20 October 2011
For the past year, the Irish Missionary Union, in conjunction with Mr. Maurice O’Keeffe of Irish Life and Lore, has been working on a project called ‘Irish Missionary Stories’. In that time, Maurice O’Keeffe interviewed one hundred and fifty men and women religious who spent varying amounts of time on mission overseas. Four Sisters of Mercy, Srs. Bridie McGowan (home from Kenya), Catarina Ryan (home from Brazil), Claudia Bradley (home from Zambia) and Rita Twomey (home from the Philippines), were interviewed for the project, which was launched in Wynn’s Hotel, Abbey Street, Dublin on Thursday October 13th.
Srs. Catarina Ryan, Bridie McGowan, Rita Twomey, Claudia Bradley
The launch opened with Fr. Eamon Aylward of the IMU giving the background to the project which began as an idea about 5 years ago, as there was a need to preserve the story of Irish Missionaries and their contribution to spreading the Good News of the Gospel to all nations.
Fr. Dermod McCarthy addressed the gathering and said that he was awed by the wisdom and knowledge and the wonderful work and travels undertaken by those who were interviewed, and indeed by all Irish missionaries. He recalled the Radharc TV series which showcased the work of Irish Missionaries in the early days of Irish television. In many cases, this was the first time that the family members who had waved goodbye to their loved ones, saw the places and type of work that they were doing. He applauded the archive just now created of the stories of one hundred and fifty Irish Missionaries representing 54 countries. These missionaries, Fr. Dermod reminded us, laid the foundation for the good reputation of Ireland around the world and paved the way for Irish business, industry and entrepreneurship. They were ambassadors for Ireland and are often mentioned as such by President Mary McAleese in her travels. He congratulated and thanked those who had given their time to be interviewed.
Mr. Maurice O’Keeffe then took the floor and thanked Fr. Eamon Aylward for coordinating the work of the project and recalled that the past year was a real experience for him. He commended all the interviewees for their eloquence asthey articulated the stories of their lives ‘on mission’. He then went on to play short excerpts from a selection of the recordings to illustrate the experiences of Irish Missionaries under the headings of first appointment, the journey abroad, learning the language, beginning of the work, facing difficult situations, keeping sane, handing over the mission, coming home, settling down and the legacy left behind. Click on the video clip below to listen to this presentation.
Fr. John Guiney SJ, then spoke and thanked those who went before us and gave their lives with courage and generosity. He said that now is a time of looking forward and asking how we can be inspired by this heroism. He commented on the power of story and quoted from Richard Carley who said ‘Stories make our lives worth living’.
The collection of Missionary Stories will be given to the National Library and to University Libraries around Ireland as well as to the archives of the countries in which the missionaries worked.
The event ended with a light lunch and a chance for everyone present to meet and greet and reconnect with long lost friends and colleagues.
Ailish O'Brien rsm