1881 CENTENARY OF CARMELITE MONASTERY, KILMACUD, DUBLIN. 1981
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Greetings in the Lord to all who joined us in praising and thanking God and Our Blessed Lady of Mount Carmel and St Joseph for all the blessings poured out on and through the Carmel of Kilmacud over the past hundred years. When we were novices we used to talk at recreation about the forthcoming centenary of our Monastery, and how far away it seemed! Yet how quickly the years rolled by until we found ourselves into the great year 1981. Our brochure gave all the history of the foundation, so without repeating ourselves, we shall simply tell how we celebrated the Centenary itself. As the date drew near there was so much planning and preparations taking place, much reading up of our Annals and talking about them, the older Sisters in the community sharing with the younger Sisters stories and memories of some of the founding Sisters they had known. Pervading all was a great spirit of prayerful preparation that the event would be the occasion of great grace and renewal, not only for ourselves, but for all our Sisters and Brothers in Carmel, for all those united with us by special bonds, for our Parish, our Archdiocese, and indeed for the whole Church, so that "as the abounding grace of God is shared by more and more, the greater may be the chorus of thanksgiving that ascends to the glory of God" (2 Cor. 4:15).
So many priests and people wanted to celebrate with us that our Celebration overflowed into a Triduum of thanksgiving, beginning on November 19th, the date on which the Sisters first arrived from Roebuck. At five o'clock in the evening Very Rev. Canon McMahon from Mount Merrion celebrated a Votive Mass of St Joseph with us and spoke about St Joseph, the man of silence and prayer and trust in God, as a great example for the contemplative life. Canon McMahon was unable to come for the big celebration on the 21st, so we were very happy to have this quiet and very prayerful Mass with him beforehand which set the tone for the next few days.
That same evening there was a very joyful celebration in the Parish Church with a Concelebrated Mass of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at 7.30 p.m. Our new Parish Priest, Fr. Val Rogers, was full of enthusiasm when he first heard about our approaching centenary, and wanted the whole Parish to participate, that we might all realize our common unity in the Mystical Body of Christ. He organized a truly marvelous celebration with the help of his curates, Fr. Beirne, Fr. Coady and Fr. Hyland, and the Religious in the Parish. Many of our relatives and friends whom we could not invite here for the 21st, owing to the smallness of our Chapel, went to this Parish Mass and gave us glowing accounts afterwards. For a half-an-hour before it, from 7 to 7.30 p.m. our front door bell never stopped ringing, as group after group of Sisters and Brothers representing all the Religious Houses in the Parish called to greet us and bring their congratulations on their way down to the Mass. It was such a lovely unexpected surprise and filled us with joy. In order to give it a real Carmelite slant Fr. Tom Curran, o.d.c. and Fr. Vincent O'Hara, o.d.c. from Gayfield were invited guests at the Mass.
"This is the day which the Lord has made". So rang out the opening hymn. Yes, indeed, said Fr. Rogers in his opening words, this is a day we shall always remember with great joy and happiness in this Parish. He then read out to all the people the letter we had sent to him for the occasion, in which we stressed that although we could not be present in the flesh we were very much united with them in spirit, and not only in this Mass but always, entering deeply into the joys and sorrows of all the people of Kilmacud since we are all one in Christ. The chiming and tolling of the Church bells keep us attuned to the heartbeat of the Parish, and we even depend on them to set our clocks! And we asked them all to pray that we might be as faithful as the Sisters who have gone before us.
Fr. Vincent O'Hara, o.d.c., preached the homily and spoke about the double centenary for us Carmelites this year - not only one hundred years of Carmel in Kilmacud but also the fourth Centenary of the death of St. Teresa, our Holy Mother, about whose life he went on to speak of in very homely and winning words, describing too her foundations of Carmels all over Spain and the kind of life lived in them. There are now about 13,000 of St Teresa's nuns all over the world, this convent in Kilmacud being one of 800 scattered over the globe. In these convents the aim is to eliminate as many distractions as possible so that the Sisters can give themselves totally to God in a life of prayer and work in a small community. The warmth and humanity of St Teresa lives on there and especially her deep concern for the Church. These communities, Fr. Vincent went on, are also a pointer to eternity and remind us that this life is passing away, so people are reminded not to pin all their hopes on the things of this world but to be constantly preparing for the life to come which lasts for ever. Father finished by thanking God for all the blessings of the past hundred years and praying that we might grow and receive new vocations, and that the spirit and influence of St Teresa will continue to inspire many young people to devote themselves to God in the service of the Church. And he prayed for the people of the Parish of Kilmacud that they might find God close to them in their lives and receive a great peace.
