Home|Dominican Sisters Cabra Deirdre

About Dominican Sisters Cabra Deirdre

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Dominican Sisters Cabra Deirdre has created 26 blog entries.
1 02, 2019

Bicentenary Mass celebrating 200 years of Dominican Sisters’ presence in Cabra

2023-12-01T12:12:23+00:00February 1, 2019|Dominican News, Education, Ireland, News, Uncategorized|

On Tuesday 29th January, the Bicentenary Eucharistic celebration took place in the Church of the Most Precious Blood, Cabra West, celebrating the 200 years of Dominican Sisters’ presence in Cabra.

Click here to read Homily by Fr. Michael O’Grady, (Parish Priest, Church of the Most Precious Blood, Cabra West )

Click her to read  Welcome by Ms. Anne Donnelly Principal of St. Dominic’s College, Cabra

16 03, 2018

Fifty Years in Argentina 1968 – 2018

2023-12-01T12:21:02+00:00March 16, 2018|Latin America, News, Uncategorized|

Sr. Veronica Rafferty OP reflects on our celebration of 50 years in Argentina 

Sister Matilde Franchino wrote a sonnet for the occasion and it opens with the line: “The day we have been waiting for has finally arrived!”

24 February was set aside for the celebration of our fifty years in Argentina as the first three Galway Dominican sisters arrived in Buenos Aires in February 1968. We gathered in Cuartel Quinto, a barrio in the outer circle of the city of Buenos Aires, renowned in recent times for a high level of violence, but as well for its multiplicity of community organizations.

All the sisters who had served on the mission were remembered in a special way even though they were absent, as a chart with their names was attached to the front of the altar, while those Dominican sisters present led the procession at the opening ceremony.

Colourful drapes, murals, flags, photos, symbols and lively music greeted us as we entered the large hall that is used for a gym by the local secondary school and for all the community events. The photos will show all of us sixteen sisters wearing a black and white top made specially for the occasion.

Many close friends gathered to be with us for Mass, followed by a fiesta – sandwiches, musical numbers and of course long conversations remembering times past. Fr. Flannan Hynes and Martin Hunter with the Argentina Provincial, Mercy sisters, Dominican sisters as well as the local bishop and clergy, were welcomed by Noemi before Eucharist began.

Soil brought specially from Galway, Victoria, Buenos Aires and Bariloche was placed at the root of the national tree called the Ceibo, as each decade was recalled. St Dominic and Our Lady had a place of honour near the altar and were the focus of gestures typical of the people’s devotion.

Sr. Veronica Rafferty OP




This is a New Day, Sr. Matilde OP, Victoria Community (English Translation, Sr. Veronica Rafferty)

This is the day we’ve been waiting for, the day for remembering
For reliving memories of what happened and is still happening
This is the day to join with friends and companions on the way
With those who once shared our lives in countless encounters.

Loving words are spoken softly
Words that blow away in the wind
To express a life that our alphabet cannot do.
And to say how the soul bows before the great Mystery
We kneel and stammer a simple thank you.
Mute and calm.

With the Spirits breath that increases in silence
We hope that our fervent prayer will rise in vibrant waves
To make the stars in the heavens dance to the rhythm of the history
that was lived in this Argentine land.



2 11, 2017

How Luther’s Reformation led Irish nuns to Lisbon

2023-12-01T12:22:34+00:00November 2, 2017|Dominican News, News, Uncategorized|

Read below article from RTE website by Dr Bronagh Ann McShane
RECIRC, Moore Institute



27 10, 2017

Launch of A Luz que no se Apaga by Sister Honor McCabe

2023-12-01T12:28:29+00:00October 27, 2017|Uncategorized|

On Friday evening 20 October, the beautiful baroque chapel in Bom Sucesso was filled to capacity with teachers, sisters, members of Fundação, parents, staff and guests, all having some connection with the Dominican community resident there until last year. Flowers adorned the altar and a new stand with the Portuguese and Irish flags completed the setting.

João Sales Luis, President of the Fundação opened the evening by welcoming everyone to the launch. He then went on to give a synopsis of the history of Bom Sucesso over the centuries and the development of the ministry as it is today. He did this through constant references to Sister Honor’s book. Ana Cristina Fernandes followed by giving memories of the sisters as individuals. She also referred to the book, but told the story as a personal one of the sisters and mentioned many of them by name.

