Looking back on the past month and all the hectic and exciting changes that have brought me here to Wexford, I am amazed at the peace I find in my heart. That feeling that comes with knowing deep-down, you are where you are supposed to be – it’s indescribable! So much has already taken place. Less than sixty days ago, I was back home in Phoenix, Arizona, constantly wondering what this year, this new adventure, would really look like. “Will I enjoy living Wexford, Ireland? What will my community members be like? What will the parishioners of Clonard be like? What kinds of tasks will fill my days? Do I have enough warm socks? Am I actually ready for all this!?” So many questions. Now that I’m settled here and I think back, I can’t help but smile at God’s calming presence as we traveled from one place to another and nestled into our new home together. It was definitely a big transition, and yes, there were moments where I was a bit overwhelmed with the logistics of travel or being in unfamiliar places, but not once did I ever feel alone.
I started by arriving to Notre Dame campus, meeting and getting to know the Teach Bhride staff and teammates. Every new person I met at orientation was so welcoming and genuinely excited about this program. I felt immediately plugged in from the get-go! When I finally arrived in Ireland, I was rushed over to the west, where we celebrated the new students center at the beautiful site, Kylemore Abbey, in Connemara.
How perfect it was to begin our year together in such a lovely place! We then traveled back to our respective communities in Dublin and Wexford and began meeting our parish leaders and members right away. After the four of us settled into our new home and our office at Clonard, we headed to Ballyvaloo, where we, with the entire Teach Bhride team, had a two-day retreat.
Alongside this beautiful view of the sea, we collectively prayed about and discussed our upcoming year together and all the gifts and challenges that reside in ministry and community living. While the Dublin crew headed to a pilgrimage for Lourdes, the Wexford group accompanied the Clonard parishioners on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Knock Shrine. It was there, when in 1879, fifteen people witnessed an apparition of Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist, as well as the image of a Lamb and cross on an altar on the gable wall of the parish church.
It was a great blessing to be able to not only sing at a morning mass inside this chapel, but to be alongside my other Teach Bhride members and our Clonard community members. With each mini-trip we take in Ireland, I am gleaning more and more little tidbits of the history, wisdom, humor, and heart that can be found in the Irish culture. And its barely been one month!
Within the daily routine of my Wexford life, each day is somewhat different, however, I’m surprised at how quickly I have felt at ease with our work. Every weekday starts with daily mass, some ritual tea and biscuits with the infamous ‘tea-ladies,’ who are simply a hoot. The two schools that we are involved with, Scoil Mhuire and Kennedy Park, have already had their school masses and as the year goes on, we will start preparing 2nd class for their First Holy Communion, and 6th class for their Confirmation. When I have gone into introduce myself to the classes, I tell the kids that I am from Arizona, which is very hot and very different from this weather in Wexford. They are absolutely fascinated with the idea of a desert, as if I literally lived in the sand with cacti, rattlesnakes, and a cowboy hat. Throughout the week, we have three different choir rehearsals: Vigil Choir, Family Liturgy Group, and the Folk Group. Every choir is so uniquely talented and we’ve already led some wonderful masses together! Within our first month the four of us quickly dived into some outside hobbies, as well. I joined two orchestral groups in Wexford, one being the Folk Orchestra, where we play mostly traditional Irish music. I’ve only had one rehearsal but I love it so far! I started taking some piano lessons to improve my sight-reading. I have also become a very avid walker, thanks to some perfect sunny days, and I love to just wander as much as I can. Whether it’s ballet class, mastering the organ, or playing badminton, each of us have plugged ourselves into some of the local life of the town, getting to know more and more the wonderful people of Wexford!
As I reflect now, I find that all the ‘newness,’ of this life I’m currently living, leaves me surprisingly collected. There was so much unknown in the beginning of this process. It would have been so easy for me to really feel the chaos of my ever-changing circumstances, always surrounded by brand new people and expected to perform tasks right away. In complete honesty, I’ve enjoyed the unknown. At times, I do notice how different I am, either in regard to American versus Irish cultural tendencies, or even amongst my community members. I had a differing upbringing in music ministry than that of the people I’ve already befriended. I say different words than some Irish would and sometimes it takes an extra effort to explain my meaning. Even my personal spiritual journey has formed me differently than the people I work with. Yet, if there is one thing I have learned so far, it is that being different is not an obstacle. In fact, the opposite is true. As a community and a universal family in Christ, our many gifts and talents, our strengths and weaknesses, or our ‘ways of doing things’ are all invitations to grow in relationship and to encounter a change in our usual way of seeing the world. Our life experiences should be different, we come from different families, cultures, church communities, and parts of the world. When we come together, these meetings of perspective reshape us, and challenge us to grow unexpectedly. In these (sometimes difficult) challenges, we are being molded, whether we know it or not. Christ’s ministry was always meant to change us. And it’s all gift! Our daily communion and interaction is that much more beautiful when we have so many different gifts to bring to the table. With every new place, person, song, or duty that comes around the corner, there lies an invitation for a perspective or adventure that God had planned for me. At the end of the day, I am so thankful for the new ways in which our community complements each other.Like fitting into the fabric of His design, I feel like we are intertwined in a path uniquely patterned and lovingly chosen. I can tell already, this year will be a gift that not only excites me and challenges me, but draws me closer into relationship with God. And I am so incredibly thankful.
“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”