After the Intercessions a most moving and impressive Offertory Procession took place with symbolic gifts being carried up to background music of Rodriguez' Guitar Concerto, and each accompanied by a meditation prepared and spoken by Mother Margaret, Superior of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our next door neighbours. The first gift was a copy of the Works of St Teresa of Avila "whose life and writings are a constant inspiration and source of strength to the Carmelite Sisters". The second gift was a lighted candle because "the Carmelite Sisters lead a life of constant prayer and sacrifice, and the lighted candle reminds us of how they burn out their lives, as it were, in the presence of God, radiating warmth and light in the Church"„ A sheaf of wheat was presented as the third gift: "The Sisters' lives are silent behind the walls of the enclosure of Carmel, and so our next gift is a sheaf of wheat that has grown quietly from the seed hidden in the earth - a symbol of their fruitful hiddenness behind the grille". The next gift was flowers, symbolic of the warm family spirit that brims over with joy and happiness and permeates Carmel." And the final gift; the bread and wine to be transformed into Jesus Christ in the Mass. The hosts, made by the Sisters themselves, through which Our Lord will come to each one of us in Holy Communion; and the wine, a symbol of this evening's celebration, our Mass of praise and thanksgiving to thank God for His gift to our Parish of the Carmelite Sisters over the past hundred years".
The Consecration was heralded by a trumpet blast played by a small boy from the Artane Band. The Communion started with a soloist singing "I fall on my knees to the Father of Jesus... may our lives be rooted and founded in love, rooted in love." Then the whole congregation sang "I am the bread of life". The Mass ended with a final word of thanks from Fr. Rogers for the marvelous celebration and a prayer that all in the Parish might become better Christians, better people, because of having the Carmelite Sisters living amongst us".
A couple of days afterwards Mother Margaret came with two of the senior pupils of their school, St Raphaela's, to present to us the tape they had made during the Mass. What a kind thought that was! And so we were able to enjoy that beautiful celebration ourselves with the tape playing in the refectory for a couple of evenings. It was all so very touching, especially the offertory meditations, that we were almost moved to tears, feeling so very unworthy of it all. May we all strive all the more to live up to those great ideals, with the help of all those prayers that were said for us by our good Father Rogers, his priests, and all the Religious and people of Kilmacud. To all we would like to express again our deepest thanks and assure them, and all who have prayed for us at this time, that we shall always remember them and all their intentions during our hours before the Tabernacle.
Friday, November 20th, the actual Centenary day, we celebrated quite simply with Fr. Rogers coming to celebrate the Conventual Mass at 7.30 a.m. with us, instead of our usual Chaplains, the Calced Carmelites of Gort Muire, Dundrum. It was a Votive Mass in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, again a very joyful celebration. We are very blessed in our new Parish Priest; he has such great esteem for the contemplative life. One of the first things he did when he was appointed to Kilmacud was to come up and say Mass for us in the course of which he told us that we are "the most important people in the Parish" because nothing can be done without prayer! So he keeps us informed of meetings, plans and projects in the Parish so that we can be there with our prayers. He has certainly helped us to become even more aware of our responsibilities in the local Church.
That Friday, as you can guess, was a very busy day; it felt a bit like Christmas Eve! The Sacristan was busy preparing everything for the big influx of priests expected the next day; the cooks in the kitchen were going full steam ahead as we had decided to do our own catering; likewise the parlours were being transformed to accommodate our guests. There was typing and duplicating going on - that is a story in itself... how the Gestetner broke down, urgent phone calls to Gestetner Service Dept...no one available to come out and fix it. What to do? Fr. Brendan Houlihan, the Archbishop's M.C., was coming out in the evening for a last run over with the altar boys and to bring us twelve sets of the Phoenix Park Papal Mass vestments, and wanted to get his copy of the Mass booklet, and nothing was ready! Then we thought of our good friends the Consolata Fathers and asked them if they could possibly help by running off the stencils we had typed on their Duplicator. They were only too delighted to help out and by 6 p.m. had all the pages printed and back to us, ready to be put together. A few helping hands (there were many of them everywhere that day!) and all the copies were finished and ready by the time Father Houlihan arrived at 8 p.m. Never was the saying more true of anybody that "a friend in need is a friend indeed” than it was of the kind Consolata Fathers that day. May God bless and reward them!
