New orders offer way to fill ‘sisters gap’
The disappearance of religious women from Ireland’s religious landscape has been colossal, a Cork priest has said, explaining a decision to invite a new community into his parish.
Canon Michael Fitzgerald invited a group of sisters from the Spanish-based Servants of the Home of the Mother to his Mitchelstown parish in an attempt to replace the Presentation Sisters who played a key role in the town until 2002.
“I became parish priest here in 2008, and immediately I could see what a loss the nuns going was to the community. I suppose I’ve been trying to find a community the last 10 years,” he told The Irish Catholic.
“I think priests have a role in a parish, especially a town parish, but I think nuns have an invaluable role to play they make contacts with people and people make contacts with them in a way that they wouldn’t make contact with the priest,” he continued.
“There’s a huge sisters gap, and the loss here of the community of Presentation nuns was colossal,” he explained, adding that even without the sisters’ unique gifts the town’s clergy could in any case use their support in helping with the seven schools in the area.
“That was very much in my thinking – that we need a community, especially a community that would be interested in evangelisation, teaching and catechetics, who would be able to give that kind of support better,” he said.
Cloyne’s Bishop William Crean has backed the move, and a related decision to introduce a group of priests and brothers from the same order to Mallow.
Sisters from the Servants of the Home of the Mother have been based in Elphin Diocese since May 2017, according to Bishop Kevin Doran, who said that even beyond their activities in the diocese, the sisters contribute immensely purely by being role models.
“Very often it’s not about what they do but who they are,” he told this newspaper, explaining that the simple fact of them being committed religious women was an important factor in deciding to invite them to the diocese in the first place.
“It’s very important for us that we also have visible signs of young women who are committed to consecrated life – just like you’d have young married people and young priests.”