Home|Tag:Mission and Ministry
5 06, 2015

Srs Maureen MacMahon and Edel Murphy on Froebel education in Ireland

2023-12-01T14:46:50+00:00June 5, 2015|Dominican News, Good News, Ireland, News, Stories, Uncategorized|

Sr Maureen MacMahon OP looks back on beginnings of Froebel education in Ireland

On Monday morning in September 1943 four of us; Frances Lodge, Ann Fitzgerald, Sr. Dorothea O.P. and myself, (Sr. Grignion, now Sr. Maureen O.P.) sat down in a small uncomfortable room in Sion Hill to attend our first lecture.  We were pioneers of the Froebel method of primary education in the Republic of Ireland.  The lecturers were as perplexed as we were, but as the course unfolded, revealing the open, liberal method of Frederick Froebel, both rose to the task and the first few years passed quickly and successfully.

I was full of enthusiasm for the new method of learning through activity – “no more sitting on a hard old bench” – of encouraging pupils to explore the world around them, especially their immediate environment, to see and respect the beauty of nature and to express themselves through art.  The child was now at the centre.  We learnt how to discover the gifts and strengths of each, how to respond to these and so help the child to develop in a holistic way.  I loved especially the emphasis on self-expression through creative crafts and art.


Further years were to bring changes.  I found myself teaching Art at senior and then at student and adult levels, but whatever the age group or subject, the principles advocated by Froebel, were as relevant at 5, 15 or 50 years.

See more at National University of Ireland Maynooth 



Sr. Edel Murphy the last Dominican Sister to be a full time student of Froebel
Proud to call myself a Froebel Teacher!

When I think of my years at the Froebel College of Education the words freedom and trust come to mind. My Froebel days go from 1990-1993 and being immersed in the philosophy of education that highlighted free play, discovery learning, drawing from the child, engaging with children in their learning, the recognition that children have unique gifts and capabilities and the image of a garden where all these children are to be taken care of and nourished- gave the sense of freedom, trust and a wonderment of what lay before us as educators. The philosophy of Fredrich Froebel (1782-852) was tangible throughout my three years in the college. Froebel created the concept of ‘Kindergarten’. In this Kindergarten children are to be taken care of and nourished like plants in a garden. He taught the connection of human life and life in nature and central to it all was the importance of free play. It was a busy time of putting together treasure boxes, adapting stories to suit the needs of the children in front of us, collecting all sorts of materials to recycle into maths, English, Irish equipment for groups of children, arranging play areas and planning activities where nature was to be a prominent part of the child’s life.

On a personal note I was always grateful to Sr Maura Duggan for giving me the space to engage with the course and with the students and for encouraging us on any ideas or thoughts about aspects of college life we may have had. It was truly a fun time, though the teaching practices were difficult, but the closeness and support of students to and for one another filled the atmosphere of the college. Sr Conleth Wilson also comes to my mind first when I reflect on Froebel and his method of education. Her art classes were always calm, safe and seemed the right place to be at the time. She gently led us through the theme of the class, instructed on what was required and then stepped back and watched with love what was produced by each student. One day in particular, feeling that I should by now be producing a work of art, I put down my utensils and gave up ready to dispose of what I had done. Needless to say Sr Conleth stepped quietly forward and simply suggested that I stop for a minute. She then invited me to take another look at the piece and told me to point out what part of the picture stands out for me when I look at it. This I calmly did. I was then instructed to rule lines around that one little piece, cut it out, mount it twice and finally put it up on the display board. Time moved on and I completed the task and stood back to look at the picture. Sr Conleth returned to my side and said simply, “well, what do you think now?” I actually thought it was good and said so. She agreed of course and finished by saying, “yes you did that, I guided you to show you what you can do. That is your task with the children you come into contact with will be. You are to guide them gently so as to nourish and draw out from their talent”. I thought later that for Conleth asking me to display the work implied that our talents when drawn from within are to be gifts of beauty for others where God becomes a visible sign for that moment anyhow.
Each time I go into a class my years in Froebel stand to me and the importance of respect to be shown for the work children produce must be prominent. I was always somewhat chuffed when after displaying children’s work on a notice board I almost always had the comment from an older member of staff or a principal, “you would know that you were a Froebel teacher”. For this gift I do thank those sisters who enabled it to be so and I am deeply proud that I became a Froebel teacher!

