On Friday, the 9th of October the community was invited to Dublin by Fr. John-Paul Sheridan who is the director of catechetics for the Diocese of Ferns. He is also one of the chaplains for the Notre Dame study abroad program in Dublin based at O’Connell House on Merrion Square. The O’Connell House hosts fellowship nights once a month for students, alumni, and friends of Notre Dame who are based in Dublin. Officially these are “ACE Fellowship” nights, connected to the Alliance for Catholic Education and give educators and students a chance to gather and discuss topics surrounding Catholic education.
Fr. John-Paul collected us on Friday afternoon and we proceeded up the old Gorey road, which he claims is quicker than the motorway. (Unless you get stuck behind slow moving trucks like we did!) To pass the time Fr. Sheridan introduced us to an NPR show that he listens to called “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”. It’s a quiz show based on the news of the last week and I found it quite hilarious. It’s now one of my regular podcast downloads. Highly recommended. On the way we stopped for a cup of coffee, but as it was after 5 on a Friday in Ireland, the shop was already closed. Undeterred by our lack of caffeine we continued on to Dublin, accompanied by the NPR podcast and then my introduction to Garrison Keillor and “The News from Lake Wobegon”. Again, highly recommended for those of you who have not heard him.
Upon arrival at O’Connell House we were greeted by the director Kevin Whelan (a native Wexfordian), program coordinator Joe Stranix (a fellow ’09 grad), and a young couple Elaine and John who are involved with ND and Catholic education in Ireland. Seeing as we were early we took a little walk past St. Stephen’s Green in search of the American Embassy, aka STARBUCKS!! We’ve had coffee and tea since we’ve arrived in Ireland, but we all marveled at being able to walk into a place and order exactly what we wanted just like we were back in LaFortune. We got it to go and walked back to the centre past Trinity College and arrived at the front door, one of the many Georgian doors in Dublin. Martha spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a good picture of the door, which in the end turned out to be one of the coolest pictures I’ve seen.
Joe met us at the door and gave us a great tour of the house which includes ground floor offices and study space, a chapel, library, and tons of classroom space. Martha remembered her time as a study abroad student and how she was quite jealous of the Dublin students and their amazing facilities. The centre is run through the generous contributions of the Keough family (who also donated my dorm at ND) and Naughton family. The space is a great asset to the students of the Dublin program!
The fellowship kicked off with a great Mass in the house, celebrated by Fr. Sheridan with music on the guitar by Elaine. We joined with some regulars, the staff of the house, and current students in celebrating the Mass. When the three of us talked about the Mass later we all agreed that for some reason this Mass felt like home. It may have been the music, the other American accents responding with us, or just the sense of being back with Notre Dame people, but for some reason we all felt very refreshed by the Mass at O’Connell House. Fr. Sheridan gave an excellent homily and there was a beautiful communion reflection provided by Elaine which served to cap the Mass off nicely. Following Mass the fellowship continued with a great meal and great conversation. I was able to forget for a moment that I was no longer a student and I sunk right back into the joking conversation and banter that flew around the table. I’m not sure how long we sat at the table, but the conversation and the food continued flowing until they began to put tables and chairs away. Our end of the table finished the night off with a series of pretty funny religious jokes, many of them having to do with the Jesuits. (Fr. John-Paul, a product of two Jesuit institutions, had some of the best Jesuit jokes)
The ride home was just as great as the ride to Dublin. After some great conversation about the state of the Church and the state of American politics, we turned back to the iPod for the rest of the ride. There were some great classics like the Biebel “Ave Maria” which brought us back to Glee Club concerts, a haunting song which I recognized from my favorite show “The West Wing”, and finally the short stories of Oscar Wilde as read by Stephen Fry. To accompany it all we were able to watch the nearly full moon off the Irish coast during the entire drive. I wouldn’t say it was a spiritual experience, but it was a very relaxing and comforting drive. The entire trip lasted about eight hours, but it was eight hours of music, fun, laughter, old friends, new friends, good liturgy, and food. After two months in this country we are finally beginning to settle into it as home and this little touch of familiarity helped to remind us that wherever home is there is always the Notre Dame family. We look forward to welcoming more of that family in the next week as some guests drop in for a visit. Cookie and Mrs. Cookie arrive on Monday and that’s just the start of things. I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about after next week. Hope all is well with everyone back in the States. Thanks for all of your prayers and support!
P.S. GO IRISH!!!! BEAT SOUTHERN CAL!!!!