With the closing of the month of June comes the final blog post for House of Brigid Season 7! Our year-long ministries completed, we have shared teary farewells and fun last nights out on the town with great friends and colleagues in both Wexford and Dublin. I departed Wexford feeling at once both exhausted and energized after pulling off a triumphant concert at the National Opera House, as well as feeling so absolutely loved and cared for by everyone in the town and parish, and I can imagine that’s how Teach Bhride Dublin is feeling as well! Now, it is time for us to settle back into life at home in the States and reflect on this incredible adventure.
Our mission in Teach Bhride has always been to open our hearts to the Irish through liturgical music, catechesis, and a ministry of presence. Looking back on this year and last, I wholeheartedly believe we have done all that, and more. Each year brings together a new and diverse group of Americans to live together in community, and live out our vocations to make God known, loved, and served–both to ourselves, and to our new parishes, schools, towns, and cities. Each year brings its challenges and delights; some communities may be close, others less so; some communities may be particularly gifted musically, while others may be more gifted in catechesis. We come from all over the United States, and leave our loving families behind to make a sacrifice of ourselves to serve others far beyond our shores. We all adjust to the Irish culture differently; some embrace it instantly, for others it takes a little more time. The entire experience of serving with the House of Brigid is so much more than a simple “year of service” before starting normal jobs or furthering our studies; it is an experience that forever shapes our lives.
Each year the House of Brigid program grows, some of its fruits become more apparent, while others still await ripening. For instance, in Wexford, the foundations courageously laid by Carolyn, Martha, and Chris in Year One–particularly relationships built and nurtured over the last seven years–helped immensely not only in making our first-ever joint concert with the Notre Dame Folk Choir at the National Opera House this past May a resounding success, but also in bringing together our Clonard parish community in times of tragedy and loss. Our ministry with the primary schools in preparing students for First Communion and Confirmation is consistently being improved upon, and our collegiality with the teachers and principals strengthens each year, although reaching parents and engaging them in adult faith formation continues to be a struggle, as it is for other catechists across Ireland.
Our parish team in Wexford ebbs and flows each year depending on priestly assignments, but our rocks have been our awesome parish priest, Fr. Denis Lennon, and pastoral associate, Sr. Mary Rowsome, CSSJG. Our curates, most recently Fr. James Cullen and Fr. Barry Larkin, have been so helpful as living examples of faith and service. Our parish choirs consist of men, women, and children, who come together for a shared love of music and the Eucharist; they become our extended community, and we travel through the liturgical year together in song and prayer. Those we meet outside of our ministries at Clonard through different activities like orchestra, running clubs, or Irish dance, help us to engage with the rest of our local community and provide necessary outlets for fun and relaxation. Our liturgical collaboration with ACE Ireland over the years has fostered many new friendships with other twenty-somethings across the country, and has broadened our horizons as we navigate the New Evangelization in Ireland. Our triumph of a concert at the National Opera House on May 27th, 2016, opened numerous professional doors, kindled new relationships, and further cemented the House of Brigid’s place in County Wexford.
Best of of all, there are now two House of Brigid communities in Ireland. While set in very different contexts in Dublin and Wexford, we are nevertheless bonded in mission. I will be forever grateful to Geoff, Rikki, and Susanna for their staggeringly selfless support, particularly in the last two months of the program, and I am so looking forward to seeing how the relationship between the two communities progresses in the coming years!
And finally, I will always remember the great faith and the incredible selflessness, hospitality, and love of the parishioners at Clonard, and of my friends across Ireland, both Irish and American. I now have a treasure trove of grace-filled, beautiful moments to hold in my heart –nights out at the pub, rousing music sessions in the home, relaxed chats around the kitchen table with the Clonard Vigil Choir, home-cooked dinners with parishioners, and the raucous and rowdy morning tea times after daily Mass; journeys up to Dublin to share in fun and community life with my House of Brigid counterparts, the utter peace and tranquility of Kylemore Abbey in the wilds of Connemara and of Glendalough in County Wicklow, the unforgettable two-week getaway at Parknasilla Resort in beautiful County Kerry with ACE Ireland and the Diploma in Catholic Education programme, and many spontaneous trips to gorgeous places around Ireland: Cork, Killarney, Kilkenny, Galway, Belfast, Derry…the list is endless!
I think of the countless people we have touched in the seven years the House of Brigid has existed in Ireland–hundreds of primary school students, parishioners, musicians, county locals, and the hundreds more we will continue to reach. I also think of our newest House of Brigid members: Madeline, Megan, Alex, Bernadette, Elizabeth, and Emma. You will forever be transformed by this upcoming year of service–embrace it! You are loved, you are cherished, and you are in our prayers. Thank you so much for saying yes to this adventure!
Go raibh mile maith agat to all in the Teach Bhride circle of friends,