Sr Edel Murphy OP





20 02, 2015

Inspirational life that changed girls at Muckross forever

2023-12-01T14:53:13+00:00February 20, 2015|Dominican News, News|

Below is article from The Irish Times by Breda O’Brien on Sr. Barnabas Kett OP who died on 1st February 2015.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that you worked closely with thousands of people, and your phenomenal memory allowed you not only to remember the vast majority of them, but also their families, spouses and children.

Imagine that you also had a unique ability to make and maintain vibrant connections with dozens of friends and family of all ages. Imagine possessing highly honed intuition of a kind that prompted contact with people when they most needed words of encouragement.

Finally, imagine that, although you suffered from poor health for much of your life, you retained all your faculties and were as sharp as a tack right up to the age of 98.

Until last Sunday, when she closed her eyes for the last time, those of us privileged to be connected with the Dominican Sisters in Muckross Park, Donnybrook, did not have to use our imaginations.

We simply looked in awe at the human dynamo that was Sr Barnabas Kett OP, known to everyone as Barnie. The convent in Muckross is full of exceptional women, but none of them would begrudge praise given to her, as they grieve for her just as much as her beloved family of origin do.

Barnie was the beating heart of the Muckross Past Pupils’ Union. The current newsletter, Muckross Mail, features a tribute full of affection and grief – emotions mirrored at her huge funeral last Wednesday.

As many people reminded me at her removal and funeral, when Barnie had a plan that involved you, it was best to capitulate immediately. Resistance was always futile.

Her brain teemed with schemes, which fell into two rough categories – things that she believed would be good for Muckross Park, or for one of the people she cared about.

How was she to achieve these two goals unless she managed to persuade someone to make use of the talents God had given them?

She worked her phone in a way that made American political activists look like rank amateurs. At nine or ten o’clock at night, the call would come. Often, there was no preamble, just a simple command or announcement.

sr barnabasPersonal warmth
Her immense personal warmth, and a smile that could have melted polar icecaps, meant that capitulation usually happened with good grace. It probably helped, too, that the person she phoned was just as often a recipient of care, and not merely always a conscripted accomplice.

Barnie was a person of deep feeling, yet utterly devoid of sentimentality. And sometimes she could be too tough. If you were a young teacher, and she felt you were failing to communicate a topic to a pupil, you might get the rough edge of her tongue.

Pupils who were acting up would receive the same treatment. And yet, one past pupil now in her 30s told me that Barnie was the first adult who ever apologised to her.

Barnie had walked into a classroom where there was a row, and jumped to conclusions about who was guilty.

The past pupil tried to point out that Barnie had not got the full picture, and got a tongue lashing. But later, Barnie returned to apologise, an event that left a deep impression.

Enclosed order
Born in Clare in 1917, Barnie’s connection with Muckross Park began at eight, when she came to the school as a boarder. She made her religious vows with the Dominicans in 1941. At the time, the Dominican Sisters were fully enclosed, not even allowed out for family funerals. Then came the late 1960s. Enclosure ended, and those feisty women adapted gracefully and, perhaps in some cases, gleefully to a wider world.

The Dominicans have always had a profound commitment to educating women. When the primary and secondary schools opened in Muckross Park in 1900, they also ran lectures for women undergraduates, who in a classic catch 22 had been allowed to sit university exams, but not to attend lectures. If you can’t join them, outmaneuver them, seems to have been the philosophy.

