The radiant and sunlit day, as we gathered to celebrate in Ardfoyle on Saturday, was a fitting backdrop, mirroring the warmth and illumination you have brought into the lives of countless individuals throughout your devoted service to God’s Mission.
Sr. Clare Fitzgerald, marking a Platinum Jubilee, Sr. Maria Lee and Sr. Julie Doran, both celebrating Diamond Jubilees, and Sr. Janet Nutakor, honouring a Silver Jubilee, have embodied the spirit of the OLA Charism through their profound love and unwavering commitment to the principles of peace, justice, and the upliftment of the marginalised. Their tireless efforts to share God’s love through their diverse works have touched the hearts of many and remain a source of inspiration for us all.
May your steadfast dedication stand as a radiant example for each of us to follow. We express our heartfelt gratitude for your fearless and audacious service, and we pray that God’s blessings continue to illuminate your path as you persevere in your mission of love and compassion.
Below is the welcome address given by Sr Katheen McGarvey, OLA Provincial Leader.
Welcome Address, Jubilee Celebration, 9th September 2023, Ardfoyle
Good morning. You are all very welcome. Thank you for coming to join us on this very joyful day. Cead mile failte to our four Jubilarians: Clare Fitzgerald, Maria Lee, Julie Doran, and Janet Nutakor. It is the four of you and the gift of your lives that we are gathered today to celebrate in thanksgiving.
Welcome to the friends of our Jubilarians: you are all welcome to Ardfoyle and to this celebration. Failte to Fr Paddy O’Rourke SMA, and to all our OLA Sisters, especially you who have come from our other communities to celebrate with us.
Each of the four women we are celebrating today is unique, with her own personality, family background, gifts, strengths, weaknesses… each one has her own unique story, and the path of life and mission God has called each one of them to has been very different. Yet, each received the call from God to consecrate her life to God’s service, especially in Africa, as a Religious and as a Missionary, within the OLA family. As OLA Sisters they are bound together by their vows, embodying the gift of the OLA Charism, and sharing in the mission entrusted to the OLA congregation.
Today, we commemorate and celebrate the fact that Janet professed her life to God, in the service of God’s Kingdom as an OLA Sister, twenty-five silver years ago, Maria and Julie each did so sixty diamond years ago, and Clare did so seventy platinum years ago. Sisters, today we thank God who called you, and we thank you for your generous response to that call over these years. And with you, we remember your parents, family, friends, the sisters who were with you on that day, as well as the Sisters you have lived with in community and the many other people who have touched their lives and whose lives they have touched, and continue to touch, along that journey.
Sr Clare, a Cork woman, whose baptismal name was Mary Patricia, entered Ardfoyle in February 1951, following in the footsteps of her brother Michael, who was ordained as a Columban missionary priest in 1949. She made her first profession on the 8th Sept 1953, did a degree in UCC, and in September 1957 she set sail for Africa. First to Maryland in Lagos (Nigeria) for two years, then to Ho in Ghana for another two years. She returned to Ireland for one year to do her H.Dip, and then back to Nigeria in September 1963 where she lived and ministered as a teacher and school administrator for the next twenty-five years, in Marymount Agbor, Sacred Heart College Ubiaja, St Mary’s Iwo, OLA Oke-Offa, and Maryway Ibadan. She returned to Ireland in November 1988, taught for some time in Mercy School Skibbereen, and then in July 1990 she went to England to live and minister in parish work in both London and Lancaster. In late 1998, she returned to Ireland and since then has been here in Ardfoyle. I remember her running the library here, a first-class service; teaching English to so many OLA and other Sisters who came here to learn; sending interesting articles to the Province newsletter; writing beautiful letters to Sisters on mission; and offering so many other services in this community. For the past number of years, debilitating health of mind and body has confined her to her bed in the infirmary. Clare who has always been gentle, compassionate, and kind, is today quietly receiving compassion and care from the staff and the Sisters, for which we are all sincerely grateful. May she be blessed today on her Platinum jubilee.
Sr Julie, from Wexford, entered Ardfoyle in Feb 1961, and made her first profession on the 8th September 1963. As a young professed we know she helped Sr Berardin write her memoirs which we have just published and for which we are very grateful. In August 1965 she set out on her first missionary tour to Jos in Nigeria where she helped in the OLA hospital for three years. She then qualified as a nurse in Drogheda and as a midwife in Edinburgh, after which she went to work in Egypt for a year. On return to Ireland in 1976, she served for two years in the OLA Nursing Home in Castlemagarret (Mayo) and in 1978, she returned to Africa, this time to Ghana, where she served for six years in Nkwanta Hospital. In 1984, she left Ghana to go once again to Nigeria where she served as a nurse and administrator in Zawan for eight years and in Kabba, Lokoja for five years, with some months in Somalia working as a volunteer with Goal in late 1992, during the famine. She returned to Ireland in 1998, and since then has been based in Ballsbridge in Dublin, involved in many different missionary services, including collecting mite-boxes, accompanying African priests and religious, serving on the Episcopal Commission for Immigrants, reaching out in support to refugees and migrants in many different and invaluable ways, helping with visa applications for OLAs and others who seek to come to Ireland, always ready to offer a helping hand in ways that only Julie can make possible. In an interview with the Irish Catholic last year, Julie said that the message of Consecrated Life is one of Hope. As Julie celebrates sixty years of religious missionary life today, we ask God to keep the flame of Hope alive in her heart that she may continue reflecting the joy and hope of the Gospel to all those she meets.
