‘They energise us and raise our spirits’
Ireland to promote mission awareness and promote vocations here. She is also getting involved in youth ministry. “Vocation promotion is about meeting young people and walking the journey of faith with them — it is not just looking for people to enter,” Sr Kathleen states.
One aspect of this South–North mission is the example it gives wider Irish society on intercultural living. Sr Kathleen explains that this is where the religious can give “an important witness in the world today, where many have serious difficulties in living together as peoples of different cultures and different religions. We religious, people of different cultures, are living together and sharing one mission and sharing all things in common.”
The sisters in Ireland on mission include Sr Juliana from Lebanon who is working with Arabic-speaking refugees; Sr Mary from Nigeria, who is working with young people and on mission awareness; Sr Lucy from Ghana is looking after the elderly sisters and Sr Janette is involved in ministry to Africans living in Ireland.
To have young sisters from around the world ministering in Ireland, “most of us would find that very life giving,” Sr Jo admits. “These sisters from different cultures make a huge difference to our lives, they really energise us, and they raise our spirits. We really love having them.” She backs this new South–North mission “1,000pc” but she also worries that “we Irish are a bit racist. I think we have a lot to do to make sure that the sisters are appreciated”.
Several religious orders of nuns have started new missions in Ireland in recent years and in Sr Kathleen’s opinion, “all are welcome — there is room for all of us and there is plenty to do in Ireland today”.
Sr Mara Grace Gore is a member of the congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia in Limerick. Two years ago, Bishop Brendan Leahy invited the American order to establish a convent in the city. There are over 300 sisters in the congregation, and four of these came to Ireland as Dr Leahy wanted the Dominican life to continue in Limerick after the Dominican friars decided to leave.
“Our congregation has many Irish connections. When the bishop’s invitation was accepted, there was a great sense of gratitude that we would be able to, in some small way, give back to a country which has given so much to America and to our congregation.”
When the Dominican sisters arrived, another American community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal was already established in Drogheda. Another community, which is based in Spain but has several American vocations, moved to Ireland in May 2017, while the Apostles of the Sacred Heart, based in Connecticut, moved to Waterford in 2016.
“On a couple of occasions, for example Thanksgiving, we have been blessed to meet up with these communities and support one another as we adjust to living in a different culture from our own,” Sr Mara Grace relates.
In Sr Kathleen’s opinion: “Missionaries from abroad will bring so much in terms of the international face of the Church and new ways of being church that are good for all of us.
“I think there is a certain tiredness among priests and religious in Ireland. Fresh blood will surely bring new life to us all.”
Asked if she thinks there will be nuns in Ireland in 40 years’ time, Sr Kathleen notes how much things have changed in the last 40 years.
“I imagine there will be religious life in some form or another. Personally, I believe that it is a good and worthwhile life; I do believe God is still calling and that people will respond.”
Sisters of Adoration: Sr Martina, Sr Elaine and Sr Máire; and below, Martina during her days at the BBC.