Like all the sisters who taught, Barnie believed that education was the key to a good life, one where you could be useful. For example, she organised driving lessons in the 1960s for sixth years, all part of her grand plan to make those young women independent, participating citizens. She also promoted sex education long before it was mandatory.

She organised exchanges with French schools, and instituted Muckross’s involvement with Lourdes. The pilgrimages where teenagers worked selflessly with the elderly and the sick proved life-changing for many, and some return every year.

She would have been so proud of the current pupils ranged along the railings in a guard of honour at her funeral, immaculate in their green and black. Her dearest wish for them, and for all whom she loved, would have been that they continue the tradition of veritas , the school motto, and that they would find their way to the truth that sets all human beings free.

The final lines of an eloquent poem written for Barnie by Valerie Cox, RTÉ reporter and past pupil, speak for many of us: “Your work is done/Go, with our love.”

From Irish Times 7th February 2015 . See more at www.irishtimes.com

20 01, 2015

Sr. Maeve McMahon speaks about her work in JUST (Jesuit University Support and Training Centre

2023-12-01T14:51:41+00:00January 20, 2015|Dominican News, Ireland, News, Uncategorized|

The Jesuit University Support and Training centre in Ballymun or JUST as it is more widely known was recently visited by six executives from the Higher Education Authority.  Invited by the Director of the Centre, Dr Kevin O’Higgins, following the recent publication of the report on access to education in disadvantaged areas, the executives wanted to hear how this Centre, which was opened in 2006 has managed in less than ten years to increase three fold (close to 10%) the numbers of local residents enrolled in third level programmes.

JUST which is located in the local Jobs Centre in Ballymun is in touch with the local community and its formula for success is that the volunteer staff, many of whom are retired teachers, offer a range of supports to those who wish to attend third level but also through supportive one to one relationships with the students already in enrolled in third level and throughout the years of their studies.

Sr Maeve McMahon OP joined the Centre in 2007.  As a Dominican and retired school Principal of St Leo the Great in New Orleans she is aware of how structural support in education is vital in disadvantaged areas to foster an interest in further education.  She believes that the “one to one relationship is very important to assist students with what can sometimes be a daunting process of entering third level”.

The JUST centre now has eight individuals working there, many of whom are Jesuits but all of whom have education experience either in 2nd or 3rd level.  It was started by the Jesuits who have a long history in Ballymun.   Sr Maeve feels that it also marries very well with the Dominican charism and approach to education, which sees the blend of seeking education and truth as a means of liberation.  So much so that the Dominican Sisters Cabra have committed an education fund to JUST. Sr Maeve has worked with wonderful people during her time there.  Starting out with 20 students, the Centre now has 100 and has supported 300 since its inception.  It has supported five young people who are pursuing PhDs and many others pursuing Mas.  The rest are preparing for or participating in undergraduate courses.

She believes that access programmes in the major Universities have been vital but often the students also need support such as assistance with note taking and essay writing and this is where JUST plays an important role.  She explains that many of her students have come from families that have been affected by addiction and for this reason may also require support with other personal development skills to cope in difficult family situations.  She also helps many to connect with their spiritual side.   JUST also aims to address the general educational deficit of many students from an area like Ballymun who have never experienced an art gallery or cultural institution.  The centre facilitates cultural outings and also offers regular evening classes on diverse topics like philosophy and psychology.

Sr Maeve explains that “all human beings need to be feel that they are valued and need to be seen and heard” and that in Ireland we have failed as a nation because we have not honoured these basic Christian values.

Dr Kevin O’Higgins has asked the question of how the success of this programme can be replicated elsehwhere? The centre, because it relies predominantly on volunteers and rents inexpensive facilities, has neither sought nor received state funding.   And this is the conversation that Dr O’Higgins has commenced with the HEA.  The programme taps into the whole ethos of volunteering in Ireland and could be rolled out with larger volunteer organisations like the GAA or where there is a bank of retired teachers who are willing to help.

