On a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon in mid-September approximately sixty Sisters wound their way up the hill of Howth for their farewell visit to our beloved Stella Maris. As they made their way through the gate and down the avenue to the gardens the spectacular view of the sea was breath-taking and many of the Sisters chose to sit quietly on the garden seats and gaze in wonder at the beauty of the scene before them. The presence of the Lord was obvious – in the song of the birds, the blossoming of flowers and trees, in the sunshine and the sea.
At 2.30pm the Sisters gathered in the Conference Room with the Community for a beautiful Prayer Celebration led by Sr. Una O’Neill. We remembered and gave thanks for the O’Hagan family through whose generous support Stella Maris became ours. We remembered the friends and neighbours who have supported and encouraged us down through the years. We gave thanks for the ministries through which we served the people of the area and above all we thanked God for the many Sisters who lived in Stella Maris between 1893 and 2019. The time of ‘letting go’ was near. It is a lonely thing, Sr. Una reminded us. It is a hard thing. It is a heartache. At the same time, the call of the Lord – who is our new dawn – is to trust in His leading of us, to embrace the reality of this time in all its joy and sorrow, to say our Yes to God’s invitation to us to let go with dignity and grace, with gratitude and in peace. Interesting ‘snippets’ from the Annals of our early years in Stella Maris were read by Sr. Una and were a great source of conversation and fun afterwards as we chatted over delicious refreshments that were so generously provided for us by the Community.
In the Parish Church, the Parish Priest of Howth, Fr. Tanham also celebrated a farewell Mass for the Sisters on Sunday, 6th October, where he thanked the Sisters publicly for their immense contribution to life in the parish for so many years and invited them to join with parishioners for a cup of tea after the Mass Sr. Una gave the homily during which she thanked the people for their support of the Sisters over so many years.
The third ‘farewell’ celebration took place on Sunday, 12th October, for neighbours and friends. About eighty people came in the course of the afternoon. Many of them had known the Sisters for a long time and memories were shared of Sisters who worked in the village – among whom were Srs. Francis Gertrude Doherty, Veronica Keating and Marie Therese Clare. Since 1893 the history of the Convent was intertwined with that of the village, the Parish and the ‘hill’ and there was great appreciation of our presence in general and of the Spirituality Centre in particular. Regret and sadness were the overall feelings, combined with a genuine gratitude for the richness of our presence among the people and our ministry over so many years.
During the last week of October three Sisters in the Community left for their different destinations. Finally on Thursday, 31st October 2019, the remaining two Sisters closed the doors of Stella Maris and left for the last time with Sr. Una and three other Sisters who were there to support them. The sale was closed on the following day, Friday 1st November. It was a hard week for everyone but there was a sense of peace and joy that the Lord was with us in our ‘letting go’ – we will take with us our memories, our gratitude and our hopes for a future that will be blest because of the legacy we leave behind.