Of Craic and Retreats

Happy Friday Friends!

Things are finally getting back to normal at Teach Bhríde after a full weekend in Dublin city and giving a retreat for the benefactors of the House of Brigid. You’ve already heard from Nicole about our weekend in Dublin (recap: American football, Masses, pubs), so now I’ll catch all y’all up on the retreat and the rest of this week (Note: I’m not from Texas, but when you’re in Ireland you can get away with using all y’all and no one questions it).

On Monday afternoon we were expecting the benefactors to be arriving by bus at half-three (for those of you in the States, that’s 3:30). However, the bus ended up being late by over a half-hour due to farm traffic in Enniscorthy, and for that time the house shared a wonderful conversation with Fr. James, Fr. Denis, and Bishop Denis Brennan, bishop of the Diocese of Ferns (Wexford is the county, Ferns is the ancient diocese name, and the cathedral is in Enniscorthy. It’s a history thing).

Bishop Brennan, the House, and Fr. Denis

Eventually, the benefactors arrived, where greetings were exchanged, embraces were given, and some used the bathroom after being stuck on the bus for too long.

The benefactors stretch their legs outside the house

After the exchanged pleasantries, Bishop Brennan blessed the new plaque that now adorns the house of the House of Brigid, and after a brief prayer service all were invited in for tea and biscuits. You may think that it is quite easy to entertain with tea and biscuits, but during that time I learned that behind the façade of an easy going host is a person consummately planning on how to get rid of everything that was bought (and lovingly brought) so there are no leftovers. After our guests were filled with good things, they returned to the bed and breakfast to relax for a little while before proceeding to the parish.

When the benefactors and the Bhríde-ers arrived to the parish, they were given a tour of the day chapel and the church by Fr. Denis, which was followed by an evening prayer themed around the story of creation (Because the elements are essential to the person of Brigid, it seemed only right that our first prayer should reflect that same presence of creation). After prayer we were treated to an absolutely fantastic dinner at Fr. Denis’ house, in which it is agreed we all ate too much… and then was followed by eating too much dessert.

Fr. Denis explaining the history Brigid Tapestry to the benefactors.

Following the dinner we had what has been the highlight of these last two weeks in Ireland: a session. For those of you who don’t know, a session is where all the members of the party have a party piece that they sing, a story they tell, or a joke they deliver. It is truly something fantastic to behold someone ask for song, the pianist to correctly guess the key, and for the entire group to know the words and each person to know a different harmony. The three women of the house sang “Safe and Sound” from the Hunger Games soundtrack in three-part harmony, with Emily playing guitar (Luckily, it’s the only song she knows on guitar). Other highlights include one benefactor doing the Irish-jig, and a story of a mother-superior whose charism was Jack Daniel’s.

One side of the session, featuring Sr. Mary on the “box” (read: accordion)

After a great night of sleep followed by a full Irish breakfast and a tour of the opera house in Wexford, we were off to the retreat center at Ballyvaloo, where the House was first oriented. Following a brief introduction and soup and sandwiches, the group had free time to walk the beach. During that time I had the great blessing of talking with a member of the choir at Our Lady’s Island, Emily, who was also giving a talk later that afternoon. In that one conversation I learned more about what it means to be a minister, especially in Ireland where there is such a thirst for liturgical understanding and growth, than I have thus far. Her insight is matched only by her humility, and her gratefulness for the past seasons of the House of Brigid has become a model for our own gratitude for the abundant gifts Ireland has already given to us.

The afternoon was full of talks that traced the history and need of Ireland, the story of the founding of Teach Bhríde, the work that the House has done thus far, its works in the schools, what the House means to the people who have gone before us in the program, and finally what the future holds for us and those who will follow. Following the various talks and testimonies, we celebrated Mass in the main chapel of the retreat center. It seems fitting that our retreat ended with a liturgy, for just as we talked about the past of the house and looked forward to the future, so too does the Mass insert us between the memory of what has happened and the hope of what is to come (Alas, with being a consummate liturgist, you may find such liturgical waxing in my blog posts. As the saying goes on Notre Dame Campus, sorry I’m not sorry).

We finally concluded our time together with a wonderful dinner held at a restaurant a little up the road. I had the pleasure of sitting between Carolyn Pirtle, co-foundress of the House of Brigid and its first House Director, Fr. Denis, parish priest of Clonard, and sitting opposite of Bishop Brennan. In short, I felt blessed by my very position at the dinner table. From our conversations together, especially with Carolyn, it became ever clearer what our calling is this year: to learn, to love, and to serve. And so, as we look forward to our first, normal, and full week at the House, we will begin to do just that.


Peace and Blessin’s,


  • Deanna A.

    Wow. You guys sound like you’re having a wonderful and busy first few weeks. I can’t wait to see what God does through you as this year goes on–I’m sure your living, loving, and serving will be filled with abundant blessings! Cheers.