The happy trio (from left to right) as they cut the Jubilee cake are Sisters Eileen Kiely (Co Kerry), Nora Mary O’Driscoll (Co Cork) and Kathleen Mary O’Riordan (Co Limerick). They were joined by family members and friends, many of whom had travelled from England and US, along with the local Columban Sisters community.
The chief celebrant of the Jubilee Mass was Columban Father Pat Raleigh, a long time friend.
Columban Sister Mary Nolan gave the homily at the Mass so we shall leave it to Mary to give the mission message behind the occasion.
Homily: “Welcome to all of you who have come here today to celebrate with our 3 Jubilarians and with all of us. It’s a day to rejoice in lives given in the service of God and of God’s people.
As I was reflecting on this day and its meaning for Eileen, Kathleen and Nora Mary, it struck me that the image used by Pope Emeritus Benedict could sum up the flow of life of these 3 missionaries. As he was retiring he spoke to the people of his 8 years in office and how he took comfort in the Gospel image of the storm at sea. Being in the boat he had experienced times of sunshine and gentle breezes, and also had lived through times when the seas seemed choppy and dangerous. Often the Lord seemed to be asleep in that boat. Faith was challenged. For our 3 sisters I’m sure that also happened as they reached out to the poor and the needy far away from home in Korea, in China, or in Chile. There were days when the sun shone in the bright eyes of Nora Mary’s students in China, in the eyes of Eileen’s patients in Korea and in Kathleen Mary’s Chilean families who saw hope in spite of the scourge of repression, poverty and addictions. And there were the dark days when it all seemed so difficult and one wondered at the meaning of it all. God was there but that comforting presence was not felt. However, Faith enabled them to keep going knowing that, as Paul tells us: God can do much more in us than we can ask or imagine. We’re only asked to be there, and as the Gospel tells us, ever greater things will be done through us.
In 1960 Nora Mary, Kathleen and Eileen began their Columban missionary lives. Leaving Caherconlish, Tarbert or Dunmanway they travelled to Magheramore where in pre-Vatican II times they entered into a rather strict regime of Novitiate life. There too I’m sure there were days of sunshine and of storms. But whatever came was worth it because they had been chosen and had opted to be missionaries, ready to go to the ends of the earth as bearers of the Good News. Each journey was on a different road: Kathleen Mary was to be sent to Chile. On her way there she had a short respite in Peru where I first got to know her as we struggled together to grasp the mysteries of a new language, Spanish. Kathleen used all her powers of communication in the following year as she shared her skills with the women of Condevilla in Lima. Then came the call to Santiago, Chile, where the Congregation was beginning a new mission. It was a time of difficulty and challenge as the Chileans tried to cope during the military dictatorship of President Pinochet. With her community Kathleen accompanied the people in their struggles and their pain. Eventually she saw that one of the many afflictions of the Chilean people was their abuse of alcohol and drugs, and in true Kathleen Mary style she confronted the problem head-on through means of education. Kathleen continues to reach out in love to her people through many ministries, finding her strength in the Passion of Christ (as is her motto).
Eileen’s call as a Columban missionary took her on a colourful journey. As a young nurse in Korea she worked in the Columban Sisters’ medical scene in Mokpo and in Chunchon attending to and alleviating the pain of many patients. One would have expected that she’d have many years ahead of her in that field of caring, but no; a fall determined that Eileen would have to change course and would have to leave Korea. With her business acumen she was soon invited into the world of finance where she enabled the Congregation to stay afloat during her many years as bursar both in the US and in the Central Office. Her long term over as bursar, Eileen opted to train in pastoral care and then went on to Chile. There her Kerry charm won her many friends as she searched out the more abandoned and drew many collaborators into caring for their brothers and sisters. Truly she was living out her motto; Love one another for love is of God. Later Eileen’s journey took her to the United States where she again became involved in pastoral care of the sick. And now we’re blessed to have her with us here in Magheramore.
From Dunmanway in west Cork Nora Mary too came on board the Columban ship more than 50 years ago. Her gifts led her into the field of nursing and then into medical care of the sick in Hong Kong. Times were changing in Hong Kong and Nora Mary’s pioneering spirit was not content with staying in that metropolis. She felt drawn to reach out to the millions of Chinese in mainland China, the place where the Columban sisters’ mission began. But how to get there? She was aware that teachers of English were being welcomed to teach in universities in China, and undaunted, she a nurse, began the journey of preparing to be an English teacher. Step by step she found the openings she needed and Miss O’Driscoll’s became a well-known face on many of the campuses of China throughout nearly 20 years of her missionary life. True to her motto, she had placed her trust in the Lord and was not disappointed. We’re glad that Nora Mary is now with us in the Area of Dublin.
Historically we can see that our Jubilarians lived through challenging times. In early days they crossed over that bridge from Pre-Vatican II times to the avalanche of change that took place especially through the 60’s and 70’s. What had been the way was no longer the way for Religious as for the whole Church. But carried by the zeal of mission they didn’t lose focus, and they continue to be the hands, feet and heart of Christ in the world of mission.
I’d like to end with a short reflection from St. Columban that may light their coming years – even though they are all still quite young:
LET THE MIND PRESS ONWARD
EVEN AS LIFE PRESSES ONWARD,
AND LET MATURITY OF MIND INCREASE
WITH THE FULLNESS OF OLD AGE.
AND AS OUR SPAN OF LIFE GROWS SHORTER
SO LET THE NUMBER OF OUR FAULTS GROW LESS, THAT WE MAY LEAVE THE WORLD TO ITS OWN WAYS AS WE GO TO THE LORD
MAY THIS BE SO BY THE HELP OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
TO WHOM BE GLORY FOR EVER AND EVER, AMEN.