Sr Maeve believes that structurally in Ireland within the education system, we have serious problems.  She draws on a wonderful school model she has seen in the United States called the Cristo Rey network, which was also started by the Jesuits and is the largest network of urban high schools in the country enrolling only youth from low income families.  It offers an approach to inner-city education that equips students with the knowledge, character and skills to remove them from a cycle of poverty.  This school network now has 100% enrolment into further education and the key to its success has been 24/7 support to the students if and when they need it.    Dr Kevin O’Higgins is a strong proponent of this model and believes that it can be replicated in Ireland.

Sr Maeve does not expect JUST to expand further in terms of the number of students receiving support because of her fear that the one on one support would then be lost.  However, the overall vision is to continue to offer an opportunity to people who have found life hard to have freedom and a realisation of their own potential through education.

Sr Maeve lived through a challenging time herself in the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Kathrina which temporarily closed St Leo the Great.  She believes that life is a task master and will create its demands but it is attitude that can make a difference in attempting to make the world a better place and she has seen this spirit alive in JUST.

She also believes that every human has an inner flame and we are entitled for this inner flame to be alive so that we can all reach our full potential.  It is clear when Sr Maeve talks about her return from the United States and her chance conversation with a Jesuit about the need for volunteers in JUST, that her inner flame continues to shine brightly in the field of education.

For more information about JUST, please visit www.justballymun.org

15 01, 2015

Sr. Veronica McCabe OP speaks of her work in the community in Cherry Orchard

2023-12-01T14:44:19+00:00January 15, 2015|Dominican News, Uncategorized|

Many Dominican Sisters work in pastoral care in the community.  Sr Veronica McCabe OP is one such Sister working in Cherry Orchard.

Sr Veronica has worked in the Cherry Orchard locality for over 4 years.  She believes that having a presence in the community and relating to local people is the most important thing that the Dominican Sisters can do in the area.

There are now two Dominican Sisters living in Cherry Orchard in Dublin 10 which is classed as high on the disadvantage scale.  The unemployment level amongst the youth of the area is one of the highest in the country and the community has been adversely affected by anti-social behaviour.  Sr Veronica’s work is as part of the Parish team which consists of three priests, a lay pastoral worker and herself.  In her role, she is responsible for co-ordinating liturgical ministries and is also responsible for adult faith development and community outreach through pastoral visitation. She believes that Faith is very strong amongst the community.  She runs Meditation & Gospel Reflection groups and looks after the parish newsletter and website.

Pastoral visitation gives Sr Veronica the opportunity to meet and establish relationships with local people who may have been affected by bereavement, illness or who in general are finding life hard and who can benefit from having the opportunity to talk through their circumstances with someone who cares and can offer support.  She explains that she wants to be close to the source of community problems and issues and has much experience of this type of work.

Prior to completing a Masters in Pastoral Ministry in New York over an 18 month period, she worked in the St Dominic’s parish in Tallaght as a remedial teacher in a local boy’s school and, subsequent to the period in New York, as a pastoral worker in the same parish.   In these roles she provided support to many local families. A particular aspect of her work was in regular visits to the local people who were in prison in Dublin and Portlaoise and in linking-in with their families.  She has also participated in a helpline for families of prisoners for a period.  While a member of the Congregation leadership team she has travelled extensively in South America and South Africa and has been horrified by the many injustices she has seen but has also witnessed the strength and resilience of the people she has met.

Sadly, efforts to establish local community groups in Cherry Orchard have been a challenge.  Sr Veronica believes that this is because there is now a strong level of disillusionment amongst residents who have turned away from community groups. The locals have seen little or no improvement in area over the last number of years and therefore encouraging them to attend groups can be difficult.   However, Sr Veronica is hopeful that a recently established group which is a restorative forum based on a similar approach to restorative justice can make a difference.

