On Sunday the 17th of January, Carolyn and I were able to do a little bit of travel outside of Wexford as we headed up to the small village of Kilmyshall (roughly translated as “the middle church on the plain”) in the parish of Bunclody. The church in Kilmyshall is run by the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE), a small religious congregation of priests and sisters founded in Argentina. We had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Gabriel, the curate, and a few of the sisters when we attended the Ferns youth festival back in August and they have been trying to get us up to Kilmyshall for a while now. We were finally able to schedule the visit for this weekend to assist with a retreat that their parish was holding all of last week. The final session of the retreat was entitled “The Importance of the Holy Eucharist in our Creed” and was centered on adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Gabriel asked us to provide the music for the afternoon as a way to accompany the adoration and the talks.
Our visit began when we were collected at our house by one of the Sisters, a professed member from Alabama who we also met back in August. The drive to Kilmyshall took about an hour and passed through some of the most beautiful landscapes. The village of Kilmyshall is in the foothills of the mountains, and to get there we had to drive through the valley from the cathedral town of Enniscorthy with beautiful views of the Slaney and of the surrounding fields. Our conversation in the car was one of the most enjoyable parts of the day as we were able to discuss with another American missionary the challenges that are being faced in the Irish Church right now. It was great to hear a new perspective and to get some ideas on things that have worked for her and some things that she is still struggling with. The final part of the journey was a little rough because the road up to the village was not paved very well and there were plenty of potholes and uneven surface. When we came into the little village she pointed out the old cemetery, the town water pump, and finally the church. There really isn’t much more to the town as there are only about 100 people resident in the village.
Once we arrived at the parish we were greeted by Fr. Gabriel and were able to set up our keyboard and make sure everything was ready to go. Carolyn put together a great program for the afternoon so that all of the participants could join in with the music. Since the theme of the retreat was the Eucharist Carolyn wanted to put a Eucharistic image on the cover and boy did she hit a home run with this one. We’re still unpacking all of the imagery that is present in this one icon!
The retreat began with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and some moments of quiet prayer. The church was a very simply decorated, but the altar area was prepared beautifully and the served as a good focal point for the afternoon. Following the opening period of prayer the first session of the retreat began. The retreat was preached by Fr. James Swetnam, a Jesuit from Missouri who has been on the faculty of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome since 1962. While we were talking with him after the retreat we found out that he is an avid Notre Dame fan and was classmates with Notre Dame theology professor Fr. Brian Daley, S.J. Father Swetnam has been studying the Letter to the Hebrews (which he claims is in fact a Pauline letter) for almost 50 years now and in the hour and half that he talked we covered just 21 verses of the letter. The retreat was a fairly academic look at Hebrews 13:1-21 and the way in which those verses correspond to the liturgy of the Catholic Church. There is still a lot that I need to process from his talk, but the main gist that I got out of it was the following: (The Eucharist is important in our Creed because the Eucharist was and is the protocreedal statement. When Christ said, “Do this in memory of me,” He gave the Apostles their first creed. By our continuing celebration of the Eucharist, we are constantly affirming our belief in that moment when Christ instituted the Sacrament and in all of the beliefs that come from that moment.) Like I said, there is still a lot processing which I need to do to fully understand his talk, but I thought that it was a great reflection on the Eucharist as the center of our faith, especially as we sat in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The music which we chose for the afternoon were drawn from the traditional hymns used during adoration, as well as Eucharistic hymns which are fairly common. For the opening hymn we used a piece that the Folk Choir knows well, “Jesus, My Only Desire”, which sounded beautiful and haunting in the old church. I had to stop myself multiple times from slipping into the bass part and for some reason this made me focus on the words more than I have in the past. It is truly one of the most beautiful hymns that we use and I just love the opening of verse 3 where we declare, “Jesus the hope of my soul.” What an amazing thought, especially in the world we live in today and in the suffering we are seeing in places like Haiti, to be reminded that our soul has only to look at Christ to see renewed hope. We also used two reflection pieces: the antiphonal “Now We Remain”, and an amazing setting of the “Adoro te Devote” called “God With Hidden Majesty”. The remaining pieces were all traditional adoration texts, O Saving Victim, Tantum Ergo, and O Sanctissima, all of which sounded amazing.
Following Benediction and the closing of the retreat we were all invited over to the community center for tea and coffee. We did not want to leave our gear in the church so we decided to carry it the 100 meters to the center. We had just a few too many things to carry but there were three Dominican novices attending the retreat and one of them kindly got up from saying vespers to help us carry our things. We were told that to get to the building you take a right out of the church, then a left, then another right. You would think that in a village of less than 100 people you would be able to follow those directions quite easily. As it happened we missed the second right and kept moving up the road. We were having a great discussion with our new Dominican friend Connor about our work here in Ireland and his studies as a novice, and we thought we were heading in the right direction. When we got to the end of the village and were looking out at fields and mountains we decided to turn around and head back. Luckily once we arrived in the center of the village one of the priests was standing there laughing at us. He said it was pretty funny to see me walking down the street carrying a full keyboard on my shoulder.
Tea was a great chance to talk with some of the people who had attended the retreat, including Fr. Stephen who has just recently been reassigned to Santa Clara, California. I told him that if he wants to come to a football game at ND next year to just shoot me an email and I’ll try and set him up with tickets. I’ve already rambled on for a while and am trying to curb my verbosity a bit, so I think I will wrap it up here. All in all it was a great afternoon and we were glad to be able to minister to a new community. We were told that the music added much to the celebration and have been asked back whenever we want to visit. We thank the IVE’s up in Kilmyshall and all of the parishioners there for their warm hospitality. I leave you with a few more pictures that I took of the afternoon. Continue to pray for the people in Haiti and consider making a donation to the Red Cross or Catholic Relief Services. I’ve installed the Red Cross link on the right side of the page which will take you right to the Haiti Relief Fund donation page. Every little bit helps. Have a great week everyone!