Loreto Sisters work in many places throughout Ireland and indeed the world. Our work varies from teaching to administration, youth ministry, counselling, spiritual direction and psychotherapy, chaplaincy in schools and hospitals. We work with families and refugees. We are artists, poets, musicians, storytellers. We are missionaries. We laugh, we talk, we cry, we protest, we reflect, we pray, we discern, we tweet, we walk with people to share their story, we listen. We are scattered throughout the country endeavouring to serve Christ in a spirit of justice, freedom, sincerity, truth and joy.
Hi, my name is Suzie Duffy. I come from near the small town of Convoy, Co. Donegal. My mother was at school with Loreto and later taught in the Loreto primary school, Bray. So, I could say that my first contact with Loreto was through my mum. I attended Loreto secondary school, Letterkenny and felt attracted to the life and ministry that I experienced there so I joined 34 years ago. I spent the first ten years of my Loreto life in various communities in Dublin. During that time, I studied in Sion Hill College, Blackrock after which I taught home economics and religion in Loreto Secondary School Balbriggan, north Co. Dublin. Then I was sent to Cavan, where I spent another few years teaching the same subjects in Loreto Secondary School. While I was in Cavan, I got involved in youth ministry in the parish and got to like the work so much that I moved into working full time at youth ministry in the diocese (Kilmore).
That work involved the training of leaders in facilitating and running programmes like the Faith Friends and GIFT programme, training pastoral councils, liturgy groups, ministers of the Eucharist and Word, retreats, summer projects and pilgrimages, resourcing parishes, on-going support and follow up.
Following twelve years in youth ministry I was appointed as director of child and adult safeguarding in the Diocese of Kilmore by Bishop Leo O’Reilly. I am an accredited trainer with the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI). I train the bishop, clergy and lay people throughout the diocese in best practice for child and adult safeguarding. I also hold the role of diocesan designated liaison person. This involves receiving concerns and complaints of child or adult abuse by church personnel, providing information, informing the bishop and advisory panel of the complaint, informing the Gardaí / PSNI, Tusla / HSCE and NBSCCCI, making appropriate referrals, maintaining confidential records and files, keeping the complainant and the respondent informed.
My hobbies are cycling and doing crosswords.
Geraldine McNickle and Philomena Collins were involved since 1998 as foundation members in West Bann Development – a cross community group working to help the local residents of a Neighbourhood Renewal area called the Churchlands Ward in Coleraine. The picture shows the opening of the West Bann Development Centre by James Nesbitt in 2004 and includes the Board of Directors. More information about the centre is available at www.westbann.com
Currently Geraldine is involved in teaching Catholic children who attend Protestant schools preparing them for First Confession, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. She also brings communion to the sick in the local area and the nearby nursing home.
Philomena is involved in teaching Meditation and HECT (Human Energy Chelation Therapy) in West Bann.
Photo shows Philomena on the left and Geraldine on the right with the West Bann Development Group. Also included is actor James Nesbitt
My name is Clair and I would like to share my Loreto experience with you. Certain decades of my life have been more significant and memorable than others, but that I suppose, is common to everyone. The eighties for me, was an experience like awakening from a drowsy spiritual slumber! I had arrived in Cavan. I found it buzzing and alive with everything to do with Renewal – Parish Renewal, Charismatic Renewal, Sisters Renewal, Marriage Encounter, CHOICE for young adults, – all happening in Loreto Cavan and I was terrified of the whole energy of it all. Eventually, in order to survive in the midst of this spiritual activity, I became involved in Parish Renewal and Charismatic Renewal for many years. My most enriching experience during this time in Cavan was being involved with the setting up of a Social Education Programme for young people who opted to leave school after Confirmation. The aim of this programme, supported by the Diocese and the VEC (Education and Training Board now), was to enrich the lives of the young people who attended a varied programme of instruction and experiences. This helped them through turbulent teenage years.
In the nineties my life took another direction. After a thirty day retreat experience I trained as a Spiritual Director at the Ignatian Centre for Spirituality at Manresa, Dublin. As an art teacher and with spiritual direction training, I could use colour and shape as a means of expressing the movements of the Holy Spirit in prayer, at retreat times.
During the noughties I was privileged to be given the opportunity to live in North West Donegal where I continued retreat work, spiritual direction and of course painting. The landscape and people provided much inspiration for painting. Among my painting achievements at that time was the creation of a large body of work in the form of a project inspired by the music of Bach’s First Cello Suite.
