Sharing our lives: The Sisters’ Café
‘The Christian vocation, just like every particular vocation, is born from within the People of God, and is a gift of divine mercy....In responding to God’s call, young people see their own ecclesial horizon expand; they are able to consider various charisms and to undertake a more objective discernment. In this way, the community becomes the home and the family where vocations are born’ (Pope Francis, Message for Vocations Sunday, 2016).
The Sisters’ Café was launched in February 2016 as a unique way for women to learn more about spirituality and the role that Sisters play in modern-day Irish communities. Margaret Cartwright, Director of Vocations Ireland, said, ‘Young women regularly approach us about potential vocations and yet there is no open forum which enables them to really explore their options. We believe our café will allow women to get to know our lifestyle a lot better.’
One MMM who shared her own faith journey in this new venture was Sister Deirdre Twomey. After joining MMM in 1951 Deirdre qualified in obstetrics and gynaecology and dedicated her life to the care of mother and child in Nigeria. Now back in Ireland and involved in Mission Awareness, she was delighted to have another venue for talking about her experience as an overseas missionary.
Putting out the message
‘Sr. Brenda Swan and I attended the first event in February 2016 at the Dominican Adult Education Centre in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. It was advertised on Facebook and in local churches. Representatives of the media – The Irish Catholic, Spirit Radio and The Sunday Times attended.
‘Sr. Julie Buckley spoke about her experience as a hospital chaplain. Sr. Carmel Ryan focussed on her faith journey. I shared my overseas mission experience and other stories were exchanged at the tea break.
‘Three Sisters spoke at the second gathering in April in at Brackenstown. We were welcomed by Fr. Paul Thornton, some 5th year students from the Loreto School, members of the parish, and one woman who plans to enter religious life in Italy!
‘Following the Mass for the third gathering at the Passionist Church, Mount Argus, a number of parishioners joined us for tea and a chat. I like the idea that other centres, e.g. Knock, could be used in the future.
‘In a follow-up interview on 16 March, I spoke on Spirit Radio in Bray on: “A Mission Experience– Sister’s Café”’.
A varied life
‘I spoke about my first meeting with MMMs and being deeply moved by their film Visitation. My first assignment was to a rural 200-bed hospital at Afikpo in (then) East Nigeria, with a community of 10 MMMs. I was present when Nigeria gained independence, for the years of civil war, and for the famine relief that followed. I was very involved in training young Nigerian doctors and nurses
‘When Afikpo was handed over to Nigerian Sisters I continue mother and child work in Abakaliki. When I retired in 2011 it was not easy letting go and leaving friends after 52 years.
‘My new ministry in Mission Awareness in Ireland, and now with the Sisters’ Café, gives me the opportunity to share the fulfilling life I have experienced in MMM. If I were young again I wouldn’t mind beginning all over!’