OUR SEVEN FOUNDING SISTERS


Our thoughts go back in loving gratitude and are filled with great encouragement in the
service of God as we recall the memory of these seven foundresses.


Her heart’s desire - to pray always

The Prioress, Mother Mary John Geraghty (Dublin: 1814-1896) was a woman of great kindness, gentleness of manner and love of labour. Ardent and impulsive by nature and sensitive to criticism, she had copied her patron St. John the Evangelist and would sometimes say to those who expressed a difficulty in restraining themselves “at the last day it will be seen whether you or I had the greater struggle.” And now and again she was also heard to say “Trust so and so for they are humble and God will assist their endeavours”. She had a great love for the religious life and, from the time she entered, had longed for the purely contemplative life. She dreaded teaching and was slow to make her vows because of the community’s involvement in this work. However, when she did make them, she spent most of the rest of her life teaching and caring for poor children. It was only when she had turned 60 that she obtained her heart’s desire when her community established itself at Roebuck as a contemplative community. She was 65 when this Carmel was founded. She was sent as Prioress and, though in very poor health, took a keen and practical interest in all the necessary alterations to the house, and did all she could to help and encourage the young religious. She had a great fear of dying but, when the time came and the priest and doctor said there was no hope of recovery, she ‘gave herself up completely to the hands of God, just like a peaceful child resting on the bosom of her heavenly Father.’
 

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An eventful life

Mother Mary Vincent Murphy (Dublin: 1804-1894), who came as Sub-Prioress on this foundation, had a most eventful life in religion. At the age of 20 she entered the Carmelite convent at Warrenmount, but soon fell seriously ill with the then incurable tuberculosis. She was sent for a change of air to the Carmel of Firhouse, Tallaght, Co. Dublin. There, on the feast of St. Teresa, when she seemed almost on the point of death, she was miraculously cured. Holy Mass was being offered for her recovery by the ‘great servant of God’, Prince Hohenloe, Bishop of Bamberg, in his own chapel. At the same time Mass was being offered in Firhouse and while Sister Mary Vincent was receiving Holy Communion she saw Our Lord in the consecrated Host in the form of a beautiful Infant with His Hands extended towards her as if throwing a robe over her head. She found herself at that moment perfectly cured as if, she said, she had received a new body. (Later in life she was again afflicted by frequent prolonged bouts of ill health, but lived to 90 years of age). Returning to Warrenmount, she was soon sent as Sub-Prioress on the new foundation to North William Street which had an orphanage and day school attached. She became Prioress there for a while. After about 20 years (1853) the community moved to Lakelands, Sandymount, which again had an orphanage and school. Mother Mary Vincent, among other things, had care of the farm there. She never spared herself in her duties, was reserved and recollected, exact in silence and obedience, and impressed others by her gentleness and her readiness to attend to the wants of all the Sisters. She loved the children and found it very hard to leave them when the schools were given up to the Sisters of Charity. When this foundation was made in 1881, at the age of 77 she volunteered for it with all the ardour of “youth”. In this her last, as on her first foundation, Mother Mary Vincent was again appointed Sub-Prioress, and was most vigilant in the discharge of her office, seeing to it that the Divine Office was carried out well. Being Dispenser she also had the duty of providing for the Sisters’ needs. She bore her long illness with great patience, and died at the age of 90, having spent 69 years in religion. She was the first occupant of our little cemetery within the enclosure.

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“I can do all things in Him who strengthens me”

Sister Mary Xavier Reilly (Dublin: 1846-1907) was 35 when the move to Kilmacud was made, and it was mainly on her shoulders that the labours of the new foundation rested, due to Mother Mary John’s feeble state of health. It was she who had the training of the novices along with the supervision of the workmen and of the alterations to the house. This must have been a formidable task requiring immense mental and bodily energy as the entire house had to be transformed to turn it into a monastery, and all had to be done with the scantiest resources. In these early days she spared no pains making detailed enquires, even writing to Carmels in Spain and Belgium about observances in choir, refectory, cells etc. She started the spinning and weaving of serge material for the nuns’ clothing. Candles and ink were also made. The rearing of poultry and making of altar breads were undertaken during her terms as Prioress; the nuns working strenuously and lovingly to make these industries remunerative for the support of the community. They built hen houses, doing all the carpentry, painting and cement work themselves. When in 1923 new hen houses were built it took four days to demolish the solidly built “old ones”! Mother Mary Xavier said on one occasion that she never allowed a day to pass without thanking God many times for her holy vocation to Carmel: that He had fulfilled all His promises to her over and above all her expectations and had shown her that He would never be outdone in generosity.

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Mary’s scapular: protection in danger

Sister Mary Agnes Martin (Dublin: 1854-1935) was 27 when she came on this foundation. She was a perfect Sacristan for many years and had great taste in decorating the Altar for Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and feast days. She trained the young nuns in this duty as well as in packing the Altar breads and keeping the accounts. For 25 years she was Sub-Prioress and always had the greatest respect for whoever held the office of Prioress. Her life might be summarised as one long act of willing, loving obedience.

