The wisdom of an Irish missionary

Missionaries have remarkable motivation and faith

I was at a conference on vocations some years ago in Dublin. Beside me sat a missionary sister who had just returned to Ireland after many years abroad. The conference speaker was giving advice to the largely young audience on discernment and providing some tips on how to figure out one’s vocation in life. The discussion was thrown open to the floor and many younger religious contributed, speaking about how they felt so happy in their vocation and how they saw this as a sure sign that religious life was the right fit for them. The session ended soon after and the crowd got up to leave.

The sister beside me didn’t move though. She had been listening intently to it all and I could tell that something was on her mind.

Something noble

She explained how she joined her missionary order in the 1950s. She left her country village home and sailed to the United States, her first trip outside her parish.  She became a missionary, she said, because she wanted to be part of something great, something noble, something challenging. She wanted to serve God, regardless of how difficult that might be. With youthful ambition she left Ireland to, as she described, “labour in the vineyard of the Lord” with no concern for reward, wanting to make a land of saints and scholars out of her new home. As innocent and romantic as that might sound to today’s ears, that, she said, was her motivation.


She was interested to hear the young speakers talk that day about the pursuit of happiness and she noticed that it was a central part of their decision making. Strangely, she said, the pursuit of happiness was not something she remembered from her youth. She became a missionary in order to serve God and God’s people.

Happiness was a by product of that, but never the ultimate goal. The knowledge that she was giving the gift of herself was enough to make her happy. 

She was concerned now that those who were starting out in life would end up frustrated and disappointed later in life when the stormy moments hit and there was no happiness to be found.

She described instead the experience of spiritual consolation – the ability, even when everything is going against you, to feel deeply connected with God. A sense of harmony with God, even at rough times in life, had filled her with great peace and joy and this had helped her to face the many challenges of her life.

Her sense of well being wasn’t dependent on the ups and downs of any given day but was rooted in the immutable and always present God. Her Irish upbringing had taught her that God’s help was no further than the door and knowing that sustained her.

Much of the coverage of our missionaries focuses on their remarkable work. Listening to the sister that day indicated that their motivation and faith is pretty remarkable too.


Missionaries in the media

Missionaries have great stories to tell and those involved in promoting awareness of mission did a great job over the last few months. Missionaries popped up in the media with great regularity during October, the month of mission.

The Facebook page of World Missions Ireland (WMI) chronicled these appearances and there was plenty of local media coverage and several national broadcast interviews.

In November Typhoon Haiyan thrust more missionaries into the media spotlight as they reported on the incomprehensible scale of disaster in the communities they served.

The coverage reached something of a climax with the ceremony of appreciation in Dublin City Hall, organised by the Irish Missionary Union, Misean Cara and WMI, and attended by Mrs Sabina Higgins.

It provided the closest
we have ever come to a national ìThank youî for the sacrifices made by so many for so long. 


Frank, the Wise Man

Audiences of nervous parents and proud grandparents will have enjoyed school nativity plays all over the country during recent weeks. These plays have developed a folklore all of their own and thereís no shortage of stories from these productions.

One teacher tells how her nativity play was going brilliantly until the three Wise Men arrived. The first approached the manger and squeaked, "I bring thee gold!" The second child came forward and yelled, "I bring thee myrrh!"  The third lad came forward and roared, "Frank sent this!"