At last the Great Day dawned, 21st November, feast of the Presentation of Our Lady. We were up like the larks, said Morning Prayer, took an early collation, then had Conventual Mass celebrated by Fr. Chris O'Donnell, O.Carm., at 7.30 a.m. as usual. We spent the short morning putting the finishing touches to all the preparations, settling the tables for the guests - it was to be a cold lunch of chicken and ham, trifle and cakes, and the beautiful iced Centenary cake in the place of honour made and decorated by our talented Sisters. At 10.20 we said Midday Prayer and had dinner at 10.30. It wasn't long after that the first guests arrived, including our twelve Concelebrants. At 12 noon, to the singing of "All the earth proclaim the Lord", they all came out in procession to the sanctuary, the beautiful colours of the cream and red vestments reminding us of the happy day in the Park with the Pope! There were Fathers Beirne and Hyland, curates in Kilmacud; Fr. Michael Ward, Clondalkin, a former chaplain; Fr. John Dutto, Consolata Fathers; Fr. John Keating (Prior) and Fr. Eltin Griffin, O.Carm, of Gort Muire; Canon Perkins, P.P. , Dundrum; Fr.Phelim Monahan, O.C.D. , Fr. Vincent O'Hara, O.D.C. , Fr. Fabian McCormack, O,D.C. and next to His Grace, our Fr. Provincial, V. Rev. Fr. Finian Monahan, O.D.C, and V. Rev. Fr. V. Rogers, Parish Priest of Kilmacud. Lastly came His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Dermot Ryan with mitre and crozier, and accompanied by his M.C. Fr. B. Houlihan. There were a couple of disappointments at the last minute, when Sr. M. Joseph's brother, Fr. Patrick Jordan, P.P. of Ballycullane, New Ross, phoned to say he had 'flu with a temperature and the doctor wouldn't allow him travel. And Fr. Simon Grace, O.Carm, of Terenure, our faithful Extraordinary Confessor for many years, also couldn't come because of another pressing engagement.
In his opening words Archbishop Ryan referred briefly to the history of Carmel in Ireland and of this Carmel in particular. He talked of the faith, courage and perseverance of those early Sisters who had to struggle through difficult times and could only survive by accepting the care of schools and orphanages, until it was possible to live the purely contemplative life as envisaged by St Teresa. His Grace also recalled how as a young priest he had once accompanied the late Mgr. Boylan to this Carmel when the latter was presiding over an election, and the happy experience that was, giving him an insight into the functioning of contemplative convents. He prayed that God would continue to bless this Convent and the other Carmels and the other contemplative Orders in Ireland, that they may be blessed with an increase of vocations to the contemplative life so that they might be able to extend their apostolate by founding new convents.
The Mass was sung by the Sisters, with the Priests and people joining in. We were blessed with some fine voices among the clergy. Fintan O'Carroll's Mass of the Immaculate Conception was sung, with its beautiful Gloria. The Magnificat (Joseph Walshe) was sung as the Responsorial Psalm. The Readings chosen were from Hosea 2:16-17a, 20-22; 1 Cor. 1:22-31; Luke 2: 41-52.
His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Dermot Ryan preached the homily during this Mass of Thanksgiving, and spoke about the contemplative life in the Church as he unfolded the deep meaning of the Readings to us, applying the Word of God to the present situation in the Church and the world of today. He spoke of the pursuing love of God through all the experiences of prayer, of the Cross as the path to union and glory, of Mary, and finally of St Joseph, who as you know, is the patron of this Monastery.
After the Homily we all renewed our vows, using the new formula for profession with slight adaptations to suit renewal of vows. And at the Offertory procession we presented as our first gift a scroll on which the text of the renewal of vows was hand-printed in lovely script and signed by each Sister. The rest of the gifts were the ciboria, patens and chalices to be used. Among them was the Archbishop's own exquisite Chalice which he brings with him to such celebrations.
Throughout the rest of the Mass our V. Rev. Fr. Provincial stood on the Archbishop's right and Fr. Rogers on his left, while the other concelebrants stood around the altar, leaving us, however, a perfect view. The 'Our Father’ was sung, and at the Sign of Peace His Grace shook hands with Mother Prioress and Sr. Sub-Prioress at the Communion window. He then gave Holy Communion to the Sisters, and while the people were receiving from some of the other priests, His Grace came in to the infirmary to give Communion to the two sick Sisters. After the Communion hymns - "Come, Christ's beloved," and "Ag Criost an Siol" - and the concluding Prayer, Dr. Ryan announced that before ending the Mass he wished to give a gift to Mother Prioress in honour of the Centenary - the silver trowel which had been used to lay the foundation stone of our Chapel in June 1896 - and asked Mother to come forward to receive it. When he said "a gift" we were all wondering what it could be! What a joy and what a beautiful gesture on his part! We shall treasure it as a precious link with the Sisters who laboured so hard to achieve this foundation. And it reminds us again, in our day, of our Holy Mother's words that each one of us must strive to become so firm a stone that the building will stand firm for ever (cf. Foundations 4,7). Our Mass of Thanksgiving concluded with the singing of the 'Te Deum', Sisters and Priests alternating, and finally the 'Salve Regina'.
