“The services of Glendalough will enable people to reconnect with the roots of their own deepest spiritual energies, to have an opportunity to be enfolded in the beauty and healing touch of nature in the valley, to experience the presence of God within their own being as they experience the presence of God in the peace and tranquility of the valley.” – (Vision Statement for Glendalough Jubilee Project)
The above statement is the source and inspiration of our ministry here in Glendalough. The Sisters of Mercy were invited by the Archdiocese of Dublin and the then parish priest of Glendalough to become part of a project whose aim was to provide accommodation for people who come and stay here in the valley, which is a National Park, and a sacred monastic site, filled with the Celtic spirit of St. Kevin and the monks who lived here for over eleven hundred years.
We three Sisters are involved in facilitating accommodation for people in five hermitages. These people seek space and solitude to rest, reflect and become centered on the Source of their life. We try to provide a welcoming presence and are available for spiritual companioning if this is requested. We also prepare Morning Prayer and Evening Reflection, which is both an expression of our own prayer together and a prayer experience available to our guests.
Pilgrimage is and always has been an important expression of the spiritual journey. We conduct pilgrimages for school and adult groups in the valley. Walking through the monastic site as a spiritual experience is like a journey through time and space which often speaks and evokes what is deepest in people. The valley as a sacred place calls, enchants and nourishes.
In our work, we have been collaborating with the local parish priest and others involved in similar ministries in the area, including the Church of Ireland Pastor. We also value the contacts the Sisters who have lived here have established with the local people. These people are welcoming, supportive and reminders to us of all that is best, earthy and deeply spiritual in rural parish life.
We are encouraged and enriched by peoples’ sharing of their experience here. Comments on Evaluation Forms from guests include “Thank you for the warm welcome…Reflective Morning Prayer set tone for the day…..I appreciated the peace, quiet and freedom of choosing my own rhythm….The solitude and surroundings of nature helped me to come closer to God….I’m so grateful so the privilege of spending a week here, where only one thing matters. You make that possible.”
Catherine’s service to the poor and deprived was to educate people and alleviate pain and distress. Underlying this desire was, that in experiencing human kindness and care, people would come to know how much they are loved by God and want to grow in that relationship. We believe that our work here is in the spirit of Catherine and we see our living as a deep expression of our mercy ministry and of our Chapter 2007 Statement. We ourselves strive to live lives ‘Centered in the God of Mercy’ and hope that our work here facilitates those who come to experience, explore and delight in this Presence in their own center. We sometimes witness ‘extreme poverty’ of meaning and connection with earth, spirit and self in people who hunger for God and long for space and time to taste the richness of their own soul underneath the layers of their busy lives.
We see opportunities for eventual development and expansion of our ministry particularly to those who are poor and marginalised and who would not normally have opportunities to come and “let nature be your teacher/healer”. We are aware of the privilege of living in the sacredness and beauty of this place and try to live in harmony with and respect and care for our beautiful and vulnerable earth.
The Sisters who have worked in Glendalough, this Holy Ground, have created a space and context where the Spirit of God has found a home and has been enabled to nurture the longings of those who come. In a post Celtic Tiger Ireland, we believe that we have inherited a treasury of sacred possibilities for continuing to develop a ‘Sanctuary’, a ‘Spiritual House of Mercy’ for those experiencing the ‘extreme poverty’ of materialism, stress, alienation and a longing for connection with their own soul, their environment, and the Ground of their Being.
Margaret Prendergast rsm, Doreen Figueiredo rsm, Joan O’Carroll rsm
South Central Province