For some reason, coincidence or God-incidence, the theme of vocation has featured a few times in the media this week.
75 Years in Japan (RTÉ One, Thursday) was one of the most marvellously inspiring and moving programmes I’ve seen this year. This documentary told the story of Jennie O’Sullivan who became Sr Paschal when she joined the Infant Jesus Sisters in the early 1930s. She spent most of her life teaching in Japan, and when back in Ireland she was interviewed over a period of months, starting at the age of 100 and finishing at 101, by her cousin James Creedon. Her memory was impressive, as was her infectious good humour, not to mention her ability to converse in English, French and Japanese. And what a life! She experienced an earthquake on her first night in Japan, was put into an internment camp during World War II and was there when the atomic bombs were dropped. She said she would do it all again but try harder!
She became most emotional when she spoke of goodbyes – leaving her parents to join the convent and soon after leaving all family and friends to go to Japan, leaving Japan for her first trip home in the early 1950s, leaving Japan again, reluctantly, to come home to Ireland at the age of 98. James organised video calls with some of her past pupils and went to Japan to film more of them. She must have been a wonderful teacher considering how devoted her past pupils were. We saw these middle-aged Japanese women in tears listening to her video messages as she said a final sayonara!
The pace of the film was leisurely, the animations were beautiful and the original score by Alexander Kato-Willis was enhancing rather than distracting. The archive footage complemented and punctuated the story as we walked down memory lane to a time of Irish missionary zeal. Instead of getting nostalgic for a lost world, one’s reaction might be to take from Sr Paschal’s example – to be of loving and joyful service as we live our vocational lives of faith. Watch it soon on the RTE Player.
The issue of vocations was also raised, in a mostly sympathetic way, on Today With Claire Byrne (RTE Radio One, Wednesday), but there wasn’t much inspiration. Focusing on the Diocese of Cloyne, the context was the declining number of priests, rural parishes losing their parish priest (“another pillar of rural life being removed”), the need to limit the number of Masses available and the amalgamation of parishes. It was more than a tad predictable as the reporter referenced, several times, the Church’s stance on celibacy and women priests. I’d like to have heard more about vocation campaigns, vocation education, efforts to make the religious life more dynamic and appealing.
The Vocation Music Award, covered at launch some months ago in The Irish Catholic culminated last weekend in an online finale (YouTube, Saturday). Sixteen young people from Ireland and Britain sang their original songs on the theme of vocation and it was so full of sincerity, devotion and hope for the future. Songs spoke of calling, of God’s very personal love for us, of finding our place in the world. As one of the judges, Jo Boyce, said they were adding to the mosaic of Church life. If you want an uplift and a glimpse of what the young Church of the future can be, watch it back – just search ‘Vocation Music Award UK-IRL 2021: Finale’ on YouTube.
Also launched on YouTube, Tuesday of last week, was Ireland’s Fall, The Abortion Deception, a short documentary on the loss of the Eighth Amendment. Tim Jackson’s film had high production values and told a hugely important story. It will stand as a concise and valuable record of what happened, seen from the pro-life perspective. It will enrage pro-choice activists, confirm what pro-life activists knew and felt all along and, I suspect, if they watch it, will make reluctant or soft ‘yes’ voters feel very uneasy. The interfering role of the social giants, and bias in mainstream media was highlighted, while there were thoughtful and insightful contributions from some of the main pro-life spokespersons. The main emphasis was on the Save the Eighth campaign and I thought the contribution of the Pro-Life Campaign and the associated Love Both campaign deserved more attention.
The definitive film of this sad period has yet to be made.
Pick of the week
Aifreann an Domhnaigh
Radio na Gaeltachta Sunday October 3, 11.00 am
A Mass commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of Seán Ó Riada today. Mass this morning will be broadcast live from Séipéal Ghobnatan in Cúil Aodha, Co. Cork.
BBC Two Wednesday October 6, 11 pm
Biopic chronicling the three-month period in 1965 which saw Dr Martin Luther King Jr lead a turbulent march from Selma to Montgomery in a bid to secure equal voting rights.
Channel 4 Friday October 8, 7.30 pm
Unreported World follows a private investigator who is trying to track down the Indigenous women going missing without a trace in the wilderness of the United States.