I have had the good fortune to journey to Ireland three times in my life, all within the last two years. I first made my way to the Emerald Isle in September 2015 when I studied at Trinity College Dublin for a semester. My second trip was the following May with the Notre Dame Folk Choir on its Scotland/Ireland Tour. And now I find myself back in Dublin for Teach Bhríde to live my faith.
When I came to study at Trinity I was excited and uncertain. After all, I had fallen in love with Ireland before I’d ever stepped foot in it thanks to books I’d read, classes I’d taken, and the knowledge that at some point my family had lived there. Would it live up to the grandiose expectations I constructed in my head? I was nervous it wouldn’t. I need not have worried. My first experience with Ireland only cemented its place in my heart. I found a family when I came to Ireland, both in the literal and figurative sense: I tracked down relatives who still live in Donegal and I formed friendships with people who feel more like siblings. To a certain extent, I met and even exceeded my expectations. But still I craved more from my Irish experience. To put it simply, I never wanted to leave. But leave I did, though I knew I would return with Folk Choir.
When I came with the Folk Choir I was once again excited, but for a different reason. Here was my chance to introduce people I loved to a place I loved. There was no trepidation this time—only joy. I got to explore new parts of Ireland with my best friends and then I eagerly showed them the city where I spent three glorious months studying. Once again, my love for Ireland grew. I was content knowing that I returned to Ireland, though I still wished for more time in this magical place. This time, when I left I did not know if I would ever make it back. To my unending joy, I was given the opportunity to enter into ministry for two years in Ireland. Part of me could not believe that I was going back to the place that had so quickly become so important to me.
When the plane touched down in Dublin Airport on August 23 I was filled with that same overwhelming feeling of excitement and joy I experienced when I first traveled to Dublin two years ago. Just like my journey with Folk Choir, though, it differed. This time I felt like I was home. And it is my home for the next two years as I work as a member of Teach Bhríde. It will continue to be my home long after I’ve left. Just as before, I’ve found a family of sorts in the people I work with and the people I’ve come to meet through this experience. Caitlin, Ben, Steve, Michele, Fr. Bill, Fr. Fergal, the choirs and staff at Newman Church, and the wonderful people at O’Connell House—I’ve known some people longer than others thanks to my time at Trinity and at Notre Dame and there are many people I’ve just met, but together they make up the fabric that will be my life in Dublin. Ireland has my heart and I’m excited to see where my newest journey takes me.