A video interview in English between Sister Liz Smyth and Sister Honor McCabe was then shown on a screen. We listened to Honor’s description of the years of research for the work and how she enjoyed going to the National Archives in Lisbon to study documents pertaining to the convent. Her main source of information was however from the archives within the convent itself. Not alone the convent, but indeed the Congregation owes a tremendous debt to Mother Cecilia Murray who rewrote the annals as they had been destroyed during the Revolution of 1910. The foundation which goes back to 1639, needed a licence from the King of Spain (as Portugal and Spain at that time were united). The licence was twice refused, but was finally grantedto Father Dominic O’ Daly on his third request. Before the final signing, Dominic O’Daly had to recruit Irishmen for the King of Spain’s army which he did. The convent opened with four Portuguese women and one Irish woman, the widow of the last King of Leinster, Dónal Spáinneach McMurrough Kavanagh.

Honor explained that the education of girls very often took the form of preparing women for marriage. The women lived in the convent as parlour boarders. That there were such in Bom Sucesso is possible, but there is no proof. The school grew from small beginnings in the nineteenth century and was reinforced by the arrival of the sisters from Cabra in 1860. Honor also described her excitement when she heard that Bom Sucesso was being amalgamated with the Congregation in Ireland in 1955 as she had read some time previously the story of Bom Sucesso in Helen Concannon’s book Irish Nuns in Penal Days. Honor also emphasised that Ireland needs to be grateful to Portugal who supported us through the centuries when times were difficult.

Sister Elisabeth Healy speaking in Portuguese pointed out the pleasure it was to be present at the launch of the Portuguese version of A Light Undimmed. The story reads as a prayer and a narrative of faith in the Providence of God. She expressed the hope that this continue through the Fundação. She thanked both the founders and present day sisters and trusts that the spirituality in this place will endure into the future.

This was also the occasion for the launching of the long-awaited new gate which will be a great blessing to staff responsible for reception and security. At a given moment, people began leaving the church, and most were milling round the patio admiring the new electronic entrance, not of course omitting to partake of the refreshments which were being served in the main hall.  The Irish Ambassador to Portugal was present as were many friends of the community who were delighted to have the chance to greet sisters Aedris and Alicia. Friends who had not seen one another for a long time enjoyed each other’s company as they partook of the food and drink and bought books from the two hardworking booksellers. So much seemed to be going on at the same time. Then quite quickly, the celebrations came to a natural end with friends and families slipping quietly away in their own time, through the gathering darkness.

Mary O’Byrne OP

28 03, 2017


2023-12-01T14:32:48+00:00March 28, 2017|Dominican News, Education, Events, News, Uncategorized|


Given by: Sr. Christina Greene OP on March 26th 2017

Good afternoon. Welcome to the Sion Hill event of the year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sheila Drum, Principal of Dominican College, all the staff and students, parents, committee and Board of Management for inviting us to what I call a banquet of life.

I want to particularly welcome two former principals of Dominican College, both valiant and inspiring women, Sister Michèle O’Donovan and Patricia Fitzsimons.

When I walked into St. Thomas’ building this afternoon I felt embraced by energy, enthusiasm, culture, history and life bubbling up from the very wellsprings of the foundations of Sion Hill. We all know that days like this don’t happen without a huge commitment from staff, students and parents, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude.

Today is a day to rejoice and be glad:

• A day to reflect and reminisce
• A day to meet and greet friends, old and new
• A day to look back with gratitude
• A day to look forward with courage and hope
• A day to be proud, not just of achievements but of the people committed to the legacy of Dominican education.  As I said to Sheila Drum, the pioneering women of 1836 would be very proud today.

Today we celebrate a story within a story. As the well-known author, Henning Mankel said, “It is sometimes good to go backwards. To a beginning.” And I’m going to take a step backwards for a moment.

