In this article Sr Mary Threadgold RSC writes about a very special gathering of the past pupils of the School for the Blind/Visually Impaired who gathered in Merrion to celebrate 200 years of the Religious Sisters of Charity.
“Over the course of the year we have attended many moving events to commemorate Venerable Mary Aikenhead and the 200th anniversary of the founding of the congregation. There were some memorable homilies including that given by the Papal Nuncio, but one of the most moving gatherings for me was one that was hardly noticed.
In September 2015 I met a priest who told me he would be coming to say Mass for a reunion of the past pupils of the School for the Blind (which no longer exists on the Merrion site). Apart from three Sisters who had been involved and the Sacristan, there were no notifications to alert us to the fact that this would be happening. As one of those who got to know about it accidentally and because I might be needed to play the organ, I had the privilege of being there.
The first indication that something was happening that Saturday afternoon was exuberant noise. Along the corridor outside the Chapel the young ladies were meeting each other. The joy and delight they were voicing at recognising their former friends was palpable. This even continued into the chapel where the atmosphere was anything but quiet.
The group had two main leaders, Christine Meenagh and her husband together with Sr. Eileen Cartin, a Sister of Marie Auxiliatrix. Outside of their own circle they were not aware that other Sisters of Charity would also be interested and would feel privileged to be there. They organised the reunion to celebrate what they owed to the Sisters of Charity, who were largely responsible for what they had become. Many of the group were totally blind, others partially sighted. Notifications and invitations were managed entirely by Christine and Sr. Eileen. Over 80 past pupils attended.
Among those present were two lawyers, two Civil Servants (CEOs), several physiotherapists, a teacher, a social worker, a woman with a music degree, a psychotherapist, classroom assistants and many telephonists. They travelled from 16 of the 32 counties and one came from London. They were there to remember what the Sisters of Charity had done for them. They had a specially decorated candle with the words ‘We remember’ inscribed on it. They joined in the singing, the readings, the bidding prayers and were keen to take full responsibility for the event.
Two of their former RSC teachers were there, Sr. Brid Kieran and Sr. Clare Byrne along with Sr. Mary O’Donoghue who had mothered many of them during their younger years in Merrion. The congregation would be very proud to see the love they had for these Sisters as well as their appreciation for what had been done for them. Many of the past pupils coming from all over Ireland including the North would have spent 13 years or more under our care, and apart from the three sisters named here there were many more who acted as House-mothers to them.
After the Mass the young ladies had refreshments, provided by themselves in the main Dining Hall. The ‘din’ as one passed by, proved that the joy, wasn’t just in meeting but in continuing to interact with each other and sharing reminiscences. Many of those who attended rang to express their gratitude for the opportunity to return to Merrion and as one of them said in her ‘Thank You’ note: “I found it a moving and nostalgic occasion.”