– Homily given by
Sister Ann Gray, Congregational Leader,
at the Annual Outing to Magheramore
Saturday, 19 May 2012


We are always very happy to welcome you all to Magheramore for this outing of the Sale of Work helpers but today especially as we celebrate your 85 years of dedicated love and service to the mission entrusted to the Columban Sisters. You have truly served the Lord with hearts filled with gladness.

As you know, the first Sale of Work was organised by Miss Nancy Hogg. I am sure this was one of the responses to an appeal published in the Far East magazine in 1927 in which it was stated that the new Congregation of Sisters, dependent at that time on the Columban Fathers for financial support, were ‘seriously crippled for want of money.’ We can imagine Miss Hogg taking to heart the words that followed in that appeal, ‘Every friend of the Sisters feels that they should not be left in this helpless state any longer, that the time has come to give them funds of their own to enable them to train their Novices, to send bands of Professed Sisters – properly equipped – to the Mission field regularly and to maintain them there in health and sickness.’

And so plans were made to hold a three-day Christmas fete which would include a mission exhibition, five stalls with goods for sale and a tea room. (Does this sound familiar?) Unfortunately, the Archbishop refused permission for such a fete because the goal was to raise funds for a Congregation not located in the Dublin archdiocese. Undaunted, Miss Hogg proceeded to organise a private sale of work which was advertised by word of mouth among friends. The March 1928 issue of the Far East then reported that the sum of £246 had been raised – a very substantial amount of money and a very generous contribution to the Congregation’s funds.

What was happening in 1927 in the Columban Sisters? The first Sisters had been professed in St Brigid’s Cahircon, Co. Clare in 1924 and two years later the first group had set out for China. As more postulants and novices continued to be received in St Brigid’s, the first group of Columban Sisters in China were busy with language study, setting up house in Hanyang and responding to sick people who came to the house for treatment. Hopes and dreams of developing ministries to the poor were soon shattered by the tense political situation between the warlords, nationalists and communists in Hanyang, as well as campaigns against foreigners.

By April 1927, the Sisters found themselves refugees as they had to leave Hanyang and move to Shanghai for safety. By Christmas, as Miss Hogg prepared for the first Sale of Work, the Sisters had returned to Hanyang, and this despite the fact that the Columban Fathers had experienced being captured by bandits. The Sisters were still without a convent or dispensary. But, as soon as the people heard they were back, they began to arrive daily in huge numbers and so the Sisters began their medical ministry in a makeshift dispensary, serving the sick with whatever medicines they could find. Can you imagine how they would have felt to hear that the princely sum of £246 had been raised in support of their mission?

That was 1927. How about today, 85 years later? That first Sale of Work held in support of the Columban Sisters became an annual event and has been held in a variety of locations from the Rotunda Hall to the Mansion House to the Crumlin parish community hall. Having spent many years on the missions in Hong Kong and China, last year was the first year I had attended the Sale in Crumlin and I was delighted to feel as soon as I walked in the same family atmosphere and spirit that I believe has been there from the beginning. And just as in 1927, you still have a mission exhibition, stalls with goods for sale and a very popular tea room.

For Miss Hogg, there was always more to the sale than making money. For her, it was all about stimulating and keeping alive the missionary spirit.

For Miss Hogg, there was always more to the sale than making money. For her, it was all about stimulating and keeping alive the missionary spirit. Usually, at 85 years of age, people are taking things easier but there are no signs of that with the Sale of Work. When we told you a few years ago, that there would no longer be a Sister available to work full time on the preparations for the Sale, like resourceful missionaries, you had no intention of giving up but were determined that the Sale would continue. You have been faithful to the spirit and dream of Miss Hogg and I have no doubt that she would be proud of all your efforts as we sense the missionary spirit of the sale become stronger each year.

We call it the Columban Sisters Sale of Work and I have heard people say it is one of the best Sales of Work in Dublin. But it is really your Sale. I know that work goes on all year round as you keep in touch with prospective ‘givers’, you keep your eyes open for gifts to be put aside for sale and I am sure you already have started your collections of cosmetics, books and jam jars in preparation for the jam to be made, not to mention the constant thinking that goes on to come up with new and creative ways to raise money. For all of this, we cannot be grateful enough.

Last year, all your hard work succeeded in raising over €60,000, a fantastic sum which you handed over to us with the freedom to use for those most in need. Sources of funding like this give us the means to be able to respond to urgent requests like the one we received last year from our Sisters in Pakistan where, because of heavy rains, families in Kunri had once again lost all their crops and their homes. The Sisters phoned saying that they wanted to assist 100 Christian families and provide them with basic food which would require about €5,000 for a month’s supply. Now you can see how far your €60,000 would go.

As you know, the mission of the Columban Sisters has expanded over the years and we now have Sisters on mission stretching from the Far East to the Americas. Today, just as in 1927, we have Sisters in China offering to local Sisters and seminarians the opportunities to be in touch with the Universal Church and also teaching English to students who will return to poor villages in the countryside and share the fruits of the education they have received. Today, as a very small token of our appreciation, you will find on your table in the dining room a little gift some of which were made by young Chinese Sisters on the Mainland and some made by the young people of our Community of Hope in the Philippines.

Miss Hogg’s hope was that she would ‘have a little corner in the mission of the good sisters.’ You can be sure that you have more than a little corner, and that with you, we are truly ‘hand in hand across the world’. I know that every Columban Sister throughout the world will join me in sharing the prayer of St Paul from our first reading today, ‘I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you and for the way in which your faith is spoken all over the world. The God I worship spiritually by preaching the Good News of his Son knows that I never fail to mention you in my prayers. To you all then, who are God’s beloved, called to be saints, may God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.’

Categories 2012