First Profession – 27th August 2006
St. Brendan’s Church, Birr, Co. Offaly, Ireland was the place where all roads lead to on Sunday 27th August 2006 for the First Profession of Sr. Marion Ryan. At the geographical centre of South Central Province and in the place and Church where Catherine McAuley renewed her vows for the last time, St. Brendan’s Pugin Church in Birr was the chosen place for the First Profession of Marion.
Srs. Margaret Prendergast, Helena O’Donoghue (Provincial Leader) and Marion Ryan
Family, friends and Sisters gathered in prayer, excitement and anticipation for the two o’clock Profession ceremony set in the context of the Eucharist presided over by Fr. Mike Drennan. S.J. Sr. Helena O’Donoghue (Provincial) accepted her vows. In her homily she reminded us of the significance of the event and among other things quipped that it was in Birr Catherine said ‘Hurrah for foundations; they make the old young and the young merry’. Both old and young were in good spirits and enjoyed the hospitality of the Birr Sisters and Dooly’s Hotel and the welcome of the Parish of Birr. There was no need to ‘keep hot turf under the butter to enable us to cut it’; even the weather was kind to us and the rain stayed away. As Marion joins the long and varied tradition of mercy we wish her well and a blessing each day ‘knowing they have one solid comfort … their hearts can always be in the same place centred in God’ (C. McAuley)
Final Profession – 18th September 2010
Sr. Coirle McCarthy, Congregational Leader and Sr. Marion Ryan
The Church of the Assumption, Booterstown, Co Dublin, was the setting for the Final Profession of Marion Ryan on Saturday, September 18th. Marion, who comes from Tipperary, has been with the Mercy South Central Province since 2003. She works in chaplaincy in Holles Street Hospital and is a member of the Booterstown community. For this very special occasion she was joined by her parents Johnny and Mary, her brother John, her sister Claire and their families, her relatives, friends and her Mercy Sisters. It was a notable occasion too for Booterstown parish and many parishioners came to be part of the ceremony and to support Marion. The Contemporary Music Group which sings at Mass here together with Sisters Margaret Corkery and Ailish O’Brien lifted our hearts and spirits with their appropriate and wonderful music. Father Mike Drennan, S.J. was the chief celebrant and he was accompanied by the priests of Booterstown parish, Monsignor Seamus Conway and Father Larry Behan.
For those of us who were present at the ceremony it was a moment with many layers of significance. We enjoyed the social aspect, meeting Marion’s family and friends and our Mercy Sisters, but as on all such occasions there is a deeper level of reflection. The ceremony called us back to the day we made our own commitment and to the paths and journeys in life we have travelled since. Back then Final Professions happened each year, now in our congregation they are rare. Much has changed; the unquestioned sureness of the past is less certain now. Somehow the ritual of the Profession ceremony rises above the surface changes which have taken place and reaches once more to the bedrock of what our lives are about.
Sister Coirle McCarthy, our Congregational leader, asked Marion in the ‘questioning,’ ‘Will you strive for holiness in your love of God and God’s people by living the gospel with all your heart?’ Pope Benedict in his address to the students of Saint Mary’s University College, Twickenham, on Friday last also said many things which are worth pondering. One sentence was ‘True happiness is to be found in God, only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts,’ and another, ’The quest for the sacred is the search for the one thing necessary which alone satisfies the longings of the human heart.’ A third sentence from Pope Benedict, ‘We will continue to work to build bridges of friendship, to heal past wrongs and to foster trust’ speaks to our hearts today.
Marion by her Final Profession has committed herself, in the words of the second reading, Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, ‘to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled with the fullness of God.’ The beautiful ceremony of profession echoed this hope for us all, that ‘by his power at work within us he may be able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.’
Sister Coirle and Sister Peggy Collins, Provincial Leader, both spoke to us during the ceremony. Their words were filled with hope and faith. Coirle in welcoming Marion to our congregation talked to us out of the gospel reading, ‘I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.’ Even with the ups and downs which are part of all our lives Coirle assured Marion and all of us, ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for whatever you please and you will get it.’ The story of the vine and the vinedresser is that of our relationship with Jesus, inseparable and dependent with pruning and constant reshaping. Peggy started her talk by saying that for many people today what Marion is doing is difficult to understand, but that religious life in its essence is about uttering ‘a beautiful song of love.’ Those of us who take vows express our desire and proclaim our commitment to live by that radical availability to Love which we believe is the ground of our being and the heart of reality. Peggy continued by saying that we will struggle to be true to this all the days of our lives, that we will often resist, that we need the mercy of God and the support of one another along the way. She concluded with the hope that there may be ‘an ever greater resonance between our prayer in secret and our life in public, between our promises and our actions.’
As the Mass progressed we had a sense of joy and a strong awareness of our solidarity and belonging as province and congregation. Because the profession ceremony was taking place in Booterstown church Coirle mentioned to us that Booterstown, by the sea, was a special house to Catherine McAuley, the seventh house of the institute established in 1838. It was a place of sad memories for her as her eldest nephew, James McAuley, died there and she lived in Booterstown for much of his illness. It is also the place of which Catherine, after observing the steam carriages which passed close to the convent, was heard to regret ‘that we cannot or do not, apply ourselves as unweariedly to the service of God as they do to the annihilation of distance.’ The original house where Catherine stayed is still a beautiful part of the convent today.
The concluding prayer of the Mass brought Marion’s commitment and her dreams for the future together with the desire of us all to live our vows in the spirit of Catherine McAuley and in the love of Christ, ‘May Marion be blessed with your Spirit. May we, like Catherine, be centered in you so that we are enabled to follow Christ and bear witness to your love through our compassionate love and service of your people.’
When the ceremony finished at 4.30 pm many of the sisters came to the convent for tea. There was a happy buzz of friendship and chat. The celebration meal for Marion, her family, friends and Mercy Sisters was held in the Stillorgan Park Hotel which is close to the convent. It too was beautiful and an opportunity for a joyful get-together.
We pray for Marion, we thank her for her commitment to Mercy, we wish her joy, fulfillment and good health for the future. We thank everybody who made this memorable day possible.