumption in Mooncoin. Picture: Arthur Carron
The celebration was led by Mooncoin Parish Priest Fr Martin Tobin.
The ceremony began with Vicky’s parents, Gaby and John, lighting candles at the altar of the packed Church of the Assumption before a performance of Coldplay’s ‘Fix You' by the Mount Sion choir.
Thousands gathered in the village and watched on big screens at Mooncoin GAA while thousands more tuned in to the online stream with hundreds paying tribute to Vicky in the comments.
Among the mourners was Charlie Bird, who has described Vicky as his “hero”.
Charlie Bird at a memorial service for Cervical Cancer campaigner Vicki Phelan at the Church of the Assumption in Mooncoin. Picture: Arthur Carron
Vicky’s favourite band, The Stunning, then played a version of their hit ‘An empty feeling’ for the gathering.
“I don’t normally sing with my eyes closed, but on this occasion I will because if I see anyone’s tears it will set me off,” lead singer Steve Wall said.
Niall ‘Bressie’ Breslin, lead singer of The Blizzards, then played an acoustic version of the band’s song ‘Postcards’.
“Vicky asked me to sing this song for her in a pub in Kilkee when the time came and it’s an absolute pleasure to be here to do this,” Bressie told mourners.
Good friends of Vicky and fellow campaigners - John Wall, Lorraine Walsh and Stephen Teap all spoke to the crowd.
John wrote a poem for Vicky while Lorraine paid homage to Vicky “for ensuring a better future for the women of Ireland and their daughters”.
Vicky's sister Lyndsey Kelly at a memorial service for Cervical Cancer campaigner Vicki Phelan at the Church of the Assumption in Mooncoin. Picture: Arthur Carron
“You were a real and honest person that opened up conversations about women’s health. People felt they knew you and respected you. You taught us so much about strength in adversity.
“Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís - we’ll never see the likes of her again,” Lorraine said.
Stephen Teap, whose wife Irene also died from cervical cancer thanked Vicky for her courage, sense of humour and for her unwavering friendship.
John Wall then read a letter from Vicky’s husband Jim and children Amelia and Dara.
“Thank you everyone for sharing this time with us. To all the organisers who have made today possible at such short notice and especially to Vicky's parents, Gaby and John.
“We are fortunate to have you and the Kelly family in our lives, and we'll do our best to support you all over the weeks and months. Vicky wanted an upbeat occasion after her passing where people gather in celebration of life. I can't begin to tell you how much this all means to the three of us.
Vicky Phelan was remembered today at a special ceremony in Kilkenny. Photo: Fergal Phillips.
“We're incredibly proud of Vicky, all that she achieved and the amazing person that she was through the toughest of times - she showed incredible strength. Looking after us, looking out for us and ensuring we always did our best as a family over the last number of years.
“Vicky wanted to tell you all to enjoy today and we hope it will be a memorable one for you all as it will be for us,” the letter read.
The Mount Sion choir then sang a version of Don Mescall’s ‘Your Love Carries Me’, which they recorded for Vicky back in 2018.
Gifts brought to the altar included a family photograph; a Belfast Marathon medal to acknowledge her love of sport; a copy of her autobiography ‘Overcoming’; sand from Doonbeg beach where she ‘found peace in the sound of the waves’.
Also brought up were Kilkenny and Munster jerseys, and her Doctoral cap, which she received from her Alma Mater, the University of Limerick.
Members of the public at a memorial service for Cervical Cancer campaigner Vicki Phelan at the Church of the Assumption in Mooncoin. Picture: Arthur Carron
“Vicky didn’t want to be mourned – she wanted fond memories to be shared, she wanted colour,” her lifelong friend John said.
The Stunning then played ‘Always You’ for Vicky’s family.
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