‘They en­er­gise us and raise our spir­its’

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - STATE OF THE CHURCH - FRESH BLOOD

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.”

PHOTO: COLM LENAGHAN/PACE­MAKER

Sis­ters of Ado­ra­tion: Sr Martina, Sr Elaine and Sr Máire; and be­low, Martina dur­ing her days at the BBC.

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