Missionaries have to trust their labours will bear fruit when they’re gone, writes Kelly Koerwer
“Hi my name is Kelly and I’m a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame. I live in Dublin and I work at the Notre Dame-Newman Centre for Faith and Reason at University Church on St Stephen’s Green. I’m in Ireland because of a postgraduate service program called the House of Brigid.”
That’s the typical introduction I give people when I meet someone new in the work environment. Here, though, I can afford to go into detail.
I graduated from the University of Notre Dame last May. I moved to Ireland in August to do two years of ministry through House of Brigid, or Teach Bhríde.
It’s a service program run by the University of Notre Dame that sends recent university graduates from America to live and work for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
We spend one to two years living and working in community at a parish assisting with its needs and learning more about the Irish Catholic Church. House of Brigid began in 2009 at Clonard Church in Wexford town. Now there are two communities: one at Clonard and one at University Church.
I am happy to say that this is not my first time living in Ireland. I was fortunate enough to study at Trinity College Dublin for Michaelmas Term in 2015. I fell in love with Ireland then. Three months at Trinity wasn’t nearly enough time to truly learn and embrace Irish culture. I knew I needed more time here. That’s partially why I decided to apply to House of Brigid last year.
In addition to increasing my knowledge of and appreciation for Ireland, I also wanted to grow in my faith and use my musical talents. Some of the fundamental aspects of House of Brigid are the importance of music ministry and living in an intentional community to foster faith.
As a member of House of Brigid in Dublin, I sing in both choirs at Newman University Church (the Newman University Singers and Vocare) and I help plan and sing the music for our weekly Taizé service. In both instances I have the opportunity to lift my voice in song with the rest of the congregation in order to give praise to God.
Coming over to live in Ireland for the second time was even better than the first. My two fellow House of Brigid Dublin members and I were warmly welcomed by every person we met. Of course, there were several curious parishioners and choir members asking what brought three young Americans to Ireland.
After explaining our year of service, we were met with smiles and hopes for a successful year. We couldn’t have felt more at home.
Serving at the Notre Dame-Centre for Faith and Reason (NDNC) gives House of Brigid Dublin a unique opportunity to engage with young Catholics: those studying in university and those working in Dublin City Centre.
The mission of NDNC is to provide a space for events that engage in conversation between faith and reason in order to show that in our modern age it is entirely possible for faith and reason to be in agreement.
In fact, they strengthen each other and enrich life. The mission isn’t something that can be immediately realized. It will take time and hard work, but the end-result will be worth it.
Time is one of the challenges of serving as a member of House of Brigid. Most volunteers live in Wexford or Dublin for one year. By the time that people feel as though they’re truly getting to know their Irish neighbours, coworkers, and parishioners, it is already time to begin saying goodbye. As a result of that one-year constraint, most members of House of Brigid rarely get to see the long-term fruits of their labors.
Still we persist because we know that we are participating in worthwhile work. After all, we get just as much out of the program as we put in.
We have the priceless opportunity to learn from the Irish about their culture and their Church.
One of the most rewarding parts of this year of ministry is the opportunity to form relationships with so many incredible people, whether they are regular Sunday Mass attendees or a person passing through Dublin who stumbled upon our Taizé service on a Tuesday night.
Ireland has such a history and reputation for hospitality that it is so life-giving to have the chance to participate in that tradition with the people we meet at University Church.
In my last six months in Ireland I have learned so much from so many people. I am thankful for the opportunity to return to Ireland and to learn from her people. I will always treasure my time here. I hope that House of Brigid can continue to do good work.
For more information about the House of Brigid, see: http://www.houseofbrigid.org/