This is a year like no other, and due to the restrictions put into place due to the COVID-29 pandemic, we were unable to celebrate our Jubilarians in our customary fashion. Instead, we held our Jubilee Prayer via Zoom and thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we welcomed input from our sisters across the globe. We were able to celebrate not only our Irish sisters, but OLA sisters across the world who were marking their anniversaries of entering into Religious life.

Yesterday, we held a private, community celebration in gratitude and celebration of Sisters Colombiere and Thomasina, for their many wonderful years of service to the Kingdom of God. We remembered also Sr Rita Dung, who is on mission in Tanzania.

As it was so eleoquently expressed by Sr Eithna Synnott at our online prayer meeting:

“A poet once said,
Earth is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God…
God who leads us to many wild and distant places,
Who has filled our lives with so many undreamed things,
Sisters Columbiere, Thomasina, Rita and all celebrating jubilees,
Did you imagine as a youngster that this is how your life would be?
A beautiful God Love song.
No? No matter!
We are so glad you took that undreamed of path,
Heaven must be a riot of joy today because of you.
So let us be the same!”

Below you will find the address by Sr Kathleen McGarvey on this joyful occasion.

Good morning. You are all very welcome. Thank you for coming to join us on this very joyful day. Cead mile failte to Sisters Colombiere and Thomasina, our two Jubilarians, whose life we are gathered today to celebrate.  We also hold very present in our hearts and prayers Sr Rita Dung, another member of our Irish Province on mission in Tanzania, who is marking her silver jubilee today and will celebrate it with the Sisters in Tanzania and later in Nigeria..

Today, due to the present circumstances of COVID-19, we are sorry that we could not have your family members and our Sisters from the other communities present here with us. However, we know they are gathered with us in prayer and in joy on this great occasion. Failte to Fr Eddie O’Connor SMA, our chief celebrant today and thank you Eddie for coming to celebrate this Mass with us.

We are here for a Jubilee, to celebrate the anniversary of something significant for which we are all grateful. Today we commemorate and celebrate the fact that these two great women, Colombiere and Thomasina, each professed her life to God, in the service of God’s Kingdom, seventy and sixty years ago. Through these past many years, they have lived the ups and downs of life’s journey, have travelled many miles and touched many lives, have known joys and sorrows, have grown in wisdom, and are still here with us, both now in the Infirmary and still touching many lives, still doing their best within the circumstances dictated by health and age, to be faithful to what they professed all those years ago.  Sisters Colombiere and Thomasina: today, we thank God who called you, and we thank you for your generous response to that call.

On the 6th March1948, Sr Colombiere, then just eighteen years of age and known as Johanna O’Driscoll, travelled with her parents and a neighbour from Kilbrittan in Cork to Ardfoyle. It is hard to imagine what the Irish province would have been like if that journey had not happened. How many of us would be here in Ardfoyle today and indeed would Ardfoyle even still be here?  Only God knows. The life of the Irish Province as well as so many of our Sisters in Ghana and Nigeria, and as of so many other people whose lives Colombiere has touched so positively, through her missionary years in Ghana and Nigeria and her many years in leadership here in Ireland, would be so very different if it had not been for this mighty, committed, competent, visionary, determined, beautiful woman.  

After first Profession seventy years ago today, Sr Colombiere spent some time in England for studies, followed by nine years teaching in various OLA schools in Ghana; then further studies in UCC, and back to Ghana to work in Teacher training, for eight more years. From 1972 until 1981 she served as Provincial Leader here in the Irish Province which at that time included Nigeria and Ghana. Apart from many other wise decisions she made during those years, I’m told it was Colombiere who led us to make the prudent choice of investments without which we could not be here today ensuring the care of our Sisters and the continuation of our mission; for her vision we are truly grateful. After completing her mandate in leadership, Colombiere went to Nigeria where she will be forever remembered for her contribution to the formation of many OLA novices in Maryhill over the next eight years. She returned to Ireland in 1998 to assume the role of Ardfoyle Superior for eight years, followed by another five years as Provincial Councillor. From my own relatively short experience in Leadership, I can only stand in awe at one who could generously assume this role in diverse capacities for so many years, and who did so very well. Colombiere then dedicated over ten years to the archives, ensuring that today we can boast of a rich, well recorded history of the OLA legacy over these many years.  Today, Colombiere continues to be a light among us and we take this occasion of her 70th jubilee to thank God for her and to wish her many more years of health and peace.

Sr Thomasina is another amazing lady, this time a Mayo woman, from Hollymount, a happy, cheerful, sensitive woman who entered Ardfoyle in 1958 at the age of twenty-one, Anne Christiana Hughes. Again, can we imagine life in our Province and congregation without the presence and contribution of Sr Thomasina over all these years? After her first profession sixty years ago,  Thomasina served for two years in Ireland before going in 1962 on her first missionary journey, sent to Nigeria where she was to stay until 1990, apart from a  few years in England for further studies. Sr Thomasina was a teacher and taught in St Mary’s (Lagos), Maryway (Ibadan), Maryland (Lagos) and Maryhill (Ibadan). Even after thirty years since leaving Nigeria, she is so fondly remembered by the Sisters there. I myself first met Thomasina when I was a postulant in Ibadan and I am always grateful for the kindness she showed towards me, her joy and her gentle goodness always shining forth.  In 1990, Thomasina returned to Ireland, and for many years was engaged in the ministry of fundraising and mission awareness, travelling the highways and by-ways, together with Sr Fintan and others, collecting mite-boxes throughout the country to gather monies for the OLA mission in Africa. She also served in later years as a community driver here in Ardfoyle, bringing sisters for doctor or hospital appointments and wherever she was required to bring them; the day health demanded that she give up driving was indeed not an easy day for her. Thomasina’s beautiful singing voice has always been such an asset in the choir not only in Ardfoyle but also throughout her missionary years in Nigeria, and it is lovely to see her singing from time to time even now as she listens to Daniel O’Donnell in the infirmary. Today, Thomasina shines forth in her simplicity, her appreciation of simple kindnesses shown towards her, and we pray God will bless her in a special way today as we celebrate her Diamond Jubilee.

To begin our liturgy today we wish to bring a few symbols to the altar, which speak of the life of our two Jubilarians. I invite those bringing these to the altar to please come forth:

  • The OLA Constitutions, which represent the life commitment of our Jubilarians, our communion as OLA Sisters, called to dedicate our lives to mission ad gentes ad extra ad vitam as our two Sisters have done and continue to do.
  • An African carving, symbolising our love of Africa and our commitment to the proclamation of God’s Reign of Peace and Justice particularly in Africa, and especially to women.
  • A Candle, symbolising the Light which calls us and which sends us to be a Light to the Nations. May the light of Christ, which shines forth through the witness of Sisters Colombiere and Thomasina, continue to shine brightly in their hearts, bringing peace and love to all they meet.

Congratulations Sisters. Enjoy the celebrations.

Kathleen McGarvey
Provincial Leader