This Forum is unique in that it involves a new way of consulting with local people. It focuses on ensuring that all voices are heard so that issues facing the community can be fully understood by all and will be facilitated by Jim McGrath who specialises in this area. It is a way that all local organisations can get together in partnership with the people they are working with and that everyone in the room will have an equal voice.  Some of the issues that will be addressed by the Forum include unemployment, the local environment, anti-social behaviour and facilities and services.  Sr Veronica describes it as seeking solutions together rather than a “them and us” which has been the approach used elsewhere.

Despite the level of disillusionment, there has been some change in the area.  This includes the development of a new school, St Ultan’s, that has a care unit for babies and a homework club for older children.  It’s a unique approach and Sr Veronica believes that this too can have a positive influence across the area.  However, one of the most positive developments has been the “Bungalow” which was started by the Daughters of Charity.  It is a family resource centre and it is very much at the heart of the community.  It offers an outlet to the local community in terms of personal development and various other courses and there is also a Men’s Shed group.  Outreach workers visit local households to encourage participation.

Sr Veronica takes every opportunity to be visible in the neighbourhood and gets involved in initiatives like street clean-ups. She has also organised and participated in “Embracing Inclusion” which was a six week programme designed by the Parish of the Travelling People to promote understanding between Travellers and Settled People. For six weeks about 40 people met in the local church and shared experiences and quickly realised that they are all coping with the same “life” issues such as raising children, coping with bereavement and illness.  The group explored how they could cope with difference and how prejudice affects all.  Since then some of the group travelled on a pilgrimage with the Parish of the Travelling People to St Winifred’s Well in Wales and some local Travellers have become involved in Cherry Orchard church as Readers and Eucharistic Ministers.

In her role, she assists families with preparation for communion and confirmation and has also been involved in facilitating pre-marriage courses.  She facilitates the monthly meetings of the Parish Pastoral Council.  In the future, she would rather see children opt to undertake the sacraments as she believes the present system is often a charade and little more than a social occasion for many families.

One of Sr Veronica’s strong interests is in promoting the role of women in the church.  She sees women as having a very second-class role in practically every aspect of church life and ministry and wants to see major and urgent change in this area.

Sr Veronica is inspired by people like Nelson Mandela and Oscar Romero because they have overcome great difficulties in their own lives.  St Catherine of Siena and St Dominic have inspired her to follow the Dominican way while Jesus Christ is the source of happiness and contentment that keeps her going.  Sr Veronica is a keen tweeter and her many thoughts of the day can provide inspiration to all of us.  Her twitter name is @vmccabe.


25 07, 2012

Mission and Ministry in Louisiana

2023-12-01T14:57:38+00:00July 25, 2012|Home Page Slider, Louisiana, Vatican II- Remembering|


Sister Helen Mary Harmey,OP



In 1860 seven sisters from Cabra went to New Orleans, Louisiana and founded what was to become St. Mary’s Congregation, New Orleans.

In 1968 three years after Vatican II, St. Mary’s requested sisters from our Congregation in order to help staff their schools, namely, St. Leo the Great, later St. Rosalie and Mater Dolorosa, Independence.

Because of the time constraint I am choosing to focus on two aspects that I think emanated from Vatican II, the concept of collegiality and the role of apostolic religious sisters of whose lives we were part.   Pius IX at the first Vatican Council brought in papal infallibility and Vatican II as a corrective to that promoted collegiality – collegiality among the bishops and to filter throughout the Church.  Did it?

In my experience, as a woman religious, being in New Orleans was my first mission and ministry.  The Catholic school system at its best was collaboration between clergy, religious and laity.  In all our schools – St. Leo’s, St. Rosalie, Mater Dolorosa, Marian Central, they were experiences of working together, at times painful but always rewarding.

It is true that after Vatican II many women left religious life but equally many stayed.  I discovered that the women religious were quite poor.  Generally, the only piece of property was the motherhouse which housed the novitiate, the elderly and the community (a word they used for Congregation).  Sisters had to return to the motherhouse at holiday time as the house on the school campus belonged to the parish and depending on the wealth of the parish and the vagaries of the pastor, the house was often closed during holidays.  The sisters were not paid a salary or pension but received a stipend.  Sisters studied during the summer in order to get their degrees.  Sisters in health care fared somewhat better.

