In 1977, after five years teaching in Skibbereen, I was asked to go to Florida. I embarked on my journey to Boca Raton, where I spent the next forty-three wonderful years. The Sisters of Mercy were a vibrant part of a very vibrant parish. We were involved in administration, teaching, homebound ministry, Religious Education, prayer meetings and retreats among other activities. Over the years the number of Sisters varied from six to nine. Sisters from other Congregations also joined us. With the increase of age profile Sisters gradually returned to Ireland and by 2017 I was the only person left in the parish. I decided to retire in 2019 and for the following year my plan was to relax, visit friends in other parts of the country, do some substituting at school and go on retreats etc.
Alas that was not meant to be!! The virus arrived and plans had to change. Life took on a whole new direction. We had no public Masses, school went virtual, all meetings were cancelled and the only travel was five km from home. Gradually meetings went virtual, life as we knew it was changed. During this time I was trying to make plans for my return to Ireland. In fact, there were four of us coming back in 2020. We were in regular contact with each other as information was constantly changing. Some of us were in consultation with the Irish Embassy. For a time there were no flights, so we just waited and waited! There is no easy way to travel from Florida to Ireland in the best of times. Some Sisters returned and had to get taxis from Dublin to their destination in Ireland. I could only get a flight to Dublin also. One day in July I spent about three hours on speaker phone – most of it on hold – waiting to see if I could fly to Shannon. I finally got word that there were no flights going into Shannon. In a final desperate bid I asked if there were any flights to Cork. Lo and behold I got lucky and I immediately booked my flight from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta to mainland Europe and onto Cork. My joy was palpable!!!
My nephew picked me up at Cork and I quarantined for my two weeks in my sister’s granny flat. That in itself was a strange experience – no contact with anyone. I had plenty of time to catch up on sleep and then read and pray. After a few weeks I arrived at my new home in Clonakilty. There were so many things to take care of, such as medical and doctor’s cards, banks, credit cards and driver’s licence!! Everyone who returns has to attend to those things, but I believe the lockdown made it more difficult. Finally, after months, everything was in order!!!
I say Thank God for iPads, computers, cell phones, WhatsApp and Zoom. What a wonderful means of staying in contact with people in Ireland and abroad. I have joined my friends in the US for days of reflection and one of my group is now proud to say that they are international!!!
What a great opportunity to be back living in a country that has four seasons – especially Fall and Spring. The beauty of nature is amazing. I am looking forward to the country opening up shortly!!!!
Josephine O’Sullivan rsm