On this lovely June morning families came from the provinces to join us in celebrating the Golden Jubilee of our four sisters, Marie Rene O’Donoghue, Mary Ita O’Brien, Isobel Loughrey and Mary McGuinness. The house echoed with joyous greetings, with laughter, with stories as adults and children mingled over cups of tea or soft drinks before moving into the chapel for the liturgy.
After a warm and witty welcome by Sr Rose Gallagher, Fr O’Conor (him of the one ‘n’), our chaplain, began the Mass assisted by five priests including Mary Ita’s brother Eamon. The lovingly prepared little booklet held the hymns and readings, all of which resonated with everyone present. Beginning with a heartfelt “Sing to the mountains” supported by the organist, Elizabeth Doyle, we quickly caught the spirit of the celebration. The inspiring readings from Ephesians and St Luke, spoke to our hearts, opening doors of love and gratitude as we were convinced all over again of the unfathomable, unconditional love of God for each one. “ Consider the lilies…”
Weaving the stories of the 200 missionary years of the 4 sisters, Patricia Quigley evoked a sense of wonder and gratitude as she touched on their, almost incredible, ministries. How many lives have been changed, have been deepened by these our sisters? How many unknown persons experienced the Kingdom because of their fidelity? And as they continue today in different and differing ministries we see that their light continues to shine. They shared this light today as they asked all of us present to stand and, with them, renew our vows, be they religious, marriage, ordination or baptism. Wholly inclusive, wholly nourishing, wholly joyful for each of us.
More nourishment awaited us in the dining room; food and drink and more than enough for all. It was a great feast for a great occasion, a time to make merry and if some of us wanted to get up and dance we were restrained only by the lack of space in the room! The celebration continued in the now warm sun outside among ‘the lilies of the field’, and the buttercups, and the speedwell, and the daisies and the sedge and, and, and…
So, at the end of the day, as the song goes, we kneel and pray. Pray a huge THANK YOU to the Lord, to the 4 Jubilarians, to their families, to our staff, to our helpers and to each one of you who are woven into the wonder of this day. Alleluia!
Hymns at the celebration included:
Sing to the mountains
I thank my God each time I think of you
As I kneel before you
Strong and Constant is my love
City of God.
Welcome Address by Sr. Rose.
On behalf of the sisters here in Magheramore, it is my privilege to welcome you all – especially our Jubilarians: Marie Rene, Isobel, Mary and Mary Ita and your families and friends.
Welcome also to our priest friends, to Sr. Margaret from Myanmar and our own sisters who have travelled to be with us.
While reading an article recently, I came across a new name for God…
God the GOLDFINDER!
And I thought …. what an appropriate name for God for this special day!
All those 50 years ago, we can imagine God delighting in his 4-fold find of gold …
and pondering how he would invest his treasure
- the poor, in far flung lands would be the beneficiaries…
they would have their dignity restored,
their burdens lifted, and their hope enkindled.
And that is the cause of our joy today…
we are celebrating what God has done in and through these our sisters…
during their combined 200 years of missionary service.
We thank Fr. Pat, our resident Chaplain, who will lead us in the Liturgy now
together with our priest concelebrants:
Fr. Pat Raleigh, Fr. Eamonn O’Brien, Fr. John McGrath, Fr. Pat O’Donoghue and Fr. Denis Foley
As we begin our celebration, we remember the people among whom our Jubilarians lived and laboured -thanking God for them and for the great, great blessings of this day.
Golden Jubilee Homily. Sr. Patricia Quigley
Greetings to all of you and I join with Sr. Rose, and Fr. Pat in saying welcome as I share with you these few words of reflection.
Treasuring the words of Scripture we have just heard, one sentence really sums up so simply what we are celebrating today. Towards the end of the first reading we heard the beautiful words “Glory be to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine…”
During the past fifty years this has been the experience of Marie Rene, Isobel, Mary and Mary Ita and, you as family, must have pondered, too, at how wonderfully God has worked through them. When as young women they left home, in response to God’s call, some of you will remember and others of you will have heard the story of how lonely and yet how proud their parents and siblings were. However I am sure no one ever dreamed of all the blessings they would bring to those whom they would meet and accompany on their various missionary journeys and the blessings, they, too, would receive.
