Yesterday was our last day in Dublin and we visited the Book of Kells and the Library. The illustrations of the Book of Kells were incredible. Sadly though we only got to see two of the Gospels, but the writing was incredible. Going into the Library Room was like being on the set of a Harry Potter movie. Since 1801 or thereabouts, every book published in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland has been sent to this library to be catalogued. They increase the bookshelf by 1km per year to accommodate them all!!!
We started our day today with a tour of Maynooth university with a theology and history student giving us a tour. After a brief history of the university the highlight of the tour was seeing the St Patrick’s Chapel which forms part of the seminary. It was one of the most spectacular chapels I have ever seen. Today was probably the coldest day we’ve had so it was good to be inside!
After visiting Maynooth we went to the CEIST (Catholic Education, An Irish Schools Trust). As we are governed by Mercy Partners, all the Presentation schools and a few other religious order schools are under its guidance is Ireland. It was very interesting to chat with the staff about the differences between Irish and Australian education systems. Again, we were treated to an impressive morning tea!
Next we visited the convent of Kildare. It was very special to meet the sisters from our Mother House and to share with them that we are celebrating our 90 years. We shared a beautiful late lunch with the sisters and I spoke with a noviciate, who is only in her second year, hoping to make her final vows in 2-3 years.
From Kildare we stopped by Monasterevin, the Presentation Sisters Union as Brigid wanted to deliver a letter to the congregational leader from the St Mary’s congregational leader as they are celebrating 150 years this year since the first Presentation sisters landed in Tasmania. The house was magnificent!
Our last stop for the day was to go to the Mt St Anne Retreat and Conference centre owned by the Presentation sisters. This is a magnificent country retreat area where the have just developed an education centre on Nano Nagle. We were very lucky to be able to wander through the exhibition, reading the poster boards, listening to the sister’s stories and seeing how far their work extends around the world. It would be so fantastic to have such an exhibition in Australia. It is in its final stages before an expected opening in September.
Sorry I hit the post button too soon!
Yesterday we visited St Joseph’s College, a secondary girls school, adjacent to the convent. The girls were very excited to be gearing up to finish school next week. Peter, teacher responsible for marketing, spent an hour with us chatting about the school and the commitment the teachers have to the girls. It has a strong social justice focus with a strong migrant population. We were able to have a tour of the school, chatting with the students along the way. One of the girls gave me a Lino print as they were making several, trying to perfect their technique.
I came across this sign many times around the school which I particularly liked.
After a beautiful lunch in the convent of homemade soup, we jumped on a bus with Sr Marie Therese and headed in to Dublin. Here she took us on a walking tour, introducing us to Teresa Mulally, a close friend of Nano’s, who also set up schools for poor Catholic children in Dublin.
Our tour ended up at George’s Hill, where the convent and archives are located. We were able to read the actual letters that Nano wrote to Teresa. These letters were older than white settlement in our country. It was a truly moving experience to read Nano’s actual letters.
The Presentation sisters we have visited with have shared a wealth of knowledge with us and it is up to those who continue to carry on Nano’s work in the 21stC to ensure we do share and teach our students the work that Nano started, but has most certainly been continued by the sisters and now by those in Presentation schools.
After reading Nano’s letters we went to the adjacent school, Presentation Primary School George’s Hill, for disadvantaged children. A high population of the students are migrants, parents who are homeless or disadvantaged in some way. The sisters have donated buildings surrounding the school to low cost housing and the children attend Presentation Primary. It was such an uplifting experience as we chatted with the girls and boys (only to Year 2) about life in Australia. The school had put on a lovely lunch for us and gave each of us one of their newly published recipe books. The recipe books are a collection of recipes and drawings children, parents and staff were asked to contribute. They run many programs to educate the parents on cooking healthy meals, reading programs and assist with several social services. They were so generous towards us and excited by our visit. We said our goodbyes and we gave them a donation and some Ausrralian souvenirs.
This morning we awoke in Glendalough to a beautiful crisp morning and Chris, Katy and I walked up to the top of a mountain. The trees and forest were spectacular. After breakfast we went to the Glendalough Visitor Centre and watched a film about the history of the region and the role of monastic life over a 1000 years ago. It was really interesting to learn about how the buildings were built.
After another walk around the lake one last time we left the serenity of Glendalough and headed for Mission House, Lucan, 15 minutes outside of Dublin. We are staying with the sisters in the convent. We’ve just shared our evening meal together and retired to the parlour where I’m writing this blog. As always the sisters are incredibly hospitable and are very generous in sharing their home with us for the next 4 nights.
We arrived in Glendalough after travelling from Killarney, via Limerick. Glendalough is nestled in a valley, with views of the Camadery Mountains, the Glendasan River and the Glendalough National Park. After arriving we went for a walk, taking in the ancient monastery, cemetery and the beautiful mountains and lakes. This photo below is with Sr Anna, our pilgrimage leader, Katy from Iona in Perth and Chris from Star of the Sea in Melbourne. This is one of my favourite photos.
Today is Trinity Sunday and we met up with Fr Michael who would be our celebrant for mass as well as our tour guide on our creation pilgrimage walk.
We commenced the day with a walk around a labyrinth, contemplating our surroundings and where we were in our life at this point in time. Following the labyrinth walk, we celebrated mass together in a 1000 year old chapel called Trinity Church. It was an incredibly spiritual time to be celebrating a mass in such a historical place. As Fr Michael said, the keystone in the arch below is Christ, holding it all together.
After mass we began our creation pilgrimage. As we walked around the national park, Fr Michael asked us to focus on different aspects of our life during different phases of the walk. For example, when we were headed up a very steep climb, we were to focus on the difficult times in our lives and what we do to cope with those times. During the walk the weather transformed from blue sky, to rain, and back to blue sky, followed by another downpour.
The walk was about 10km in total (according to one pilgrim’s Apple Watch) but spanning several hours and listening to Fr Michael’s inspirational words and poetry, it passed relatively quickly. It was a spiritual experience that has changed me in many ways.
Glendalough is a place that enables you to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Yesterday we left Killarney and visited the Limerick Convent. Again the hospitality of the sisters was so warm and they were so generous with their time. Sr Emer gave us a history lesson of when the convent started, with sisters coming from South Presentation Convent in Cork in 1837. In 1873 a small group of sisters set off from the Limerick convent, bound for Victoria. During morning tea the sisters wanted to look at my photos and I showed them how I could send a message or video on Snap Chat to the girls. Sr Anna and Sr Emer both joined me in sending a snap chat video to Maya and Millie, delighting in seeing an almost instant reply from the girls on the other side of the world.
After morning tea Sr Emer showed us some of the archives they have. We were able to read transcripts of the diaries the sisters kept on their journey by boat to Victoria. The diaries were such an insight into how hot they were in their heavy habits, the actual boat journey and how nervous they were to be heading to Australia.
After spending time with the archives, we celebrated prayer together in the chapel with all the sisters. Saying goodbye to the sisters is always sad as we have really enjoyed their company over many scones and cups of tea.
Today we drove the Ring of Kerry, a scenic route around the county. We made a stop in Sneem, the place of a former Presentation convent, attached to the Castleisland congregation. Although the sisters left Sneem for Geraldton
in about 1891, they are still acknowledged for their work in the local church.