Once again this year, the gathering of the Columban Sisters’ Mission Helpers took place in Magheramore, Wicklow, on Saturday 23rd of May.
Sr. Rose Gallagher gave a warm welcome to all:
“On behalf of the Sisters here in Magheramore, it is my joy to welcome you all, our Sale of Work friends and co-workers,
our ICA and Arts and Crafts Friends…
and our own Sisters who have travelled to be with us.
On this day each year when you, our collaborators in mission,
come to spend this special time with us, our joy is complete, you, our valued friends always blessing us without measure.
A particular image came to mind when I was thinking about you coming today.
On the beach here in Magheramore there is a deep, dark cave that is accessible only when the tide is out. On occasion, that cave fills with light and when you trace the source of the light, you discover a little small pool of sea-water outside the cave, that picks up the sunlight and reflects it into the depths of the cave, transforming its darkness.
And I thought….the pool of your efforts and your commitment continually reaches deep into the darkness of suffering lives in far flung countries where Columban Sisters work.
Your outreach bringing light and help to those people,
transforming their hardship into hope and their burdens into blessings.
A small pool with a big mission!
And now in the Mass, we turn to God the source of Light and of Mission, asking God to bless you and your families…and to let the Light of His Face shine on our beloved Sale of Work friends who are now in Heaven and from where they continue to help us.”
After the Mass, the group were served refreshments in the dining room.
Below is the Homily given by Sr. Ann Breen during the Mass.
Good afternoon everyone. I am very happy to add my voice to Rose’s in welcoming you today and I am happy too that so many of you have been able to come. It is good for all of us to be here, gathered together as one body in the name of Christ to celebrate our theme: TOGETHER IN MISSION.
Even though many of us know something of the early history, it is good to remind ourselves that the “togetherness” we celebrate today goes back to the early days of our Congregation. In the July 1926 issue of the FAR EAST, less than two years after the first Columban Sisters took their vows, and two months before the first group left for mission in China, Fr. John Blowick made his first appeal on their behalf. Referring to the group preparing to leave for China, he said: ’I do not see how these Sisters can go to China unless the people of Ireland give them a helping hand.’ He spoke of the foundation of a new Congregation of missionary Sisters as being an ‘important event in the history of Catholic Ireland’, but he added: ‘It must not be forgotten that it has its prosaic side, too. We have to try to support these Sisters in the Mission Field in health and sickness.’ The following year, Sr. Joseph Conception, one of the Irish Sisters of Charity assigned to help with the new foundation in Cahiracon, also became very conscious of the considerable financial outlay needed to support the new and growing Congregation. She decided to do something about it and her intervention is directly related to your presence here today. She got in touch with a friend of hers in Dublin, Miss Nancy Hogg, and asked her to help. Together they planned to organise a Christmas Fete which would not only raise funds but would make the Congregation better known. Miss Hogg got some friends together, and after much difficulty and stress, the first Christmas Fete was organised. And, as the expression is, the rest is history. People responded positively to these initiatives, and the history of their response is a history of the generosity, sacrifice, prayer and dedication of literally thousands of benefactors, not only from Ireland, but from Britain and U.S.
It is a history which has been repeating itself since the 1920’s and is still continuing today, in 2015. Indeed it is true to say that it this response which has been the driving force of all our missionary efforts. As a missionary in the Philippines, and later when working in the general Promotion Office, I was aware of a special bond of cooperation and prayer between you our co-missionaries and ourselves, having experienced at first hand the tremendous goodness of so many people like you who, in different ways and using their own gifts, were supporting our missionary work. And not only were they helping us by their donations and their work on our behalf; most importantly, they were supporting us also by their prayers. Without that prayerful and faithful support, our missionary efforts, which have been so richly blessed by God, could not even have begun.
I wonder how many of you, when you made the decision to be helpers at our Sale of Work, realised that you were responding to God’s call to be a missionary? You probably had many different reasons for making the decision – family connections, having been invited by a friend, a chance encounter with a committee member or a Sister. Whatever your initial contact, the reality is that by consenting to help, and by continuing to give your time and effort to the work, you were and are responding to a call to mission. In fact all of us here, as Christians, have received that call. We Sisters are called to dedicate our lives to bringing the Gospel to the peoples of other countries and cultures, wherever we are sent. You are called to support these efforts according to the gifts you have received from God. As St. Paul tells us in the first reading: There are many different gifts, but the same spirit; there are many different ways of serving, but it is always the same Lord. The Gospel presents us with both the challenge of the call, and the richness of the reward for responding to it. Jesus is telling each one of us personally, just as he told the first disciples, that he loves us in the same way as the Father loves him, and furthermore, he is telling us this because he wants our hearts to be filled with joy; he calls us his friends with whom he has a close and loving relationship. He has chosen us – not the other way around, and with this choice comes responsibility: responsibility to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last. And then His final word, which binds the rest together: My command to you is to love one another.
You who are here today are the representatives of the many thousands of people who, through the sharing of their gifts and their spirit, have been a part of our mission from its beginning. Through your prayers, your hard work, and your sacrifices, you have been directly involved in the effort to bring about God’s Kingdom wherever Columban Sisters are in mission. Together, united in our common call, and encouraged by the trust which God has placed in us, we look back in thanksgiving at the past and its blessings; we give thanks for the present, for the good that is being done and for our being here together, and we look forward in trust and confidence to ‘a future full of hope’ which God has promised to those who love him.