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'Daring' nuns open doors to public as recession hits numbers

AN ENCLOSED order of nuns is throwing open its doors for a weekend.

The 18 sisters seldom leave the grounds of their monastery, going only for medical appointments and to vote in general and presidential elections.

But the Redemptoristine monastery -- in central Dublin -- is opening to the public next month as part of a recruitment drive.

It is inviting women who may be interested in the religious life to take part in a monastic weekend from October 21.

The decision to open the monastery in Drumcondra for a weekend is the latest innovative idea by the nuns, who already have their own website -- rednuns.com -- and keep a daily blog of their lives.

The sisters -- who range in age from 25 to 83 and wear a somewhat daring red -- have taken in seven new recruits in the past six years.

But they believe the recession has led to a fall-off in vocations.

"During the boom times we got more vocations," said monastery prioress Sr Gabrielle Fox, a Tipperary native. "People now feel they have debts to look after with property, which is a factor and adds a hindrance.

"Everyone is different in life and life is just not about the economy.

"Money for me wasn't everything. But I loved fashion and fellas. But at the age of 18 felt this irresistible draw to God. Yes, I missed being a mother and having my own family life but now it is doubly enriched."

The sisters follow a six-year learning programme prior to taking their solemn vows.

Their day, which begins at 6.30am, is passed in prayer and work in the kitchen and gardens. The bulk of the time is concerned with the production of altar breads and the general work of looking after the monastery.

Sr Maura Walsh (45), from Galway, took her final vows last August.

"Sure why wouldn't I join? I have a nice building to live in and free food and it's near Croke Park," she laughed.

"But on a serious note, the vocation goes beyond marketing and advertising. God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called."

Irish Independent