Over 800 years ago a Spanish priest called Dominic de Guzman, known to us affectionately as St. Dominic, founded the Dominican Order. He founded the Dominican Sisters first because he recognised the importance of education for women so that they could take their place in society and the Church – I’ll make no comment on the Church part of it! From then till now is a long story and I’m going to skip a lot of chapters to come closer to our own time. Yesterday, 25th of March, the Dominicans celebrated 300 years of Dominican women in Dublin – we’re on a bit of a celebratory roll at the moment. But today is the icing on the cake, 180 years of educating girls at Dominican College, Sion Hill.
About 1836 a group of Dominican sisters from Cabra, inspired by their mission to preach the gospel through education, ventured across the Liffey to new horizons in suburbia Dublin – and Sion Hill was born. This mission would have been impossible without the many teaching colleagues who collaborated with the sisters down through the years.

Legend has it that Sion Hill got its name from a rare plant brought from the Holy Land – so a small piece of the Holy Land is part of the fabric of Sion Hill. That’s what I like to believe even though it has never be verified.

Past Pupils Union Choir

As I watched eight decades of uniforms being modelled so elegantly by the Sion Hill students I noticed that the Dominican Crest and Veritas motto wasn’t a feature until the 1960’s. It has now become part of our DNA. The Crest is not exclusive to Sion Hill. It is worn on every Dominican uniform from Buenos Aires to Blackrock and beyond, reminding us that we belong to something bigger than ourselves, that we are part of a rich Dominican tapestry ever ancient ever new.

The Latin motto Veritas translates into the word Truth – it’s a motto that the world badly needs, as we all know that truth is under siege at the moment. On the 21st of January this year, Pope Francis spoke of what he called “a liquid society” – that we are making up truth as we go along. But our motto, Veritas, invites us to be ambassadors of truth. It challenges us to keep searching for truth – about God, the world and ourselves – to contemplate truth and not to be afraid, to share it with the world. St. Dominic said, “We must sow the seed of truth, not hoard it”.

As we wind down the 180th celebration we move to new times and new chapters in the life story of Sion Hill with courage and hope. I’d like to leave the last word to Catherine of Siena, 14th century Dominican woman, “If you are true to yourself, you will set the whole world on fire with truth and beauty.”

May God bless Sion, may she live and prosper
In loyal love beneath God’s Blessed rule
And may her children o’er the world be ever
True to their God, their motto and their school.      (Sion Hill’s School Song)

Christina Greene, O.P.

8 02, 2017

Homily at 60th Anniversary Mass, St. Dominic’s College Ballyfermot

2023-12-01T12:27:38+00:00February 8, 2017|News|

Homily at 60th Anniversary Mass  St. Dominic’s College Ballyfermot

As a past pupil, current teacher in St Dominic’s and fellow Dominican Associate I have had the unique opportunity to see the school from different points of view. I was once like the children in Gospel. I started in St Dominic’s in 2001. At the age of 12 I did not realise that I was entering more than a building with furniture. I was entering a community, a community that has established itself over the past 800 years. It’s a community that like Jesus in the Gospels asked the children of Ballyfermot  to come forward 60 years ago and  trust the Dominican Sisters with the their education.

Now I am in the position to ask children to come to St Dominic’s and entrust us with the special care that Jesus said they should have. Thinking about the 60 years of St Dominic’s College Ballyfermot I have to admire the vision and courage of those who founded the school in 1956.

Ireland and Ballyfermot back in 1956 were not the same as today. Ballyfermot was a suburb with fields and meadows all around. The Dominican Sisters came and asked the people of Ballyfermot if they could educate their young girls. This may not seem a big deal now but educating women was not the priority back in the 1950s especially in large families that had no history of education. Education had to be paid for and people believed that women did not need an education. These were the realities that faced the sisters but they were willing to embrace this challenge because they knew the truth, the VERITAS, that education is singly one of the most important gifts you can give to anyone. They had the vision that young women would be educated and would rightly take their position in society as equals. It’s because of the Dominican sisters that we have produced lawyers, nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs, accountants, and many more highly successful proud women.

Over the years many staff have come and gone. Some have stayed a year and some have stayed over 40 years but each one has embraced what it means to give the gift of a Dominican Education.  The mission statement of the school states,
            “We in St. Dominic’s are committed to providing a Christian education inspired by the       Dominican motto “truth” which fosters the development of the whole person”.