Marie Rene, Isobel, Mary and Mary Ita between the 4 of you, you have ministered in most of our Columban world – the Philippines, Hong Kong and China, Korea, Myanmar, Britain, Ireland, Chile and Peru – truly amazing! And now just for a few minutes let us take a quick visit to these places.
Marie Rene, as a born teacher, you gave and provided for the education of so many young people in the Philippine as well as helping families with scholarships and livelihood programmes through the Grameen Bank which also built up a sense of community as they helped one another. This was such a blessing for the Filipinos who deeply appreciated education.
And your love for the Word of God urged you to write and publish books and booklets as well as teaching adults how to pray the Scriptures through the method of Lectio Divini. And when it was time to return to Ireland your spirit of sharing the Word and the gift of teaching brought a great blessing to the lads of the De la Salle College in Ballyfermot.
Before during and after your time in Hong Kong, Isobel you used your wonderful skills of hospitality and service to enhance the community here in Magheramore. However, your first love was Hong Kong where by your teaching, spiritual direction and guidance you enriched the lives of so many young people and adults. Whether in our schools or later in the Retreat Centre, that gift of presence and listening was evident. Your love of beauty and nature resonated with the richness of the Chinese culture and nourished many lasting friendships especially among our Columban Associates whom you helped to nurture and develop along with our other Sisters there.
Mary, you too, have blessed the community here in Magheramore with your generous availability and your giftedness in management and housekeeping. With this generosity you also enriched the whole Congregation during your time as a member of CLT and now in your present role as Congregational Treasurer. However, there is little doubt but that you have left part of your heart in South America – firstly in Chile and later in Peru. Your immersion into the lives of the people of Chile and Peru in the many parishes in which you worked and in the sierra has left you with a wonderful sense of what can happen when the people are with you and you encourage them to take leadership – these gifts you also shared in the Handsworth parish, Birmingham when you were part of the formation community and now share them here in our parish of Kilbride/Barndarrig/Brittas Bay.
And Mary Ita – Having shared your laboratory skills in our clinics, in Korea, you felt the call to be more among the grassroots and to journey with the poor in the simplest possible way. You were at home with this ministry but God had other plans for you. Young women, in Korea, were being called by God to the Columban missionary way of life and someone was needed to form them and you were chosen to be the one to undertake this task. After training in formation, and with the support of our Sisters in Korea, you journeyed with many young women and today we are blessed to have some of them as our Sisters including Susanna our congregational leader and Angela also a member of the congregational leadership both of whom are present here today. With the handing over of formation to our Sisters from Korea you saw an opportunity to return to the pastoral ministry you loved by volunteering for our mission in Myanmar. However your formation skills were well known and appreciated so they were once again called on but at least not full time. Recently you have also discovered your talent of administering finance and you keep our Myanmar mission solvent with the help of Mary.
This does not do justice to God’s grace working in and through Marie Rene, Isobel, Mary and Mary Ita – but even the little that has been shared is reason enough for us to give thanks and rejoice with them. Nor does it do justice to their own personal journey, with our loving God, during these past 50 years, which has been their source of strength and is summed up so beautiful both in the Gospel and in their mottos.
And finally our deepest gratitude to you their families, since it was in their families that their missionary vocation was first nurtured. You as family and friends what a support you have continued to be to them and to us – we are deeply grateful, even though much of the support is often hidden and taken for granted. Nevertheless it is recognized and deeply appreciated.
On the back cover of the booklet we find one of St. Columban’s prayers which our Jubilarians have made their own prayer of thanksgiving. Let us now pray it with them and for them and for ourselves too, “Grant us O Lord that charity which can never fail so that once our lamps are enkindled they may burn forever within us and shed their radiance upon others”.