There are 15 sisters in the Sector (the name for the Irish group which is part of northern Europe province). In Ireland, the sisters have two communities one in Northbrook Lane, Ranelagh and the other in Northbrook Road. There are 6 sisters who are involved in different ministries, including teaching, chaplainly in a community school and another as a nurse in a Hospice. Another sister is hoping to get involved in work with the homeless, while another is the Sector coordinator and travels quite a bit for different Congregational meetings.
Important dimension of life
An important dimension of the sister's community life is the quality of their relationships and family spirit. Community is first and foremost a home and place where the sisters live and are supported in ministry and where they foster the love they are called to, making it real and credible for each other. As a community they are always challenged to heal and forgive each other and start again and again to build community.
| Evelyne and Elzbieta (French and Polish working in youth ministry in France)
Three members of the Sector are abroad, Sr Angela O'Toole SS.CC. in Peru working with our Peruvian sisters, Sr Brigid Falahee SS.CC. serving on the General council in Rome and Sr Geraldine Bane SS.CC. in the formation community in Manila in the Philippines with young sisters from Indonesia and India.
In recent years because of their small number, the Irish sisters have amalgamated with other sisters from Northern Europe, from France, Belgium and Holland. One of the benefits of this has been a growth in communion in spite of different languages and cultures and ages. It is one of the most important aspects of our spirit today to be able to learn to speak different languages and answer needs in different parts of the world and live in international communities.
Opportunity to Learn New Languages and Cultures
Internationality is an important dimension of the Congregation and having three of the sisters abroad keeps this alive for the community as well as all the other opportunities to participate in international meetings.
Anyone interested in joining us today would be encouraged to learn another language (French or Spanish) and would actually go abroad as part of the initial training. It is part of the sister's spirit and openness to the whole congregation to provide a place for young sisters to come to learn English and in recent years they have had sisters form Ecuador, India and Spain come for several months...even taking their turn to cook, turning out culinary delights from their own country!
Women and Men working together
The Sacred Hearts priests and brothers occupy a special place in the hearts of the sisters and they support each other in very real ways at very difficult times. Sr Mary McCloskey, the coordinator of the Irish sectors says, "We know that with them we will always have a place to be ourselves, to laugh, cry and celebrate and for that we are grateful." She goes on to say, "Because we are a small group of sisters living now in two houses we can be quite open and flexible about our lives and can usually adapt ourselves to different work schedules. Sometimes the best sharing takes place around the table or at night! Our big challenge now that we are all back in Ireland is to see what the needs and challenges in Ireland today and see how best we can respond."
Importance and Significance of Adoration for the World
The sisters were very involved in education and opened two schools in England which flourished for many years. A really important dimension of the sister's spirituality is Adoration which originally was practised perpetually 24hrs a day. Through the call to renewal after Vatican II and different options taken by the Congregation the sisters moved out of a more monastic way of living religious life with a very rigid timetable and lots of rules and regulations to smaller communities and more varied apostolates.
Variety of Apostolates
They began at this time to understand "Adoration" and the whole contemplative dimension very differently...as an attitude of life and way of contemplating reality not just limited to sitting in prayer for an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Sisters moved out of their own schools and trained as social workers, nurses etc and became more involved with people in the community. In recent years the ministries have extended from working with handicapped people, university chaplaincy to working with the homeless, with alcoholics and domiciliary care. A characteristic of all the places where they have been present has been their connection with the locality, the church and relationship with people of the different parishes.
Links with the Laity
The sisters like the brothers have many Lay associates who became part of the SS.CC. family through contact with the sisters along the way. They faithfully live the spirit of the Congregation in their own lives and work and are a great source of support and friendship.
The Sisters Background in England
The presence of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts Sisters in England spanned the 20th century, a century that has known many changes in society and in the Church. The sisters came to England in 1895 and after a difficult beginning moved to Weymouth and then in 1928 to Epsom. The presence in England and Ireland changed direction many times and in July 2009 after 114 years the sisters made the decision to withdraw from England.
Sisters Reflect on the decision to leave England – April 2009
In planning the withdrawal of our presence from England, the sisters of the Irish/English Sector decided to make a pilgrimage to all the places where we had been present in England and the Channel islands-Guernsey. And so, on Tuesday 14th April, a group of eight of set off from Epsom in search of their roots; on a journey which took them back to Weymouth and across the Channel to Guernsey.
The pilgrimage opened with a time of prayer. It was a moment to bless the "going forth", to free the heart, to receive grace and blessing. Each step of the journey included moments of prayer/adoration, of recollection and thanksgiving as the lives of so many sisters were remembered. Memories were shared and stories told of the earlier days and of the spirit of sacrifice, service and generosity in difficult times that seemed to characterise the lives of those remembered. In Weymouth the sisters were struck by the international make-up of the first communities with as many as five different nationalities marked on the tombstones of the sisters. Although they didn't visit Trowbridge where the first foundation started in 1895, a lone French sister buried there was named and included in their prayer. The group took the ferry to Guernsey to visit Blanchelande the former site of the convent and school, and now a beautiful nursing home. A local priest joined them at the cemetery as they blessed and honoured the sisters and two of SS.CC. brothers buried there. These were sisters who had lived during the occupation of the island during the Second World War and who had survived with barely enough to eat. By chance they met a former pupil of Blanchelande and she shared memories of the kindness of the Sisters she remembered.
On return from Weymouth the sisters travelled to Daventry where they were joined by Fr Derek SS.CC. who celebrated Mass in St. Augustine's parish church. Although it is over 20 years since the sisters have left there, a vibrant and committed group of SS.CC. Lay Associates faithfully carry on the spirit of the charism. The group were welcomed and prepared a reception in the adjoining hall.
As the pilgrimage ended around the graves of the sisters buried in Epsom, the group prayed and hoped that the spirit of all those who had gone before them; those who had given the best of themselves and who have now returned to God, would live on in the future SS.CC. sisters.
Through the sharing and reminiscing the group felt as if they had met the sisters again. These were women, who in the depths of their being had sensed a longing to uncover the mystery of God's presence in their lives and to hand on this mystery of Love to future generations. They left home, family and friends, often never to return. They are buried on foreign soil; their lives now hidden in the mystery of God. "The remnant" who are left to hand on this mystery in our generation, acknowledged that they were standing on the shoulders of women who lived in an "old heroic" time, and who gave the best of themselves so that the Congregation would take root and flourish. This pilgrimage was a truly sacred moment in our journey.
Northbrook Lane Community