This is what sets our school apart from others.  Our school develops the whole person. The whole person is what makes everyone of us here, who we are. It is not just the side of us that can read and write and sit an exam but the side of us, that stands up and speaks out when we see injustice, that shows love to a neighbour, that values the friends and family we have, that wants to excel in the talents that are bursting out of each one of us. That is the whole person. Thousands of pupils have passed through the school over the years and each staff member that works in the school knows, like Jesus in the Gospel, that the young ladies that pass through the school are what is important.

The vision showed by the Dominican Sisters 60 years ago has been a success. We are here today and the doors of the school are still open. Each day a small difference is being made to lives of each student. Each day a lesson is learned and a smile is created. This is not to say that we don’t make mistakes. The disciples made a mistake in the Gospel. Each and every one of us in our school community has made mistakes as staff and students. Once we realise we made a mistake it’s not dwelling on it that matters. It’s about not making the same mistake again. 60 years ago I bet there were lots of mistakes that were made but the Sisters did not give up, they pushed on everyday striving to bring  Christian values to every one of the girls that came into the school and we today 60 years on follow in their footsteps in trying to do the same.

It is important to remember today the sad times. We as a school community over the years have had difficult times in our own personal lives and in our school lives. We have lost members of our family we loved dearly and friends that made our world a little better but it’s through community that our wounds slowly heal. It’s the kind word, the subtle smile, the kind gesture that helps us get through those dark days and St Dominic’s is a community that strives to brighten those dark days.

As we reflect on the 60 years that have gone before us, who knows what the future will hold. As a school we will continue to speak Gods message, to teach and encourage, to share and show kindness.  We will continue to put the young women of Ballyfermot and the surrounding community at the centre of prayers and actions like Jesus wanted us to do. We will continue to educate like the sisters did 60 years ago. We will continue to foster the whole person. We will continue to be the best school we can possible be. Why you may ask? It is simply because we are St Dominic’s Ballyfermot.

Preacher:  Cheryl Keeler,

Career Guidance and Religion Teacher at the School



3 02, 2017

“Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”

2023-12-01T14:34:55+00:00February 3, 2017|Justice, Preaching the Word|

Pope Francis has written a letter to young people as the Church prepares for a Synod of Bishops on the theme: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment”.

The Pope’s letter was published on Friday 13 January, ahead of a press conference at the Holy See Press Office to present the preparatory document for the Synod which will take place in October 2018.

Please find below the text of the Pope’s letter:

My Dear Young People,

I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.

I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to “go”, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.

When God said to Abram, “Go!”, what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this “new land” for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?

But unfortunately, today, “Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).

I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: “Teacher […] where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.

In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: “Can we change things?” And you shouted: “yes!”. That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, […], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).

Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: “Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).

With paternal affection,


January 13th, 2017

22 07, 2015

Sr. Margaret Kelly OP

2023-12-01T14:38:06+00:00July 22, 2015|Ireland, Justice, My Vocation Story, News, South Africa, Stories|

My Vocation Story

This is the Vocation story of Sr Margaret Kelly O.P, a Cabra Dominican Sister, who lives and works in South Africa.  Sr Margaret is passionate about justice and peace issues.  She has served as Mission Area Prioress of South Africa in years gone by and she has also served as a Councillor in the Generalate.  She is currently the Prioress of St Dominics Priory in Port Elizabeth.

I was lucky enough to attend a Dominican school in Dun Laoghaire for most of my school life.  I remember in the Primary school several Nuns from different Orders came to tell their stories and to invite us to join them.  I remember thinking that if ever I decided to become a Nun I’d become a Dominican.  I found the Sisters gentle, encouraging and friendly…they seemed to assume that if they taught us well we would respond by learning well.  And they were right because they taught us above all to love and search for “Truth” – their Dominican Motto.

In High school we were treated more and more as responsible adults as we went up the ranks.  We had Dominican Priests to preach our Retreats and we could pop into the Convent chapel daily where we heard the Sisters praying the Divine Office.  As I moved up the school I needed to decide what I wanted to do and what subjects I needed to take.  With only two years left, I realised that I wanted to become a Dominican.  After some time I found a close friend of mine was also thinking of joining the Sisters.  Later we discovered that another friend had also decided to join the Order.  So after writing Matric and enjoying summer holidays, Dorothy Balfe, Cora McCullagh and I joined the Dominicans – and we are all still here today.  The initial inspiration came from God, but through sisters who were warm, friendly, intellectually challenging and committed to prayer, love of God and others and to education, as a way of preaching the Word of God.

