However, this morning, the dates as well as the names fascinated me. Mary Mullan had died in 1855; Bridget O’Neill, in 1861; Elizabeth Kehoe, in 1879; on and on, through the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Do the math, I told myself; these women are survivors of the Great Starvation. They or their parents had somehow escaped the catastrophe that killed one million and sent two million more running for their lives. All of these O’Grady, Ryan, Fitzgerald, O’Connor, and O’Hanlon women could tell a story of courage and resilience. All devoted their lives to serving their poor and disadvantaged countrymen, women, and children.
I felt their spirits in this place, encouraging and protecting the Sisters who carry on the mission they began. As they face these many challenges, we too can offer our support.
(Just as this article was going to press, word came that Cardinal Rodé had been replaced by Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz, who, in interviews, seems more open to real dialogue with women religious. Write to Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz c/o Apostolic Visitation, P.O. Box 4328, Hamden, CT 06514-9998, or e-mail www.apostolicvisitation.org to say how grateful we are to the Sisters who helped so many of us.)