Bidding adieu to 2014!

Ok, it was to be expected. One simply cannot have a blog and not write an end of year review.
Many of you have heard me use the word ‘rollercoaster’ to describe the past year of my life. I don’t know what other word to use….well maybe, a rollercoaster of grace.

There have been many highlights.

For two years I was ‘living’ in the winter wonderland of Ottawa, Canada. I say ‘living’ because there was a fair bit of travelling too because I was linked up to the community in Montreal which I visited often. Plus I had the blessing to spend a summer in Toronto as well as a few weeks around Christmas in New York. All these encounter, both planned and unplanned, allowed me to meet wonderful people who continuously reminded me that we are pilgrims on the way home to God. My sisters there were so good and hospitable to me. I count them as a huge blessing in my life and I know that God will reward them for their immense kindness to me.
Just finished Comprehensive Exams!

Graduating with my Licentiate in Canon Law was a bitter sweet moment. Three little letters, JCL, but they caused a lot of work, study, stress and even some sweat and tears along the way. But it was worth it! Part of me couldn’t believe that I had made it through the study, the continuous assessments, mental timetables and schedules, the exams, the research, the papers not to mention the dreaded Comprehensive Exams. By May 28th, I was completely devoid of energy and was running on pure adrenalin and coffee. I felt the power of prayer which carried me through and am so grateful to the many people who lit candles, prayed, sent messages to keep me motivated and encouraged. The other part of me was sad to leave the fantastic group of JCL Graduation Year 2014! Seriously lads, we could write a book with the various adventures in Deschatelets and University of St. Paul! I don’t regret a minute of it….even with all the challenges that there were, especially that of being the only female in the class!

In June 2014, to conclude our Licentiate, we had a two week study visit to the Roman Curia. As well as being very interesting to visit the many offices which deal with the various structures which we had been studying for the past two years, it was a great time spent together as classmates. We visited the places of the saints, ate gelato and pizza and enjoyed being ‘tourists’ during our very limited free time. Sitting in St. Peter’s Square listening to Pope Francis and his Wednesday audience was the cherry on the cake as we reflected how this international group of future canonists would be serving the Church and its people in different parts of the word.

Christmas visit from the munchkins!
A huge highlight was finally coming home and reconnecting with my communities, friends and family, especially these little people below! Being away for two years, I had yet to meet my newest nephew who was born three months after I left, as well as reconnecting with the others. I really grew to appreciate technology and especially the skype calls which allowed me to follow their progress and see their happy faces and their amazing individual personalities. It kept me going in times of homesickness. It has been such a huge blessing to be with them during the various occasions. I continue to marvel at how fast they grow, how creative and talented they are and above all how much they are loved by so many people. I love them to bits, even if they are starting to get taller than me!

2014 was the year where I started a new job as Assistant Vicar for Religious in the Archdiocese of Dublin as well as assisting in the Office for Clergy. To say that the first few months were a baptism of fire would be the understatement of the year but I survived, and not only, but I feel I thrived, thanks to support of community, family and friends, especially the long-distance canonical and not so canonical consultations of classmates and companions. Now with the Year of Consecrated Life fully in swing since November 2014, I have a lot to keep me on my toes and promote the ‘treasure in clay vessels’ that is the gift of religious life.

Celebrating 10 years of religious profession with my family
Speaking of ‘treasures in clay vessels’, I had the opportunity to celebrate ‘my treasure’ on the 2nd of October as I marked 10 years of religious profession. Wow! Where did those 10 years go? Joined by my community, family, friends and other priests and religious, we offered the Eucharist of Thanksgiving for the gift of fidelity and the marvels that the Lord continues to do amidst the frailties and weaknesses of this servant of His. God knows it hasn’t been easy but by His grace, I give Him a heart-filled ‘YES’ to whatever He asks of me day by day.
If the many blessings which I received in Canada could be measured, I would have needed more suitcases coming home, I tell you! In this light, I look at the various challenges which 2014 brought.

It was also a year of saying goodbyes to special people.

As mentioned, it was tough saying goodbye to all the good friends and companions I had made in Ottawa and Canada. I often look at our class photo on my desk and marvel at how God can call together such a diverse group of people to journey together. Starting off ‘accidently’ as classmates, after two years, it is great to see the friendships and bonds which have been formed, above all, a spiritual bond where we pray for each other. Each person taught me so much about life and myself. I feel indebted to them for their companionship and the madness which will go down in the annals! I came home from Canada not just with a JCL or Masters, but also with other ‘diplomas’ in the school of life! These ones, however, don’t go up on a wall but are used every day!

Bidding farewell to the parishioners at Sagrada Familia
During my time in Canada, we were blessed to have Mass every day in our chapel, thanks to the priests who made themselves available for this ministry. Upon invitation of a friend of mine, I started attending the local parish on Sundays which happened to be a Hispanic Parish, Sagrada Familia. It was there that I learned the true meaning of Church and community. Although initially I didn’t speak Spanish, I was always welcomed so warmly and out of this community I made new friendships among families who ‘adopted’ me and others, making us feel at home and supporting us by prayer and genuine concern.
Sr. M. Gabriela, + 21st of February 2014

Our community in Heaven continues to grow and this year God called home to himself some special people in my life.In February 2014, Sr. M. Gabriela, my companion from Perpetual Vows, at the tender age of 33, lost a battle to cancer which was diagnosed only a few days previous to her death. This came as a huge shock to us all, especially her Sisters in Poland and her family, as well as our groups from Perpetual Vows. I know I speak for our group when we say we miss her presence and her smile with us!

Sr. Marie Paul O' Brien   + 15th June 2014

The Lord also called for Sr. M. Paul, my sister in the community in Dublin who also fought a short battle with cancer. She was my daily ‘motivator’ whilst I was in Canada. I could always rely on the text message with some motivation quote or Scripture verse which always seemed to arrive at the right time and exactly when I needed some moral support. Even in her sickness, she continued to teach us the importance of giving time to people, especially those who are most vulnerable. She really did hang on for me to come back and went to God on the 15th of June, the day I arrived back to Ireland. I had the blessing of being with her on that last stretch home and witnessed her serenity in taking her last breath. The void left in our community can only be filled with our hope that she is at peace and not suffering anymore. We have so many happy and quirky memories of her. The communion of saints with those of us who continue to walk the journey of faith on this earth is a huge source of strength for us.

So what does 2015 look like!?! Well, God is a God of surprises so we never know! One of my resolutions is to live the present moment, not easy for one who tends to be a micro-manager! But in the meanwhile I look forward to the Year of Consecrated Life and all that brings, Rise of the Roses, some Canon Law Conferences and the continuous discovery of myself as I live my life with my sisters, family, friends, work colleagues and all those whom the Lord chooses to put upon the pilgrim path which I walk day by day. Bring on the rollercoaster of 2015. May it be full of many blessings!