Sunday 25 September 2016

Stood up on a 'speed-date', but nuns are ever hopeful

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 28/02/2016 | 02:30

SISTERS ACT: Tryphena Tan, Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, Margaret Cartwright, director of Vocations Ireland, Sabine Schratz, Dominican Sisters, and Edel Murphy, Dominican Sisters, at The Sisters Café. Photo: Tony Gavin
SISTERS ACT: Tryphena Tan, Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, Margaret Cartwright, director of Vocations Ireland, Sabine Schratz, Dominican Sisters, and Edel Murphy, Dominican Sisters, at The Sisters Café. Photo: Tony Gavin

The Mothers Superior thought it sounded like a clever idea.

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How about a 'speed dating'-type cafe evening - but for women who think they have a vocation? Sure all the young people are doing it.

So they spread the word, put feelers out online and gathered nine hopeful orders of nuns together - each longing for a suitable match.

Tables were dressed with iced buns, daffodils and large pots of tea. The atmosphere was relaxed, inviting, optimistic.

But unfortunately, the idea just didn't seem to bring them in. In fact, not one curious candidate showed up.

And when someone finally did arrive at the vocations party, it turned out to be the Sunday Independent - not exactly vocation material, I confess.

There was a little disappointment at the poor turnout for the event in Blackrock, Co Dublin, but the sisters hope for better luck next time when the new pop-up cafe - aptly named The Sister's Cafe - travels around the capital in the coming months.

The cafe is supported by nine religious congregations and is being run in conjunction with Vocations Ireland. The plan is that it will help raise awareness of the meaningful role Irish religious sisters play in modern society

Their main aim is to open up conversations between Irish nuns from all congregations and Irish women from the ages of 20 to 35 who may be interested in learning more about spirituality.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Margaret Cartwright, director of Vocations Ireland, explained how the idea sprung from today's colourful dating landscape.

"We were inspired by speed dating in the sense that it seems to have drawn young people. It's about giving young women the opportunity to come along, share, and hear the sisters' individual stories and they can move within the group," she said.

"Young women regularly approach us about potential vocations and yet there is no open forum which enables them to really explore their options. We believe our little cafe will allow women to get to know our lifestyle a lot better," she said.

Sisters from the Medical Missionaries of Mary, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, the Daughters of Charity, the Dominicans, the Salesians, the Religious Sisters of Charity, the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, the Sisters of Marie Reparatrice and the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary attended the launch at the Dominican Adult Education Centre in Blackrock.

They ranged in aged from mid-thirties to late eighties and nineties.

Ms Cartwright said they plan to move the cafe around over the coming months - Swords and Blanchardstown are next on the list: "We have a national vision. We need to look at all venues where young people are gathering and tap into them. We're considering places like shopping malls or even pubs and social clubs," she said.

Although not a single hopeful postulant appeared on the night, Sr Edel Murphy, of the Dominican Sisters in Cabra, says she is not worried about the future of female religious life in Ireland.

"We're aware many people don't have an understanding of our work - this gives us an opportunity to share what our life is really like. Women who are interested in education, health, society and parish work will get a first-hand insight into life as a sister," she said. "Vocation is not about numbers. In the end it's God who calls. We still have something valuable to give but we do that by meeting and talking about faith," she said.

"It's the women who built and continue to keep the parishes going, so it's our voice that needs to be heard," she added.

Despite the lack of outside interest, the congregations say this is just the beginning for The Sister's Cafe and their doors are open to all.

Sunday Independent

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