From New York to Ireland, With Gratitude

Let me begin, on this Feast of St. Dominic, by wishing all of the Dominican family—priests, sisters, brothers, third order—all the best, and praising God for their years in this archdiocese.
Next week I’ll be in Ireland for a project very close to my heart. I spoke to you about it last year in The Blessed Cycle of Evangelization! in Catholic New York, December 27, 2012, but want to “beam” about it again, because it belongs to all of you grand people of the Archdiocese of New York as well.
You have often heard me speak with love and gratitude about the Sisters of Mercy who, in 1957, came from Drogheda, Ireland, to teach at Holy Infant Parish Grade School, Ballwin, Missouri. The successors of those original four sisters are still there in the school.
Those religious women had a profound impact on my life. They were my teachers in six of my eight elementary school years, and still serve as friends and mentors. Yes, they were splendid educators, but they were also strong women of warm, deep, joyful faith, who passed that love for Jesus and His Church to one young Timmy Dolan.
My love and gratitude for them knows no restraint, and I have for decades reached for a way to repay Ireland for the gift they gave Holy Infant Parish in the Sisters of Mercy from Drogheda.
A couple of years ago, the Sisters had to make the painful decision to leave Drogheda. Age and shrinking numbers had caught up with them. Along with the sisters who left, I shed a few tears.
Now, here in the archdiocese, we are blessed with a relatively new order of consecrated women religious, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. They are renowned for their lives of prayer, simplicity, and ministry to the poor. Thank God, they also have a harvest of young, joyful vocations.
I decided to take Jesus at His word: “Cast out to the deep!” Thus, I began to dream. This led me to ask the Bishop of Meath, my old friend, Most Reverend Michael Smith—the section of Drogheda where the Sisters of Mercy ministered is within his diocese, and it was his predecessor who had approved the sisters first going to America in 1957—if he would be open to some sisters from here in New York ministering in Drogheda. He shared my excitement about it. He and I both spoke with the Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Drogheda, Father Denis Nulty—who by the way, was just ordained the new Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin last Sunday!—about his openness to the initiative, and he, too, was thrilled.
One last, important step…listening again to Jesus, “Be not afraid!,” I approached Sister Lucille Cutrone, the superior of our own Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. She and the sisters said, “Fiat.” Yes, we’ll go! Alleluia!
Last Saturday, I celebrated Mass for the community at their convent in Harlem, and then had a special blessing and commissioning of the three sisters who were to depart for Ireland that very evening: Sister Monica, Sister Veronica, and Sister Kelly Francis. It was an emotional Mass!
While there, I viewed the photographs from their recently completed “summer school” they had conducted for hundreds of neighborhood children. As I left, the lines of hungry were already forming outside the door for their “Solanus Kitchen.”
Which reminded me that the charism of our Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal are allied with that of Mother Catherine McCauley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy: the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, especially through outreach to the poor, home visitation, and education of children. The apostolate goes on!
So, I depart next week for the “Mass of Welcome” for our sisters, as they move into St. Collette’s Convent right next to St. Mary’s Parish, on the River Boyne, in Drogheda, Ireland.
Yes, it will be a very happy day for this boy from Ballwin, trained by Irish sisters, who now daily offers Mass in the cathedral dedicated to St. Patrick. But, I trust it will be a happier day for the Church, especially the ancient Church of Ireland, to whom we Americans owe so much.
God bless you, Sisters of Mercy of Drogheda!
God bless you, Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal from the Archdiocese of New York!
God bless Ireland!