Cardinal Timothy Dolan in New York, the most influential member of the Catholic Church in the U.S., was the driving force behind the creation of a new convent in Drogheda, Co. Louth, complete with four American nuns.
St. Colette’s convent, part of the bigger St. Mary’s parish in Drogheda, is now home to the American Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, otherwise known as Sisters Jacinta, Monica, Veronica and Kelly Francis.
They arrived in Ireland earlier this month as part of Dolan’s dream to repay the Sister of Mercy nuns in Drogheda who came to teach at his Missouri parish, Holy Infant, when he was growing up.
The Sisters of Mercy order eventually left Drogheda because of age and no new vocations, and Dolan came up with the idea to send four New York-based nuns, part of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal order, to Drogheda as a tribute to the Mercy nuns.
The local Irish bishops, Michael Smith of Meath and Denis Nulty of Kildare of Leighlin, were happy to help Dolan bring his Irish dream to reality.
“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,” Dolan wrote in the New York Archdiocese newspaper “Catholic New York.”
“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.”
The four Franciscan Sisters are now ensconced in their Drogheda home, and they are thrilled to be ministering in Ireland. St. Colette’s underwent a renovation to accommodate the new residents.
Sister Monica, 45, a native of Long Island with roots in counties Monaghan and Armagh, told “The Irish Times” that when she worked as an investment manager in Boston, she felt “something was missing.”
A trip to Medjugorje convinced her to become a nun.
Sister Jacinta, 39, originally from Northampton, knew she wanted to become a nun after a trip to Rome 13 years ago.
“I suddenly realized Jesus was interested in me personally. It deeply, deeply changed my heart. I was 26 . . . I was overwhelmed by this amazing joy you couldn’t manufacture. It was a feeling of almost like falling in love, which you cannot control,” she said.
The new arrivals were celebrated at a Mass at St. Mary’s in Drogheda on Thursday, August 15, and Dolan made the trip to Ireland to participate. The Mass was also celebrated by Smith and McNulty, while the papal nuncio in Ireland, Archbishop Charles Brown, was at the post-Mass gathering.
"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," Dolan said of the nuns' move.
The Franciscan Sisters of Renewal were founded in New York in 1988, with a mission of ministering to the poor.
“We are trusting in God to make it clear,” Sister Jacinta said of her mission to Ireland.