Since 2009 I have been living in Dublin. I give workshops and occasional retreats. I find myself grateful to lead and encourage people to discover their hidden talents through the use of colour, music and writing. I am now engaged with ‘The Parable of the Chestnut Tree’ which I penned a few years ago.
Having been educated by the Loreto Sisters in both Primary and Secondary Schools, at almost twenty years of age I decided to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary in June, 1984. This was for me a continuing of the journey rather than a new beginning…
After my novitiate in Rathfarnham, I moved around the eastern part of the country for some thirty one years… During this time, I studied in All Hallows College, the Milltown Institute, Trinity College and the Mater Dei Institute. My main area of study was in Theology, Spirituality and Pastoral Care. My places of ‘mission’ include Stone House, Stephen’s Green, Navan, the Abbey, Swords and Griffith Hall. During these years, I worked in various capacities in different schools. I was School Secretary in both the Green and Navan and I worked in Beaufort, Swords and Portmarnock Community School as Chaplain and as a teacher of Religious Education. From 2002 I became a member of the Board of Management in Loreto Balbriggan and I joined the Loreto Education Trust the following year. In 2015, my life really came full circle when I found myself back where I began all those years ago in Loreto Secondary School, Letterkenny! Not in my wildest dreams did I ever see myself coming back as a Loreto Sister to my own home town… Now I am in my second year as Deputy Principal of the second biggest Loreto school in Ireland – 950 students plus a big staff.
My thirty plus years have been truly blessed in all sorts of ways. I have been afforded so many great opportunities to grow and to participate more fully in life as a Religious and as an Irish woman.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my work in school up to this point and while I am still ‘youthful’ in my role as Deputy Principal, school life continues to give me great energy every day I rise. I have met and worked with wonderful people over all these years including members of staff, students and parents in the various schools that I have been part of. Most importantly, I have been given great scope, support and encouragement from my own Loreto sisters to take steps that I might not have had the courage to take on my own initiative. Please God, I will continue to enjoy my life as a Loreto Sister in the area of education for many more years to come!
I have been living and working in West Tallaght since 1989. While teaching in St. Aidan’s Community School, Brookfield I became very conscious of young girls who left school early because of pregnancy. So, to work in the community with these young mothers I decided to leave the formal school setting. My main aim was to further their education. I was able to do this by starting a state funded Community Employment Scheme (CE) Project. We established a FETAC Training Centre in Shalom House Springfield, Tallaght and provided a range of courses with qualifications, mostly in the child care area.
As many young mothers found it difficult to manage parenting their children, it soon became clear that there was need for preschools. This was 20 years ago and there was no public funding available for preschools. I was able to access funding from the Health Board and set up a preschool in Brookfield. Then, when government funding became available, we set up the Loreto Preschool in Springfield.
While the preschools are up and running, new challenges have emerged. Many Roma families have moved into the local area in recent years. Roma women are socially, educationally and economically deprived. In Shalom House Springfield we began English language classes to enable Roma families, and especially women, to integrate into Irish society. More than forty women from eleven different countries have enrolled in our courses. Together with my Loreto companions, Srs. Anna Brady, Anne O’Dwyer and Monica Mc Elwee, we work with the women helping them with their language skills. We also provide a creche facility for their young children. Our centre is multi-cultural with great diversity where learning takes place in a peaceful atmosphere.
My name is Sr. Ena Devlin from Omagh, Co. Tyrone. I spent my life in Loreto doing Primary School teaching – which I loved. In August 2000, I retired from teaching and towards the end of a sabbatical year I was invited to work with Céílí Catholic Community, which is a collaborative community – priests, sisters and lay people working together for the New Evangelization – as called for by recent popes. I have found the community-living and the mission work very challenging but also very up- building for my own faith journey. I have now spentsixteen very happy years here and have grown immensely in courage in proclaiming the Gospel message “allowing Jesus transform lives by proclaiming the freshness of the Gospel”. We have been in six temporary accommodations since I began, but in 2016, with the help of very generous donations, we acquired the previous Mercy Convent in Kilbeggan. We now have a beautifully renovated Centre for Evangelisation in Ireland and hope that this will facilitate our work and mission.