Sr Maria, from Dublin, entered Ardfoyle in March 1961 and made her first profession with Julie on the 8th September 1963. Immediately after Profession she was sent for one year to help in the OLA Juniorate in Rostrevor, teaching Music. Maria was always musical and even the reference letter sent to Ardfoyle from Sr Imelda, the Prioress in Santa Sabina school in Sutton where Maria had been a pupil for ten years, said “she was a very intelligent girl and showed exceptional talent in Art and Music”!. Sr Imelda also said, “she was a diligent and conscientious student… truthful, honest, honourable, obedient, loyal, generous, and reliable”. When I read that I thought Waoh! – as she was when she was young, so she still is today – now more experienced and wiser, but still with those shining qualities, which I, in particular, very much appreciate over these almost ten years of serving together on the Provincial Leadership Team! Returning to Cork in June ’64, Maria continued some studies in Piano, helped in the Primary School here in Ardfoyle, and also did her BA and HDip in UCC. Then in September 1971, she set out on her first missionary tour, to Nigeria where she spent six years as a teacher, first in Marymount Agbor, then St Teresa’s Ibadan, and then St Mary’s Iwo. She returned to Ireland in mid-1977 and taught in Secondary Schools in Mitchelstown and in Cobh, until she was asked to help the Leadership team from 1980 – 83. In 1984 she returned to Nigeria where she spent the next fifteen years, as a teacher and school administrator in Ibadan (St Teresa’s and then Maryhill), as well as serving two terms on the Provincial Leadership Team in Nigeria from ’94 – 2003. She was then asked to serve as English Secretary in the Generalate in Rome where she worked until November 2013 when she was elected to serve on the Provincial Leadership Team here in Ireland. Here, as well as being an invaluable member of the Team, she is also invaluable in the Choir and in so many other ways here in the Community, as well as keeping in close contact with her family in the US. Maria, thank you! Ad moltos annos!
Janet, from Ghana, first met the OLA Sisters in OLA Secondary School in Ho, where Maura Cranney was Assistant Headmistress. She then entered the OLAs in Brafuyaw, Cape Coast in January 1995, did two years novitiate in Nigeria, and made her first profession in Ibadan on the 11th September 1998. All along the journey she was in contact with Irish OLA Sisters, with the Late Sr Catherine Buckley as her postulant mistress and the late Sr Carmel Cox as the assistant novice mistress. Sr Josephine Enenmo was her novice mistress. After first profession, Janet worked for four years in OLA primary school Hwidiem, and then a year in Elmina boarding school. In 2003, she went for studies in Cape Coast for a Degree in Education, during which she continued to accompany the boarders in Elmina. After her studies, she was Principal for four years in Queen of Apostles Primary School in Elmina, and then moved to Cape Coast where she served as Provincial Secretary and also helped with the formation of the postulants. In 2013, she moved to Vroom where she taught for two years in Archbishop Porter Girls Polytechnic, where she was also the bursar. In September 2015, she came to Ireland to do a master’s degree in development in Kimmage. Since the completion of her Masters in 2017, she has been on mission here in Ireland. She first lived in Ballsbridge community and in 2021 moved to Balbriggan as one of the pioneer members of our new intercultural missionary community there. Here in Ireland, Janet is engaged in outreach to migrants especially Africans living in Ireland, in various forms of ministry to the vulnerable, in parish work, catechism in schools. She is a very active member of the OLA-SMA JPIC Commission, the OLA MVA Commission, and is our Mission Development Officer with Misean Cara. She is also highly committed to the Association of African Priests and Religious in Ireland (AAPRI). We are delighted so many friends and collaborators who are in ministry with Janet are here with us today. Janet, thank you for your commitment, your gentleness, patience, love, and for being such a faithful member of the Irish Province. Congratulations on your silver jubilee!
The stories of Clare, Julie, Maria and Janet, are varied, but aspects of what we call OLA charism and spirituality abound from the life journey of each of them: they each worked generously, with audacity, with great love and self-sacrifice in the field to which she was sent. They worked for and in OLA mission, each in a different way, and they continue to do so today through their service, their prayer, their presence, their witness, and their person.
Thank you, Sisters, for your commitment to God and to mission. We are happy we have this opportunity to celebrate you and your life today. We pray that God may grant each one of you your heart’s desire and many more years of health, happiness, and inner peace.
Again, welcome and may we all enjoy our day!
I now hand you over to Fr Paddy to begin our Eucharistic celebration.