Households welcome pilgrims with open arms
HOUSEHOLDS all over Dublin have been providing a welcome refuge for weary pilgrims who travelled thousands of miles to attend the International Eucharistic Congress.
Liam and Brigid O hAlmhain from Terenure are among those who opened their doors to some special guests over the past week.
The couple, who describe themselves as devout Catholics, agreed to host three of the several thousands of pilgrims who travelled to Ireland for the Eucharistic Congress at the RDS.
A total of 170 pilgrims were housed by Irish volunteers for the duration of the congress.
The finale of the congress yesterday saw 80,000 pilgrims descend on Croke Park for an open-air Mass, which was followed by a recorded video message from Pope Benedict.
Mr O hAlmhain said at first he and his wife did not think they would be accepted as a host family as their home is situated so far from the RDS.
However, as the number of households that offered to host pilgrims was much smaller than anticipated, the O hAlmhains were chosen to host three pilgrims from Zimbabwe.
Phibeon and Ester Madzivire and their daughter-in-law Florence have been enjoying a warm welcome at the Terenure household, where both families share a love of porridge.
"We are all getting on like a house on fire. They have been enjoying our home cooking and in particular the porridge, which they have every morning back at home," said Mr O hAlmhain.
"They were shocked to discover, however, that we were not getting paid to host them -- that we were doing it voluntarily," he added.
Mr O hAlmhain said cultural differences between the two families had thrown up some unusual scenes.
"One funny thing happened in that my wife showed the guests how to use all of the appliances and in particular the washing machine, but she was woken one morning at 5am to the sounds of rushing water to discover one of the pilgrims hand washing all of her clothes in cold water in the bath.
"We are talking about some very heavy garments so she must have been at it for hours. It is small things like that where you notice the cultural differences," he said.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Florence Madzivire said she had been enjoying her time in Ireland.
"We have been made to feel so welcome here. We cannot thank them enough," she said.