Members of the community give parish and school missions all over Ireland. We spend a full week in each primary and secondary school, visit all homes in the parish and then conclude with a full week’s preached mission. In this way we try to reach as many people as possible in all sections of the parish with the Gospel message. Feedback has been very positive and some of you may have had the opportunity to read the article of appreciation from Downpatrick in the Irish Catholic 11/11/16 written by the Parish Priest. The years are moving on for me now but I pray that God will sustain me and continue to give me health in this work for the foreseeable future. Our photo shows Ena with colleague Mattie McGrath. For further information visit: www.ceilicommunity.net
Having trained as a primary school teacher, I taught for many years in St John’s Primary School in Coleraine, Co. Derry. In 1979 I was missioned to Kenya where I worked in the primary school in the cathedral parish in central Nairobi. However, I was aware that so many children in poorer parts of the city had little or no access to good schools, so I began a new school in Kangemi which grew from very small beginnings to a large school of over 1,000 pupils. Following retirement, I moved to the English Province and then back to Ireland. Altogether I have spent 62 years in Loreto. It is challenging to condense these years into a paragraph or two! As I glimpse at the memories of these years I realise that the ‘doing’ element is not that important but that the inner element of my life is of the essence. My life has been very full, most interesting, colourful and providentially productive. From my life experience I believe that God got His way! Many times I had no idea what I was taking on in my ministry but I do know that all the successes were God’s.
I am school chaplain in Loreto Secondary School Bray. My role is one of support and availability to the whole school community – students, teachers and parents. There is a very strong ethos of pastoral care in our school. As chaplain I am a member of the school pastoral care team.
My focus is listening and enabling our students to be resilient when faced with challenges. In this way I hope they become more reflective and grow to reach their potential. This happens sometimes in the sharing of the joys and sorrows of life. Opportunities are also provided to support people in their faith – while being open at all times to the diversity within our school community.
It is important for me to support the many activities in our school – no two days are the same. What remains constant though is that Loreto Bray is a very positive place to work and there is a strong sense of community within the school. To quote from an article I read ‘I love waking up in the morning. My job is a joyous challenge and I am up for it’.
I have been privileged to work on behalf of Loreto Education Trust since its foundation in 2004 having already served as Loreto Education Officer prior to that from 1997. The Loreto Education Trust Board undertook a strategic review in 2013/2014 during which all stakeholders confirmed that the most important role of the Trust is to support schools in giving contemporary expression to Mary Ward values through a variety of means especially:
- two-way communication with schools
- support of Loreto Network of schools
- leadership development
I found it personally very encouraging to note the level of agreement between all stakeholders in relation to these priorities against the backdrop of Mary Ward’s vision which has inspired so many in a variety of Loreto ministries for so long.
What about the bigger picture?
Over the years, I have found myself asking the question: how do we position the distinctive quality of Loreto education in the context of Catholic Education and, indeed, Irish education generally? I am still searching for an answer but the question has motivated me in my involvement at many levels. Having been invited to become a member of the Board of Directors of Le Chéile Schools Trust in 2009 I gained insight into what it meant for fourteen Congregations to decide to form a single Trust with an agreed Charter.
Within the last three years I have enjoyed, while also experiencing many a challenge along the way, my work with the following groups:
- Involvement in leadership of the Association of Trustees of Catholic Schools (ATCS) which enables communication with DES and various national bodies.
- Membership of the Council of the Catholic Schools Partnership (CSP) which acts as a forum and includes first, second and third level education representative
- Engagement with Catechetical Council of Bishops’ Conference on NCCA curriculum proposals
- As ATCS representative on working party appointed by the Catholic Education Service Committee (CESC) to draw up a strategic plan for patronage and management support structures in the Republic of Ireland. The recommendations of this group are currently being considered for implementation and are designed to bring about more cohesion between the various bodies in the interests of the future of Catholic Education in pluralist Ireland
As I read the above, I am reminded of the words of Michael Harding in his award winning bestseller Staring at Lakes: ‘the wonderful thing about Ireland is that, despite the Famine, the weather, the clergy and the banks, we still possess the brazen optimism to engage with each other, to mind each other and hope for love around the next corner…!’
FAITH DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR – Aspects of my ministry:
I work in the Loreto Education Centre and my main focus is Faith Development in Loreto Schools. The following are some aspects of my ministry:
Linking with schools through visits and other connections (Conferences, Induction Days, RE Days, and various projects) to build on the work in our schools regarding Faith Development
Providing resources for Faith Development/Ignatian Reflection/ Mary Ward to foster and develop the Loreto characteristic spirit as inspired by Mary Ward’s values and expressed in our Philosophy document.
Supportive role in collaboration with Education Development Officer.
The Loreto Schools Faith Development Twitter account keeps us all up to date with links to resources and events for Loreto schools and beyond.
The online forum for Religious Education Teachers and Chaplains currently being set up is also a welcome development for sharing resources and ideas.