Internationality and many Generations Enrich English / Irish Region
Today we will journey to a very intercultural SSpS Region, where passion for mission is the only reason for the variety of apostolates they carry out with a very small number of sisters. Let’s see what they have to tell us about their lives and mission.
We have two communities in England and one in Ireland. The Regional House is in Ireland. At present we are 14 members with seven nationalities.
Brexit has become a challenge as the UK is now isolated from Europe and has different rules, while Ireland belongs to the EU and has similar rules.
We always have problems as we cannot transfer sisters from one country to another easily due to visa requirements.
We organise a regional retreat/pilgrimage together every two years. Last year our pilgrimage was in Steyl (picture above).
Communities and Apostolates
We live in multicultural and multireligious societies. Our communities are international with sisters from other countries and continents. This is advantageous as we are exposed to other cultures and other cultures are exposed to the English/Irish cultures.
Our sisters have a passion for mission and our ministries do not get less. We are present in three communities: Dublin, Birmingham and Bristol.
Main Apostolates in Dublin
In Dublin, among other apostolates our Sisters also care for homeless women.
We have the Communication Ministry, working for SVD Kairos Communications, preparing materials and organising speakers for regular videos of saints etc, editing work which is very time-consuming. Collaborating with other congregations and organisations.
Sr. Gini George working with SVD Kairos Communications (on left) and Sr. Carmen Lee helping in the Parish Office and meeting the parishioners in Dublin.
Misean Cara and funds for SSpS missions: Misean Cara is the recipient of Irish Government Aid which funds 89 different mission congregations. We have received funds for projects which our Sisters are involved with in Africa and South America.
We are working in the parish office shop, knitting and crocheting for sailors and supporting the mission to seafarers. We are teaching English to speakers of other languages on zoom and to our own Sisters studying English.
We encourage the Holy Spirit Missionary Association by keeping in touch by phone, letters and emails. We also supplying them with spiritual leaflets etc. on Feasts like Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
Vocation Promotion stall at an Exhibition in Ireland.
VIVAT International Ireland has 6 congregations working together including SVD and SSpS. We produce prayer booklets on various themes. These can be found on the website. We also produce annual action plans together mostly on the subject of displaced people and ecology (picture bellow on left).
We visit neighbours, people who live alone and Nursing Homes and host English language students SSpS and other students (picture above on right).
We support and visit our SVD brothers and occasionally have Mass and shared prayer together. We also visit our sister’s relatives.
Supporting our SVD brothers at their Ordinations and First Masses and keeping in touch with them and celebrating Easter with the SVDs.
Main Apostolates in Birmingham
Our Sisters work in Tabor House, a place for homeless people, to help them move on in life, eventually find a job and be able to live independently. We also supply soup and sandwiches to homeless people who come to our house.
Sr. Mary Hudson preparing sandwiches and soup for the homeless (on left) and Sr. Yudith Anu in Tabor House – providing a safe place for young homeless (on rigth).
Refugees and Asylum Seekers – St. Chad’s Sanctuary – is a day centre where people come for help of all kinds including clothing, food, help with completing forms, English classes and counselling.
Classes for refugees and asylum seekers at the Sanctuary of St. Chad.
One Sister works as a Hospital Chaplain at the Children’s Hospital. Our Sisters also are involved with the Justice and Peace Commission of Birmingham Diocese and Justice and Peace Parish of St. Francis of Assisi.
Welcoming the stranger in Birmingham.
Our Sisters participating in the Gathering of Young Catholics in London – England: an opportunity to meet new friends.
One of the Sisters decorating the Parish Church of St. Francis of Assisi and, right, Sr. Meinar Nahak at the SSpS Junior Sisters Annual Meeting.
In the Parish of St. Francis of Assisi, we participate in Youth Ministry, vocation promotion and spiritual guidance, as well as guiding Prayer and Retreat Guide in Daily Life. We are actively involved in the local parish community as readers, help with the children’s liturgy and flower arranging.
The community produce a Newsletter – Linking – for our Region. This is widely circulated and gives news of what is happening in the Region and Congregation. We also support student Sisters who come to learn English or attend other courses.
Main Apostolates in Bristol
We are involved in the Parish, especially with pastoral care, visiting the sick and bringing Communion to the sick in their homes, joining the Church choir, playing the organ and leading the music. Some Sisters also help in the preparation for Communion and Confirmation. We also visit the Care and Nursing homes, bring Communion and give spiritual care.
We collaborate with other Christian denominations and work closely with the Baptist and Anglican communities joining with them in their outreach program for the poor, marginalised and those suffering addiction. On important Feasts we join other Christian denominations and they also join our Parish community. One Sister teaches music to children.
Sr. Ernestin, Agnes Kou giving a music class (on left). On the right the Food Bank: Sr. Sujata Sawarimuthu (center) and Sr. Adelina Tao-ing.
We also work at a Food Bank providing food and helping those who find it difficult to cope. Our house is available for retreats for children from the local school and also for other Parish meetings. Different cultural groups also use our house for spiritual and social occasions and our Sisters are available and help in these groups.
Some Sisters are involved with Youth Ministry in two Parishes which increases the participation of young people in the life of the Church.
The Sisters help the SVD Parish by being part of the Parish Pastoral Council and involved in youth ministry. We are connected with other congregations especially with the Sisters of Divine Providence CDP through translations and conference interpretations.
Our Sisters working with nature
Joys and Struggles
Living with different nationalities and generations is enriching and also a challenge.
We have good collaborations with other organizations (Sanctuary and Tabor House) and with other Religious Communities (Mercy Sisters, Jesuits Noviciate Community, Vietnamese Chaplaincy).
Good contact with the Local Church and Diocese where we live. Support and encouragements from people whom we work with. International and interfaith presence in Birmingham.
In Ireland, due to past history, there is a certain anti-church and anti-Christian element but there is still a strong faith among many people. A lot of young people are committed to their faith. There is also a desire among people to find a spirituality in their lives.
There is a danger of burnout as some sisters are involved in multiple ministries.
As a consequence of an Anti-Refugee attitude of UK Government, more and more people are now living on the street. We also realize that there are gun and drug abuse among young people in our area. In a secular society there is a call for witness.
As Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit we commit ourselves to live in communities rooted in the Triune God. Living and working in a secular, multi-cultural and multi-faith society we are open to new ways of witnessing to Christ.
Our international communities bring a witness of harmony and peace in a society suffering from exclusion and striving to find meaning in their lives.
Sr. Joan Quirke, SSpS – Regional Leader of the Region of England-Ireland