At school I had also been very impressed when I heard stories of the Dominican Sisters and their ministries in South Africa and so after Novitiate responded to my second calling to Mission and I set sail for Cape Town.  I enjoyed my years at university both in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria even though because of Apartheid only White students were allowed there.  They too soon became friends even though they had been brought up prejudiced against Catholics as well as Blacks.  The search for Truth at many levels and in various ways brought us all together.  I then began my teaching career and after some years became School Principal in Holy Rosary in Port Elizabeth.  I had also joined the local Justice and Peace Commission and both ministries came together in 1977 when we answered the call to open the school to children of all races which was against the Apartheid Laws.  There were many threats and harassments from security police but the call to Justice was much stronger and we were bravely supported by many teachers, pupils and parents.  When I was called to serve on our Region Council I worked to extend the appreciation of different Races, Languages and Cultures in all our Schools.

In January 1987 I was invited to serve as Secretary to the Justice and Peace Commission of the South African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) headed by Archbishop Denis Hurley.  Apartheid was at its worst and many of our workers were in prison so it was another challenging Call.  In my years there I saw the bombed out headquarters of those who resisted apartheid: the Trade Unions, the Council of Churches and our own SACBC.  But in spite of the brutality of the Apartheid System, it was a privilege to work with many stalwarts of the Liberation Struggle.  Alas, just as Mandela took over as President and the ANC as Government in 1994 I was called to take over the Leadership of our Sisters in South Africa.  Several different calls to Service and Leadership followed over the next two decades and to each I just said: “Yes Lord”.

Each day I just thank the Lord for His many different calls to me over the course of my life.  The calls of the Lord meant I had a rich, fulfilling and very happy life – far greater that I could ever have asked for or imagined if my life had been determined by my own silly whims.


Sr Margaret Kelly O.P

7 07, 2015

Sr. Joan O’Donovan OP

2023-12-01T14:39:22+00:00July 7, 2015|Dominican News, Ireland, My Vocation Story, News, Stories, Uncategorized|


My Vocation Story

A family story, that I was never too happy to hear repeated, was about my being brought as a small girl to visit a convent. One of the Sisters asked me what I would like to be when I grew up and my reply was “I would like to be a Reverend Mother”! Let me hasten to add that I do not proffer the story as an early indication of a religious vocation, but rather because it suggests, correctly, that convents and sisters were a familiar and positive part of the ambience I grew up in, as were churches and priests, Mass, Benediction, Sodalities, other Church devotions.

In other words, I was lucky enough to grow up at a time in Ireland when for many people God was acknowledged as the ultimate context of life, even though they probably wouldn’t have expressed it in so many words.

I went to school first to the Ursulines in Cork and later, as a boarder, to the Loreto Sisters in Dublin. I remember my school days as happy and in hind-sight I realise that, as well as being well-taught, I learned a great deal about my faith through the example as well as the teaching of the Sisters. Their lives had a certain mystery about them too, which like many other girls, I found intriguing. In fact in many ways they became my role models. Which was, I suppose, why in my final years in school I found myself seriously considering whether I was being called to become a sister myself.

However, when I told my father about it, he was quite adamant that I should go to College first. And so I went to UCC where doing an Arts Degree, making new friends, and being part of various College societies and wider student social life absorbed all my time and energy for the next four years. All thought of religious life faded into the background. After that I had the good fortune to be invited to teach in a newly opened and innovative lay Catholic school and so to begin my professional career in a dynamic setting which I found challenging, absorbing and fulfilling.

Around the same time, my brother, who had entered the Dominican Order some years previously, was ordained. Attending his Ordination and his First Mass were very happy and significant family events. In the succeeding months I found myself, possibly because questioned by my brother’s life and values, beginning to revisit my own attraction to religious life. But not only was I very happy in my job but I had just begun a 2-year Master’s degree course in French. This gave me a further reason for deferring the decision I now knew had to be made. When I did finally face it, it took me a further two years of indecision before I finally applied to be admitted to the Congregation of the Irish Dominican Sisters and was accepted. This Dominican Congregation, in contrast to the two congregations with which I was familiar, was almost completely unknown to me.