Vatican II brought new life for the sisters in America.  Many studied theology and scripture for the first time and today we have many fine schools among them.  Many broke new ground in establishing adult learning centres, social justice offices, direct services to the poor and needy, lobbying and protesting for human rights and basic necessities such as adequate housing and health care.

All of this was done in a collaborative manner.  We experienced collaboration among congregations and schools in the areas in which we lived and worked especially around justice issues.

Hope House where Sister Lilianne Flavin still works was originally founded by collaboration from the following congregations: sisters from Mercy, Mt. Carmel, St. Josephs and brothers from Sacred Heart and De La Salle.  It was a beacon for work with the poor, the illiterate, prisoners, and lobbying against the death penalty.

One of the great gifts of the Americans is I think, that of organisation and this gift was used to promote collaboration and sharing of power and resources for ministry.

The Dominicans of the USA, men and women, came together under the auspices of DLC – Dominican Leadership Conference.  One of the initiatives was Parable which promoted preaching for men and women.  A Parable retreat used the format of morning, evening prayer and Eucharist.  The preaching at each session was shared between a team of two brothers and two sisters.

Parable also promoted Dominican authors and publications. The Dominicans in the USA provided many workshops for man and women on preaching for example University of St. Louis provided a comprehensive course for preaching.  DLC enabled ten congregations of sisters to establish a common novitiate for Dominican novices which is still in existence today.

Over the years the organisation changed to promote collaboration in different areas and levels.  The latest innovation has been enabling the seven congregations who came together to form Dominican Sisters of Peace.  The important thing here is that the coming together is for Mission not survival.  It took a lot of faith, generosity and endurance on the part of all.  It could not have been done if there hadn’t been previous experiences of working together around formation, finance, justice, preaching and ministries.  Collaboration based on equality of power and resources takes time, transparency and truthfulness.

I had the opportunity to serve on the National Board for LCWR – Leadership Conference of Women Religious..  Each year they have a General Assembly and make a yearly visit to Rome.  LCWR has provided education in theology, scripture, liturgy, justice, ecology, social policy.  It has been an organisation open to all membership no matter what the label – conservative, progressive, liberal etc.  Bi-annually, it has a shared Assembly with the men religious.

It has done a lot to promote women’s rights.  Joan Chittister in a recent talk to graduates asserted that “Two-thirds of the hungry of the world are women Two-thirds of the illiterate of the world are women. Two-thirds of the poor of the world are women.  That can’t be an accident; that has to be policy.”  Together with the stark reality is the scary piece about it being policy.  And unfortunately our church reflects an unjust policy also.

When it came to light about the poverty of the women religious and their lack of pension scheme in ministry and State, an organisation was set up called the Tri-Conference Retirement Fund.  Here again it included men and women religious and the Episcopate.  In the States there also existed a group of conservative women religious who did not want to join LCWR as they viewed them too liberal.  But because they were not members they could not access the funds from the Tri-Conference Fund and went to Rome seeking to establish another recognised conference.  This went on for some years.  LCWR pleaded with Rome not to split the women religious into two groups, stating that this group could be members of LCWR and have access to the funds.  Rome did not listen – divide and conquer!  They were not interested in unity.

This has been injurious and over the last few years it seems as if Rome are intent on disbanding LCWR under some pretext or semantic. What they perceive as to be their organisation Women Religious of  USA will be the one they can control.  What has happened to them now is a misuse of power.  And they frightening thing is that this misuse could spread to other Organisations.

One of LCWR’s goals all along was to be pilgrims with all the other pilgrims in the Church – to walk with the people.  In that journey, there have been mistakes, extravagancies but equally great work has been done for the issues of our age – justice, collegiality, education, environment and women.




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