On Saturday, 2nd February, a Mass was celebrated in the Holy Family Church, Aughrim Street, to mark the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Stanhope Street convent. It was on this very day, 2nd February 1819, that Mary Aikenhead and the first Sisters of Charity arrived in Stoneybatter.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin was the main celebrant of the Eucharist and several other priests concelebrated. Sr Mary Christian, the Congregational Leader, welcomed everyone to the celebration and she gave a very interesting outline of the history of our 200 years in Stanhope Street. Among other things, Sr Mary mentioned the wonderful community spirit in the area and the generosity of the people who gave such a warm welcome to the sisters and who volunteered services to help those in need.
Carried forward in the Entrance Procession by sisters and locals were a large picture of Mary Aikenhead, a candle, a statue of Our Lady from Mary Aikenhead’s time and a Community Book containing the names of every Sister of Charity who ever lived in Stanhope Convent beginning with Mary Aikenhead.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin gave the homily and he highlighted the wonderful contribution the Sisters had given to the parish as well as their huge service to the diocese. It was very evident that the Archbishop was much inspired by the person of Mary Aikenhead and of her courageous service in face of so much poverty and need in nineteenth century Ireland. He emphasised that Mary Aikenhead not only gave generous service to the poor but that she had a deep love for the poor.
Sr Stan did the first reading and Sr Patricia Somers as well as representatives from the Stanhope Street schools said the Prayers of Intercessions.
The cantor, Mary Flynn, led the congregation in the beautiful hymns and responses selected for the Mass and the High Hopes choir sang “Love Shine a Light”. They also joined in the congregational singing. Instrumental music was provided at the Offertory Procession by two young ladies from Sr Bernadette Maria’s orchestra in Crumlin and this greatly enhanced the sense of solemnity.
A Communion Reflection, which stressed the importance of carrying on the legacy of service to those in need in the spirit of Mary Aikenhead, was read by a student from the Secondary School. She then introduced three first year students who performed a Prayer Dance to “Christ has no Body Now but Yours” which highlights the need to allow Christ work through each one of us in today’s world.
Sr Una O’Neill gave a word of thanks before the final blessing and she gave fitting tribute to all who joined us for the anniversary Mass and to all who were involved in making the 200th celebration a truly beautiful experience for all.
Following the Mass refreshments were provided for all by caterers in the Secondary School canteen.