That was in July. There were still three months of inner churning, where I lurched from making necessary preparations to enjoying, what I saw as for the last time, a hill-climbing  holiday with friends, and visits to places I thought I would never see again. I have a vivid memory of free-wheeling one day down a long hill enjoying, though with a certain sadness, the wind in my face and the sense of utter freedom. Yet the inner call remained insistent.

It was altogether unexpected then on the day we entered the Novitiate and all the goodbyes were over and my family had departed for Cork that my immediate sense in this unknown place among so many strangers was of total peace of mind. It was not so much an experience of being confirmed in the choice I had made with so much difficulty,  as a sense of having landed in the way of life that God had chosen for me without my realising it.

Although like everybody else I have had my share of major and minor crises and of dark times of suffering, I have never even for a single moment doubted that I was in the place where I belonged. Sixty years later I am still amazed at having the good fortune to belong to the Dominican Order.

There followed three years of initiation into the particular way of following Christ shaped by St. Dominic our founder, which is summed up in one of the mottos of the Order as: “To praise, to bless, to preach.” So from the first day we new arrivals learned the meaning of “To praise” by being absorbed actively into the community liturgy, singing with them the praises of God in the Eucharist and the Divine Office, and in class being instructed in the Scriptures, in particular the psalms, as well as in the chanting and singing of the Gregorian Chant. (In those days the Office was recited or sung in Latin). I found this all most enriching. I grew to love it and continue to be sustained by it as a sharing in the prayer of Christ with the whole Church.

In the same way we learned by the way daily life was organised that “To bless” meant in practice putting others, and first of all the community before oneself, being “time-tabled” rather than organising one’s own time, for example, and more demanding still, learning to love one’s neighbour as oneself. A life-long work, for sure, but for us young people living with others of our own age and in our first fervour, it did not seem too difficult.

The teaching of the formation community both by their example and by their class work was my first initiation into what it is for Dominicans “To preach.” Then after those first three years I was back to the field of education myself and had my first experience of the particular quality of Dominican education as a member of a very creative staff of sisters and lay teachers. I was constantly surprised by their readiness to try out new ideas such as taking part in pilot schemes for curriculum development, and by their ability to draw out the potential of their students by their respect and trust in them.

After some years I became involved in other expressions of the Dominican preaching charism, first as member of a formation team privileged to help young women discern and test their own call to religious life, and later as member of the Council of the Congregation where I had the opportunity of visiting our sisters working in other parts of the world, and of being introduced by them to different contexts and experiences of Church in South Africa, Argentina, Lisbon and Louisiana as well as in Ireland.

My last preaching ministry was a return to teaching, this time to adults, in an Institute founded by a Dominican Friar whose vision it was to put together the insights of modern psychology and the insights of the great religious traditions. I was part of a team made up of Dominican brothers and sisters, lay men and women. As teachers, guides and therapists we worked with the many people who found being introduced to this particular map of the person through a reflective methodology helpful in making sense of their lives in the rapidly changing Ireland of today. It was for me a profound experience of Dominican preaching.

The words of T.S.Eliot: “In my end is my beginning” come to mind when I reflect on my experience of living out the call “To praise, to bless, to preach” in old age. In some ways with the falling away of outer ministries, the mission area is more and more the local community with all the joys, challenges and difficulties that this entails as we struggle to become together a community of holy preaching. Yet we never cease being called to bear witness to God’s compassion for the world and opportunities to do so in our daily comings and goings keep taking me by surprise.

I am grateful to be part of a community where the example of others in their fidelity to the praising of God in the liturgy, and to the blessing of each other in community, encourage me to keep going, and, more importantly, to keep remembering the truth I glimpsed on the day I entered: I am of God’s making, not my own. St. Paul puts it so much better than I can: “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he meant us to live it.” (Eph. 2:10)


Sr Joan O’Donovan OP

29 06, 2015

Sr. Aedris Coates OP

2023-12-01T14:45:11+00:00June 29, 2015|My Vocation Story, News, Portugal, Stories|

My Vocation Story

“Each one is different but each one has received an invitation from Jesus.”

