Lough Owel, Co Westmeath
Battery Heights, Athlone, Co Westmeath
In August 1986 five Sisters of Mercy from Elphin Diocese climbed the hill to the Battery Heights housing estate to take up residence in Nos. 41 and 43. The Sisters, or “ Nuns”, as the locals called and still continue to call them, were warmly welcomed by the residents. Since then thirteen Sisters have been part of life in Battery Heights. Some Sisters chose to be involved in the local schools while others ministered to the spiritual and social needs of the people. Solidarity with the poor and marginalised and a desire to bring hope into an area of great brokenness motivated their vision from the start.
Responding to the needs evident around them the Sisters were involved in a variety of ministries Some highlighted in their early reports were:
- Counselling of families with problems.
- Sacramental Programmes in the parish and schools.
- Parenting Programmes.
- Classes in Cookery, Needlework and Domestic Skills.
- Visiting the old, sick and lonely.
- Providing crèche facilities for pre-schoolers.
- Sponsoring and supporting programmes providing opportunities for the youth to progress academically and socially.
There has been much positive development in the Battery Heights area during the Sisters’ presence here. An active Residents’ Association, in cooperation with the Family Resource Centre and the Midland Regional Youth Association, continues to organise a number of events and activities to enhance the life of the community. These include:
- A Christmas and Childrens’ Party with Santa arriving on time
- Family Fun days, outings to places of interest
- Adult Education classes
- Homework clubs
The present Mercy community strive to be an enabling and a motivating presence among the people in the midst of these activities. This calls for involvement, as far as is possible, in all community happenings “on the Heights” – christenings, weddings, First Communions, and Confirmations, parties, funerals, graduations, school plays, etc.
The Mission Statement encompasses this vision in the following words:
“As a community we will try to be good neighbours to the people in our area by being compassionate, respectful and open to mutual learning as we share our lives together”
Mount Carmel, Station Road, Moate, Co Westmeath
There has been a Mercy presence in Moate since 1861. In that year Sr. De Chantal Colgan arrived on a side-car with four Sisters, from the Convent of Mercy in Kells. Kells was a “daughter” of Tullamore which was founded by Catherine McAuley herself, so we in Moate can consider ourselves Catherine’s great-daughters as well as her daughters!
Mrs Colgan was a widow who owned a substantial farm in Ardnapondra on the Dublin Road in Moate. Like Catherine she felt called to devote her life and property to the service of the sick poor, and to the education of girls. She sold her farm and with the proceeds bought a merchant’s house in Church St. This house and later the adjoining house with it became the Moate Convent. This building was a landmark on the main Dublin – Galway road, about halfway between the two cities. You could say we were in the heart of Ireland! To return to the story of Mrs Colgan, she entered in Kells Convent of Mercy and after her reception, when she took the name of Sr. De Chantal, returned to Moate. At the time the convent was just across the road from what was then the Parish Church, now the lovely Tuar Ard theatre.
Alas! The convent is no more. It was condemned because of dry rot and was demolished in 1993. Since then the Sisters have lived in “small houses”. We in Mount Carmel are a community of nine. Four of our Sisters are in Nursing Homes and one is currently helping in a Mercy school in Soweto, South Africa. All of us who once taught in the schools are past retirement age, but we keep in touch with the local community through various pastoral works. The people very much appreciate our presence, especially at times of sickness and bereavement. One lady put it in words lately when she said, “You are always there when we need you”.
There is no fear that we will forget our teaching days, as we live right beside the Primary and Community schools. Sometimes we are glad that we don’t have to answer the bells that ring out from the Community School for the changes in classes! The staffs of both schools always invite us to the different functions that take place. They never forget that the schools were started and staffed by the Sisters of Mercy for so many years. We are so glad that they work hard to keep the Mercy ethos in them.
We hope that by working and praying together, we will be able to maintain the Mercy presence in Moate for a long time to come.