February 21, 2007

Visit by Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland to St. Catherine's Convent, Edinburgh, Scotland

Volunteers, friends and the community of St. Catherine's Convent, Edinburgh, Scotland gathered on Friday 9th February 2007 to welcome Mary McAleese, the President of Ireland to their project for the Homeless. A quartet of young muscians playing a medley of Irish tunes welcomed Mary, her husband Martin and many distinguished guests.

After a short visit to the chapel the company proceeded upstairs to the community room where Mary delivered words of gratutude and appreciation of all that was being done by the sisters, associates and volunteers for the many people who find themselves hungry and on the streets.

Remarks by the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. at a visit to the Homeless Project at St Catharine's Convent of Mercy, Edinburgh, Scotland

Friday, 9 February 2007

Your Eminence, (Cardinal O'Brien)
Sister Aelred,
Sister Catherine,
Volunteers and friends of St. Catharine's,
Distinguished Guests

Dia dhíbh, a cháirde go léir. Tá mé iontach sásta bheith anseo libh inniu.

The Irish know a thing or two about homelessness and displacement, about emigration and lostness, about needing help and support. These things were almost standard characteristics of the life of Irish emigrants but in today's more prosperous, fast moving, high-achieving world, to be homeless is to feel more lost, more frightened, more bewildered than ever before. What a joy it is therefore to be in a place where the homeless are not overlooked or forgotten but are cared for with such love and faith.

I have my own brief personal experience of homelessness, of losing a family home and of feeling that awful insecurity that comes from such awful turbulence in a life. Back then, exactly as here, it was an order of nuns who came to our rescue and gave us the helping hand that helped us get through a rough patch and find our feet again on more solid ground. That is why it gives me such a deep sense of privilege to be here and to see lives so hurt by life’s ups and downs drawn into a community of care where their needs at are the centre, the very heart of all that goes on here.

As a former Mercy pupil I am proud of the connection with the Sisters of Mercy. Their arrival in Edinburgh in 1858 coincided with a period during which many impoverished and famine traumatised Irish immigrants arrived in Scotland. They needed friends and thankfully the spirit of charity, and hope extended to them, and to others in need, continues to this day.

Sr. Aelred, Sr. Catherine and their corps of volunteers and many others are the hearts and hands of that work today and I hope that the practical support from the Irish Government’s Díon fund, and through the offices of Ambassador O’ Ceallaigh and the Consul General, Cliona Manahan tells you how deeply respected and admired your work is and how much it means to the people of Ireland that our family abroad, is cared for when in need.

In Coatbridge earlier today, I spoke of the challenge faced by many Irish immigrants of moving from a rural environment to an urban one. Indeed, this is a challenge which would have been shared by Sr. Aelred and Sr. Catherine, one from Kilkenny and one from Cork, who together have worked so tirelessly to found a unique new community here in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Today is a special opportunity to pay tribute to Sr. Aelred whose work has taken her from Kilkenny to Kathmandu and of course Edinburgh. She didn’t work for fame or fortune or for self but simply for service of others whose lives she helped change by being their rock, their strength when they faced troubles best shared.

To all those who contribute to the life of St. Catherine’s, I thank you for your welcome and your witness to the goodness that humanity needs to find if it is to redeem the hurts.

Thank you all for making Martin and me feel so warmly welcomed today.

Go n-éirí go geal libh’s go raibh maith agaibh.

Messages to Sheila Burke rsm

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