Though born in Africa of Goan parents and having spent the greater part of my life in Nairobi I am now happy to be an Irish citizen.
I grew up in a country which was governed by British colonials who saw themselves as a superior race. With colonialisation came missionaries and with them came education but often the attitudes of the colonial minority were mirrored in the churches.
I was educated in a school run by Irish Loreto sisters and went from there to a Government Asian teacher Training College. After I had qualified I began my teaching career with the Irish (Dublin) Mercies who had opened a school for Goans, as the Goans were Catholic – the Asian schools catered for the Hindus and Muslims.
At the age of twenty-one I decided to become a Sister of Mercy because I was keenly aware that they were the first white people to build a convent in an all African area. This was unheard of at the time and I was impressed by their openness, courage and absence of racial prejudice. They also introduced African children to an all-Goan school. At first these were the children of the domestic staff in the convent and though independence was still two years away when I left Kenya for the novitiate in Ireland in 1961, a degree of integration was being pioneered in Mercy schools.
From 1961 – 1967 I was in Ireland for my novitiate and further training. I also taught for some time prior to returning to a period of twenty eight years in Nairobi city. During those years my experience in three schools in poor areas convinced me of the value of the Mercy charism and when at fifty-five (the age of retirement in Kenya ) I looked to the future, I felt my spiritual home was Ireland where the first call to religious life was nurtured.
When my work in school ended, I qualified as a chaplain and worked with teenagers in Dublin. In the intervening time my family went to live in Canada and my Dad who had reached one hundred years of age needed my help. Thankfully, I had a long and fruitful time as a carer, and when he passed peacefully away I returned to Ireland. Having given the future some thought I felt drawn to Glendalough, and so for a part of each month I come to this beautiful and sacred place. I feel privileged to be part of a tradition which stretches back to St. Kevin and the holy people that over the years have made this place truly holy ground!
Doreen Figueiredo rsm
South Central Province