The Dominican Sisters support Ecumenism which promotes unity and cooperation across Christian religions. Ecumenism became a priority of the Cabra Dominican Sisters over the many decades of extreme conflict in Northern Ireland.
In 1991, a group consisting of several Dominican sisters, a Dominican priest, and several women and men from various denominations gathered to consider the possibility of forming an ecumenical community on the peaceline area of the Springfield Rd in Belfast. As a result on 7th May 1992 with the support of the Methodist Church, Curragh Community began. The small residential, inter-denominational community focussed on bringing people from both sides of the divide together to consider their local issues and needs.
Co-operation with Cornerstone Ecumenical Community and Springfield Rd Methodist church enabled the establishment of Forthspring Community Centre which expanded and secured this focus by means of Womens’ Groups, Youth Groups and Children’s Groups as well as a Cafe, thereby deepening understanding, trust and relationships.
Over the years, many international volunteers have committed themselves to these objectives. Their work is still on-going.
A number of Dominican and Mercy Sisters together with a Redemptorist priest worked together to become more informed about the issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers in Northern Ireland. They soon realised that working from an inter-church position would be effective. In August 2003, Embrace was formally established. It is now a well-established and very effective means of spreading relevant information and of offering support, financial and otherwise, to asylum seekers in the North. See EMBRACE NI
The Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE)
Sr Geraldine Smyth OP has had a long association with the Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE) which was founded in 1970 to challenge many of the prevailing theological and political assumptions on the island of Ireland. One of Sr Geraldine’s chief responsibilities as a Dominican was ecumenical affairs and she enrolled for a Masters at ISE which became a TCD doctorate.
Dr Smyth became Director of the ISE in 1994 and in the late 1990s, she led the negotiations which resulted in the integration of ISE into Trinity College Dublin enabling the ISE to achieve financial stability.
Under her stewardship and during her second term as Director, the ISE achieved status as a centre for dialogue, scholarship, and service to the wider community and also as a place where people from all backgrounds could together explore the challenges and possibilities of Christian unity. She also oversaw the physical transfer of ISE from Milltown Park to the Trinity College Dublin campus.
The ISE at TCD now offers full time and part time Masters and PhD degrees in peace studies, conflict resolution and reconciliation. It has a second centre in Belfast and students can study in either city.