In 1964, the year 2014 was an eternity away, almost unimaginable!
Yet here I am in 2014 now a golden jubilarian shaped by fifty years of ups and downs but above all still in love with God and God’s people. Jubilees are wonderful occasions. They deserve to be celebrated not only for the celebrants but for everybody else as well.
When we come together to ritualize fifty years of fidelity to religious vows, we are all blessed and inspired by the realisation that we have hung in there and stayed faithful. Jubilees give us an opportunity to understand life backwards, reflect on God’s Providence and the joys and challenges of the journey.
For those of us who entered in 1964 - Sisters Rosemary Ng’andu, Bernadette Morgan, Mary Christian, Catherine McLaughlin, Bríd Greville, Mary Judge, Brigid Kelly, Margaret Nolan and Joan O’Neill - Vatican II was more than half way through. The sixties was an era of change, of new freedoms, of liberation as seen in people like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, The Beatles, the Flower People and in movements like Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation and Anti-War. These movements of course influenced the church and religious life so we who entered in 1964 experienced and lived through on-going changes in society and church. There were wonderful times, challenging times, sometimes very challenging times, even I hope transformative times. Religious life now is very different to the sixties. We have much to be grateful for and it was good to be able to express this thanks publicly.
In the early autumn of 2013 when thinking about the coming golden jubilee I had in mind to approach my coes (the sisters who entered at the same time) about a common celebration. In a casual conversation with Mary Christian we talked about ‘the jubilee’ and Mary suggested it might be nice for all those who entered in 1964 to celebrate together. After some consultation and reflection this group was happy to have just one celebration for 2014. Seven of us living in Ireland sat down to a Christmas Dinner in Bewley’s Hotel on 17th December 2013. Venues, dates, liturgy celebrants, guest numbers to include family and Sisters of Charity were agreed. The group through myself kept in constant contact through email with the sisters in the various provinces and regions, sending information and getting feedback. Every detail was agreed by all. Sadly and so suddenly one of the most enthusiastic jubilarians of the group Mary Holohan died in January 2014. I think it is fair to say her presence was with us right up to the celebration day itself, her enthusiasm was catching.
Between January and May the liturgical and social celebrations were planned and invitations prepared. Throughout these preparations we were always conscious of the fifty year journey, of the many people and events in our lives on that journey and above all of God guiding and loving us through it all (sometimes perhaps in strange ways!). We were also mindful of our coes who would not be able to join us for the celebrations – Sisters Mary Daniel and John Emmanuel and of our deceased coes – Sisters Frances Guiney, Mary Holohan and Cecelia Rafter. We are deeply grateful for the many people – in family, friends, community and ministry who supported us along the way. This was also a reality during the jubilee preparatory journey itself as different sisters helped us with invitations, liturgy booklets, music, singing, flower arranging, welcome and thank you greetings.
The sun shone beautifully on the jubilee day itself, September 6th, as we gathered with family and sisters for the liturgical celebration in the beautiful Church of the Assumption, Booterstown Avenue. This was a wonderful celebration, inspiring, uplifting, musical and reverent. The congregation sang the Quid Retribuam with such energy and passion which reflected the joy and gratitude of the occasion. Thank you RSCs. Many people wondered who the violinists were on the day. They were from St Agnes’ Music School in Crumlin and symbolised for us our service of the poor as these young girls performed with such skill, musicality and professionalism.
Monsignor Paul Callan, our main celebrant and chaplain in Stanhope Street in his homily left us with the beautiful image of the oak, in a poem included below, which was a splendid summing up of our lives. Father Mike Drennan S.J. a long time congregational friend was the second celebrant.
Afterwards at the Stillorgan Park Hotel the atmosphere was welcoming, warm and equally celebratory. The hotel staff was attentive and professional and a lovely meal was enjoyed by all. Reference to the two families – family of origin and Sisters of Charity family - in the closing remarks by a family member acknowledged the contribution each had in the life of the jubilarians and of how interconnected we all are. Long gone is the concept of religious life being separate from the lives of ordinary people. I think I speak for all when we say the jubilee celebration gave us renewed hope in God’s providence as we look to the future, no longer young but ‘still full of sap still green’.
"The Oak Tree"
A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree's leaves away,
then snapped it's boughs
and pulled it's bark
until the oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground
while other trees fell all around...
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
"How can you still be standing. Oak?"
The oak tree said, "I know that you
can break each branch of mine in two,
carry every leaf away,
shake my limbs, and make me sway.
But I have roots stretched in the earth,
growing stronger since my birth.
You'll never touch them, for you see,
they are the deepest part of me.
Until today, I wasn't sure
of just how much I could endure.
But now I've found, with thanks to you,
I'm stronger than I ever knew."