When I was 12 years of age, I was travelling with my mother and my two sisters and two brothers in a train from Durban to Pietermaritzburg (Natal, South Africa). A thought or voice came to me “When I pass here again I will be a nun.” I was quiet for a time and then I forgot about it.

In Maritzburg, I attended a Convent school of the Sisters of the Holy Family, first as a day pupil and then as a boarder. The teachers were excellent and so was our religious formation. We attended daily Mass in the Parish Church, which was opposite the school, and could pray in the Sisters’ Chapel in the afternoons. A Praesidium of the Legion of Mary was begun by Ruby Roberts, who had travelled from Kenya, where she was working with Edel Quinn. The meetings each week and the work we were given deepened my prayer life, but I had no thoughts of “being a nun.”

My family returned to Ireland in mid-year 1944 and it was decided that I would go to the Dominican School in Wicklow. It was like entering another world and I was the ‘alien.’  I spoke with a South African accent, my hair was bleached from the sun and the girls in my class knew very little about the war raging in Europe and parts of Africa and Asia from where I had come.  The Sisters were more understanding and they were my teachers. One Sister in particular, who was in charge of the boarders, was deeply understanding of how I was feeling and the difficulties I had in adjusting to school life.  She was Sister Marcoline Lawler and she became my lifelong friend.

My three years in Wicklow was my real ‘novitiate’ where I came to know and love Jesus Christ. The religious formation was an integral part of our education and quite intensive: daily Mass, rosary and Benediction, retreats, study of the gospels and the Church and spiritual reading. By the time it came for me to leave school, my secret wish was to give my life to God. Would it be possible for me to enter religious life with the Dominicans? My family was returning to Singapore, I had no family in Ireland and I still felt a stranger in an unknown land. The Dominicans were willing to receive me, and my parents reluctantly allowed me to go my way (I had just turned eighteen years of age). It was the first and only time I saw my Father cry when he said goodbye to me. The years in the novitiate were not happy ones. Life was austere, restrictive and sometimes bewildering. I was very lonely for my family who were so far away. There were many things I would have liked to share with them.

All was not darkness! Sister Mary John of Gorcom was one of our ‘teachers’ and introduced us to the Divine Office, the Prayer of the Church, and my love for the Psalms began then. She also led us through Scripture, Church History, the great artists and their paintings, the constellations and, later on, Latin. From time to time, she would give us news of the outside world: we had no access to newspapers or radio. There were nine of us and she contrived to make our lives as normal as possible.

I made First Profession and, after one more year in the novitiate house, we were assigned out to a community. It was like being released from prison and joy of joys, I was sent to my beloved Wicklow! Once again, I had access to books, newspapers and radio, and to very enjoyable conversations at ‘recreation’ time. We lived a very full and ‘rich’ religious life. As well as the daily hours of community prayer, there were times for private prayer and spiritual reading. We had wonderful ten-day retreats from very good Dominican preachers and, during the year, we had local confessors who gave excellent spiritual direction.

After studying for a degree and diploma in education, I returned once more to the community in Wicklow and to the work of teaching. This was the late 1950’s. I began to feel a sense of uneasiness about the religious life and I expressed it to a Sister as stagnation. Something had to change and it did! A newly-elected Prioress General asked for volunteers to go to Alabama in the USA. I, and several other Sisters, volunteered. In fact, none of us were sent to Alabama, but to other communities in Ireland and South Africa and I was sent to Portugal. This was in 1962, when the Vatican Council II began in Rome and the Spirit of change was everywhere.

I have been in Portugal for 45 years and it is now my religious home and country. Our community life is prayerful, joyful and lively. We take an active part in the life of the people, the Church, and the Dominican Family, and have opportunities for being truly a Community of Holy Preaching.

By the way, I did pass through the Valley of a Thousand Hills again! I was attending a Leadership Conference in South Africa and travelled from Durban to Maritzburg, but this time, by coach along a wide motorway with the hills in the distance.


Sr Aedris Coates OP


Go to Top