by Sr. Margaret Anne Meyer MMM USA 16.02.2023
My heart was pounding loudly with excitement as the fog horns screamed welcome to the shores of Ireland. Our little tug boat which received us from the large cruise ship, Mauritania, was gliding into the harbor. My thoughts also drifted to my great grandfather, John Twomey who was born in COBH in 1842 and had migrated to the USA sometime in the 1860’s. I felt very close to my Irish heritage and here I was about to put my feet on the same soil. “A little bit of heaven,” as the song goes.
Soon we were heralded by the shouts of the Ashe family. Sr. Gabriel and I were Sisters who had been in the Novitiate together in Winchester MA. I had loved listening to the tales of Sr. Gabriel Ashe’s family and now the whole large clan of them were down at the boat to meet us. I can only remember her parents and Seamus and Sean. Often at night, I would hear Gabriel talk in Gaelic about them in her dreams. I felt her joy of seeing them again after five years of separation.
The next event was claiming our luggage. We had 12 large boxes of goods for the Sale of Work in Dublin and I was wondering what would happen. Then I saw the custom officer give a wide smile to Mother Mary as he deftly chalked clearance on all our luggage. Mother Mary had driven from Drogheda to meet us and it was so exhilarating to see her again. She welcomed the four of us, Sisters Martha Collins, Gabriel Ashe, Sr. Guadeloupe from Mexico and my self. Sr. Guadeloupe was a postulant from Mexico who later returned home. Mother took us to a beautiful hotel in Cork for lunch. I can remember walking up the stairs to the dining hall like I had sea legs, drifting left and right. I was astonished at this and wondered when the rocking motion of the waves would stop within me.
The meal was delicious and my eyes turned like big saucers when I saw the dessert trolley arriving. Could I please have a little slice of three of the gorgeous pastries set before us? I was wondering how expensive all this would be when Mother told us that the priests at the adjoining table had paid our bill. In thanking them, we recognized that they too had been on the boat with us. We all appreciated their kindness.
The next big hurdle was to get into the car with Mother Mary. I had never experienced a right-hand drive on a left lane road. I can remember ducking when a truck came along in the opposite direction and I was terrified he would drive into us. It took a while to get used to this. In mid-afternoon, we stopped near the Rock of Cashel. Mother said she wanted to say her Evening Prayer, and that we might enjoy climbing the hill. It really was great fun to do so and run down again. The next stop was to pull into the driveway of John Mc Cormack’s home. I had heard records of his songs and I felt close to his presence there.
Around 5 pm, Mother Mary stopped in Portlaoise to make a phone call to Rosemount in Dublin. She wanted to tell the Sisters that the American Sisters like pancakes for supper. I thought that was very kind of her. Later, I found that Mother Mary liked them too, and usually had them for lunch whenever she visited Rosemount.
The pancakes were beautifully served in a large parlor in Rosemount. The Sisters were very kind in welcoming us and made us feel at home. It was after 8pm when we arrived in Drogheda. It was overwhelming to see so many Sisters. I was glad we soon were shown where we would sleep for the night. The chosen site was the infirmary where a Sister on night duty prepared her bed for you and you would do the same for her in the morning. There were many Sisters to accommodate and everyone was doing their best. It had been a long and exciting day and we were thankful to have at last arrived at the motherhouse.
The next morning, Mother Oliver brought me a cup of tea to take before going out to 10 o’clock Mass in the town. Mother asked me how old I was and I replied I would be 20 next week. I do not remember many details of the next ten days except I needed to get my hair cut and set in a presentable way for entrance into University College, Dublin. Sister Celine Jones, who was assigned to cook the meals in the Maternity Hospital, came to my rescue one Friday. She had such a lovely cheerful spirit, in spite of her hands smelling like fish, and while fixing my hair told me all about their recent play of Midsummer Night Dream. She had been one of the fairies and I could just enjoy it all from her vivid account.
Soon it was time for Sr. Gabriel Ashe to begin her nursing studies and for Sr. Martha Collins and I to depart from Drogheda and start our medical studies in Dublin. And that is another story…