Two remarkable stories are told about her recourse to Our Lady’s Scapular for protection in danger. A postulant was preparing the lamps for the community when her veil went on fire. Sister Mary Agnes rushed to her, wrapped her head in her Scapular and so extinguished the flames. On another occasion, the same postulant fell into the well in the kitchen, and again it was Sister Agnes who flew to her on hearing her cries, told her to catch hold of her Scapular, and by this means pulled her to safety.

Sister Mary Agnes suffered constantly from asthma, but tried to give as little trouble as she could. Towards the end she developed pneumonia to which she succumbed within about 24 hours. In all her pain and struggling for breath she was so patient and kept continually repeating “God, help me” – “Glory be to God for ever”. God called her to Himself in 1935, on Passion Sunday.

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A totally trusting soul

Sister Mary Ignatius Mooney (Wicklow: 1859-1929) was noted for her spirit of prayer and love of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. For 50 years she remained in adoration almost the whole of Holy Thursday night before the Altar of Repose, and never missed doing so until a year or so before her death. She had great devotion to cultivating flowers for the altar and considered no pain or labour too great in this childlike expression of love. When Sister Mary Ignatius was ill and advanced in years, a young Oblate priest was called in to anoint her. The Prioress told him he might need to talk to her a little first as she did not seem to realise that her end was so near. He poured forth a touching “fervorino” to prepare her for the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, as it was then called, and told her not to be afraid of death, etc. She listened attentively and then said: “I’m certainly not afraid to die, Father, nor afraid to meet the dear Lord with Whom and for Whom I have lived for 54 years and Who knows me so well. So don’t you be anxious – I’ll let you know when I want to be anointed”. (And she did!). “By the way, Father,” she added, “would you know any good dentist in Dublin where I could get my teeth sharpened?” In later years this priest really enjoyed retelling this story. Sister Mary Ignatius died as she had lived – a totally trusting soul.

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“Ask and you shall receive”

Sister Mary Teresa Joseph O’Farrell (Dundrum: 1856-1939) came as a novice of 25 on this foundation and was the first to be professed in this monastery. She did all in her power to build up this House of God, and lived her life for 56 years as a Carmelite with the thought: “The daily task will furnish all I ask”. Her love of poverty was remarkable. She did not hide her love for garments that were worn and patched, after the example of St.  Teresa who said she was “proud of the patched garments of the poor.” Her great happiness in her vocation, her love of the hidden life, and complete unworldliness made of her a soul after St. Teresa’s heart. She had a great love for the Divine Office, the Prayer of the Church. Her ardent zeal for the salvation of souls knew no bounds. Her interior graces were known to God alone, but we do know that she got all she asked for in prayer, even seemingly impossible things, all of which she attributed to “Holy Mary” and our Father St. Joseph. She had much physical suffering nearly all her life and became quite crippled with rheumatism in her later years, but her patience and gentleness showed the spirit of self-denial she had acquired. Her youngest sister, Helena, Sister Mary Angela, entered this monastery in 1888. They were the proud aunts of the Irish patriot, Rory O’Connor.

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The “Little Way”

Sister Mary of the Immaculate Conception Morrissey (Dublin: 1860-1946) came as a 21 year old postulant on this foundation. Having overcome her initial ill-health, she took her part, in a spirit of self-forgetfulness, in all the work of the beginnings. There was a spirit of great joy among the nuns because it was a labour of love. Later on when she became Mistress of Novices, which responsible office she held for many years, she passed on to the novices the spirit she had imbibed in those early days. She inspired them with great esteem and appreciation for the work done by the nuns themselves, holding up the “hidden life” of the Holy Family at Nazareth as their model of humble toil carried out in joyful obedience to God’s will. She was Prioress for 16 years (allowing for intervals), was a great organizer and made many improvements to the monastery, including the installation of electricity and water. And it was she who received Madeleine Sampson, aged 54 years, into the community in 1911 and gave her the name of Sister Thérèse de l’Enfant Jésus. She allowed her to work almost full-time in union with the Carmel of Lisieux translating into English their books and leaflets about the “Little Flower”, and other books on her which they wanted published in English. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus was canonised in 1925, but our Sister Thérèse continued to do this translation work until near her death at the age of 90 in 1947. Among the books she translated were: Thoughts of the Servant of God Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1915), The “Little Way” of Spiritual Childhood by Rev. G. Martin (1923), and The Spirit of Saint Thérèse de l’Enfant Jesus (1925). She also collaborated with Rev. M. Collins, A.M. in the translation of Lisieux Carmel’s The Little Catechism of the Act of Oblation of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1935) and At the School of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1938). Thus Mother Mary Conception enabled the Carmel of Kilmacud to contribute in this special way to the spread of the spirituality of St. Thérèse throughout the English-speaking world.


Now you might like to read about the Eighth Foundress! Click Here

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