Thursday 22nd July marked the 163rd anniversary of Venerable Mary Aikenhead being born into Eternal Life. Mary Aikenhead who founded the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Charity of Australia was remembered in thanksgiving by both Congregations in a moving Zoom ceremony. The ceremony was the end of a nine-day journey that started in both Congregations with a novena to Mary Aikenhead.
Sr. Laureen Dickson, the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity of Australia mentioned in her opening remarks how this novena ‘connected (us) to each and every Sister of Charity throughout the world.’
Sr. Patricia Lenihan, the Superior General of the Religious Sisters of Charity spoke at the event about how ‘it is quite remarkable to think that over two hundred years ago, one young woman’s dream – to serve the poor – was the seed that has helped the most vulnerable in our society for over two centuries and is also the seed that brings us together for our gathering today.’
Indeed, Mary Aikehead’s presence has been real for over two hundred years and is felt by the Sisters as well as our Associates, Companions, Friends of Mary Aikenhead, New Life Groups, work colleagues, as well as friends and families who joined us from around the world to celebrate in thanksgiving for the life and legacy of Mary Aikenhead. These women and men have imbibed the spirit of Mary Aikenhead and continue to touch so many lives in the countries where we minister and beyond.
It was evident in Sr. Patricia’s words how ‘Mary Aikenhead’s legacy has stretched to innumerable countries around the world. Not only the countries where we are situated today, but also those countries where our Sisters have lived for a while and have now left. There are also countries where we have never lived, yet we know our charism and Mary Aikenhead’s influence is touching many lives [there].’
During the liturgy, all gathered had the privilege of a virtual visit to Mary Aikenhead’s grave in Donnybrook. This included visits to the other graves of our sisters buried in Donnybrook cemetery. Three of the first five Sisters that Mary Aikenhead sent in 1838 to start the Congregation in Austrialia are buried in Tasmania and we all had a virtual visit to their grave to honour them for their courage and faith.
During the zoom, a prayerful liturgy was offered by the General Leadership Team to the Religious Sisters of Charity and the Mary Aikenhead family around the world. During the liturgy, extracts from her letters were read and showed how she entrusted all her difficulties to His care. She says, “If difficulties arise at every step, surely the sweet arrangements of His Own mercies and graces enliven, enlighten, and powerfully support us.” This same Trust and the generosity of the many Sisters of Charity motivated by our motto ‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos’ in taking up new challenges has seen Mary Aikenhead’s legacy live through time and culture.
Time was given to remember and pray for our Sisters who have been called to eternal life since last July and all those who have lost their lives due to the pandemic of Covid 19. We do acknowledge that we are able to transmit Mary Aikenhead’s spirit due to the faithfulness and hard work of all the RSCs who have gone before us and we hope to keep our shoulders strong enough for future generations to stand on them. Last night’s gathering will fill us in Sr. Laureen’s words with ‘enormous hope for what we are called be in the world today.’
Mary Aikenhead’s motto ‘I can do all things in God who strengthens me’ came out strongly in the song written by Sr. Miriam Hennessy RSC, and we hope to continue doing all things in our God who strengthens us!
Below is a selection of Sisters from across the globe tuning into the event.
Below – The International Novitiate Community
Below: Aidrie Community in Scotland
Below: Providence Community in Dublin