But that wasn't the end of the celebrations: the joy of that memorable Thanksgiving Mass overflowed now into the parlours where we had lunch for the Archbishop and priests and some of our friends, and even down to the Gate Lodge where Margaret and Pat Horan had a spread for the rest of the guests. His Grace greeted us all in the parlour before they sat down to lunch. Then after lunch he came inside the enclosure alone. He had invited Fr. Provincial to accompany him, but Fr. Provincial declined saying, "It's your day, Your Grace". First he visited the sick, Sr. M. Teresa who is now very weak and confined to bed. We couldn't get her to speak to him, but she kept smiling up at him, knowing who he was, and he gave her his blessing. Then he went in and blessed Sr. M. Patrick who cannot go upstairs. We then did a lightning tour - to the recreation room, to the novitiate, to Mother's cell-cum-office, all of which he blessed sprinkling with holy water - no time to sit down anywhere. We got a few photos, including a nice one of His Grace and Sr. M. Paul, our one temporarily professed Sister. Out to the garden next where His Grace very kindly let us take several group photos, and lastly he and Mother went alone to the cemetery to visit the graves of our seven founding Sisters and all the other Sisters who have gone before us during the hundred years. Returning to the house His Grace signed the Visitors' Book, gave us a final blessing and asked our prayers again for all the pastoral needs of the Archdiocese. Then, reluctantly, we had to let him go. It was so very gracious of him to give us so much time: we heard later that his chauffeur who was waiting down at the Lodge kept watching out of the window while having his tea, and said His Grace did not usually stay so long wherever he went. Margaret remarked: "You don’t know them up there.' He won't be out for a while yet".' Very soon after he did leave us, and being Saturday, many of the priests had to go too. Our Father Provincial, Fr. Finian, and our O.D.C. brothers and a few friends remained on a little longer, so the chat went on happily in the parlours for another while. Then at last all had to go after a most enjoyable and memorable day.
Our hearts were, and still are, full of gratitude to God and to all of you who prayed for us that everything went so well and that the day was so blessed, and above all to His Grace the Archbishop who gave so generously of himself and his time to make the day unforgettable for us all. If we had any regret - and we did have one big one - it was that the shortage of space limited us so much. We would have so liked all of you to be here with us, but we knew you were very much with us in spirit and praying and thanking God with us for all His blessings and graces. And you were all included in our prayers during the Mass for all those who are united with us in Christ by special bonds of love and affection: our Sisters and Brothers in Carmel, our families, relatives and friends, and all who have helped us in any way whatsoever, not only in the lifetime of the present community but all down the hundred years from the beginning of this Carmel. We were very happy to have with us Miss Phyllis Byrne, a grandniece of Mother M. Joseph who was one of the first postulants to enter after the foundation was made. Very close to our hearts and our thoughts that day of celebration was Mrs. Ann Reilly of Scarborough, England, who has just celebrated her 91st birthday. Ann, who was married to Frank, nephew of Mother M. Xavier, one of our foundresses, entered the Catholic Church in 1974, and we think that were it not for her age, she would also have entered this Carmel after her dear Frank died! She is so young in heart that perhaps she will yet! Meantime we have appointed her to the role of "Auntie" to our little novitiate, and she is busily praying for new "nieces" to come and join the three she has so far acquired.
On the following day, feast of Christ the King, we were able to spend some quiet hours of thanksgiving with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament until 2 p.m. and at 3 p.m. Fr. Robert Nash, S.J. came and offered his Thanksgiving Mass. We had our own Centenary dinner and high tea on this day, much enjoyed by all. On Monday the 23rd there was another extra Mass, this time offered by a missionary, Fr. Kenny, C.S.Sp.; and on Tuesday the 24th we had a quiet Mass with Fr. Ronan, 0.D.C, who recalled that this final little celebration was being held on the very day on which our Sisters of years gone by had celebrated the feast of our holy Father St John of the Cross (now kept on 14th December).
And so ended a week of joyful thanksgiving to God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for His steadfast love to this Carmel of Kilmacud over one hundred years. But the song of thanksgiving and praise goes on in our hearts - may we sing His mercies for ever! Once again we thank you for joining with us and swelling the chorus of our thanksgiving. While we shall continue to pray for you and all your needs, we ask you to pray that we may be as faithful as the Sisters who have gone before us, and that God may bless the next hundred years with an abundance of good vocations.
"Glory be to him whose power, working in us,
can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine;
glory be to him from generation to generation in the
Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.
© 2011 Carmelite Sisters, Kilmacud