August 02, 2018

Day 3 of YML Pilgrimage: And the Sun Came out!

Each day commences with prayer and reflection to centre us. Today's theme was on 'thin places', a Celtic Christian concept, where the boundary between heaven and earth 'collapses' and we are able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent.

We began by considering our own 'thin places'. This was followed by a reading of Jacob's Dream at Bethel (Genesis 28: 10-22) and his thin place. The link was made with Catherine's House, and particularly the Chapel, as a 'thin place' because of the prayers prayed by Sisters and visitors to the Chapel for 190 years, both for their own intentions and the needs of others. Pilgrims then had the opportunity to reflect in silence using any of the texts drawn from a range of resources, including two from the Baggot St Suite of poems written by Mary Wickham rsm. Just one sung track today: Walk Beside Me (Celtic Woman).

The keynote this morning 'The World Needs Merciful Leaders' was given by Karen Schneider rsm. Sr Karen is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University and has led 105 medical teams to communities with little access to healthcare otherwise: Nigeria, Kenya, Guyana and Haiti.

Karen spoke about Mercy leadership and illustrated her talk with two significant stories, that of the Choctaw Indians and their generosity to the Irish people during the Irish famine, and a story of the challenge to her to be generous when on a medical mission in Haiti. Once again, the keynote was very well received and gave rise to thoughtful questions.

Read highlights of Sr Karen's keynote here (7 pps, PDF).

Following morning tea, Sr Karen responded to further questions and reflections,  then Anna Nicholls rsm and Mary Reynolds rsm broke open the notion of 'leader' and 'follower' through screening a video and discussion. The pilgrims broke into their groups to create the tallest possible structure using three ingredients: marshmallows, spaghetti sticks and sticky tape. The results were imaginative, creative and feats of engineering!

Sisters, Presenters and Chaperones

Lunchtime provided the opportunity to take a group photo of Sisters, Presenters and Chaperones who were around at the end of lunch time.

Afternoon Programme

There were three workshops in the afternoon through which the pilgrims rotated. The first was 'Mercy in the City', led by Sr Angela and Colleen Cloonan, drew on Kerry Weber's book 'Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job' in which she describes how she set out to incorporate each of the seven corporal works of mercy in her way of life. Kerry is a Mercy Associate and Managing Editor of America magazine. Says Kerry: 'To have mercy is to give mercy. And to give mercy is to empty oneself out to make room for the love for another'. In the mini-series Mercy in the City, she shares some of what she took away from her experience of trying to incorporate each of the seven corporal works of mercy into her life.

The second workshop was a Guided meditation in the Garden directed by Sr Anna where the pilgrims 'met' Catherine McAuley and 'sat' with her a while. The Sacred garden, a green and flourishing place, has been a reflective space, a meeting place and a gathering space this week as the photos below show.

The third workshop was a sharing by a number of the Sisters of their ongoing call to Mercy. Sisters and pilgrims sat in a circle in the Doyle room and the Mercies present took turns to share from their Mercy stories very generously and freely. Pilgrims then had the opportunity to ask questions, offer reflections, provide comments.The 3 sessions were facilitated by Sr Priscilla who is a Vocation minister from the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

The afternoon concluded with a review of the day and closing prayer. Pilgrims then moved to the yard at Scoil Chaitríona, the Primary school next door. It being a warm evening, this proved a perfect opportunity to enjoy a meal outdoors.The evening meal was catered for from a food truck (burgers and fries) and an ice-cream Truck (even more popular!).


Day 3 concluded with a céilí - an evening of traditional Irish dancing. The name céilí comes from the word 'le cheile' meaning 'coming together'. This was a great way for pilgrims to be introduced to Irish music, dance and culture in a really fun and interactive way.

We were fortunate to obtain the services of a most experienced céilí caller, Annette, and to have some very experienced céilí dancers to help teach pilgrims the steps - as you will see in this video.

An musical interlude was provided with live Irish music. This singing was also appreciated.

The pilgrims improved markedly over the course of the evening - as can be seen below.

Tomorrow is the final day of the 2018 pilgrimage. It's hard to believe that these days are going to come to an end.

Read Day 4 Report here

Messages to: YML Communications Team: Elizabeth McNamee rsm and Anne Walsh

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