In her role as Director of Novices, Sr. Marie Redmond works with women who are testing their vocation to religious life. Rather than a rigid, formal set up, she sees her role as initiating the Novice into Community life and passing on the Dominican charism. She sees the opportunity of working with Novices as a privilege, like walking on holy ground. It could be described as a two-year journey with someone who is discerning if this is where God wants her to be for the rest of her life.
The novitiate is a time for learning about and living the day-to-day life of a sister. During this time, Marie’s role is to accompany the Novice as she meets the demands of daily life, e.g. preparing the liturgy, joining in community meetings, and taking on community responsibilities. She also takes responsibility for ensuring that the Novice has the proper foundation in studies for religious life and has become immersed in the Dominican history and charism.
To prepare her for the role as director of novices, Sr. Marie completed a year-long course in Loreto House which gave her a certain confidence. While it was mainly a course in personal development, it was also an opportunity to learn skills which were needed for formation. It involved crash courses in counselling, spiritual direction and focusing. Her role also involves exploring, with the Novice, her relationship with God and how her prayer life is developing, which can often be a delicate area. Sr. Marie says that it is important to see the Novice settling in contentedly and flourishing, as this is a way to determine if religious life is for her.
Sr. Marie finds work placements for the Novice, mainly in different Ministries where the Dominican Sisters have had an influence and involvement, many of which were in challenging circumstances. These include the Matt Talbot Community Trust, which was founded for the youth of Ballyfermot by Sr. Caoimhín Ní Uallacháin OP and St. Dominic’s Contact Centre, a community response centre in Tallaght, which was set up by Sr. Marie Cunningham OP. Other placements were in Benincasa and Casa Caterina schools, a local crèche and a local Travellers’ site. The Congregation and Mission Area Councils liaise with the Novice and Novice Director to decide which Ministry will suit her best in the longer term and where her gifts can best suit the Ministry. Often this may be determined by answering a societal need.
The charism of other Congregations differs but the approach to Formation is often similar. In certain circumstances, Novices from different orders work together during the Formation period so that they can benefit from peer support. In the future, Sr. Marie sees that Formation will be very different. She believes that religious life will continue, but not as we are living it now. One form it might take is that of different religious orders working together to answer a need. Part of the adventure of religious life in the future, in Sr. Marie’s view, will be the need for total flexibility while ensuring that the charism of Dominic will continue.
Sr. Marie Redmond has been Director of Novices since 2007. Prior to this, and for most of her religious life, she was a primary school teacher in Ballyfermot, an area which she loved. She also spent three years working in Harvey, an area in the suburbs of New Orleans. The purpose of her time there, with other Cabra Dominicans, was to replace an American Dominican Congregation who no longer had the personnel to keep the school going. Sr. Marie loves children and has found them to be the same the world over. However, she found huge differences between the teaching system in the US and the education system she had experienced in Ireland. The main difference in the US was the focus on achieving grades at the expense of developing children’s creativity.
Marie’s other ministries included four years as Prioress in the Falls Road Convent in West Belfast which was an enriching experience. A large part of her role there was to help look after some of the frail Sisters in the community. She has also worked in prisons and has helped to run the Alternative to Violence Programme (AVP) in Mountjoy, Wheatfield, Arbour Hill and Portlaoise prisons. The AVP programme originated with the Quakers in America and involves working directly with prisoners. It is participative; it builds self-esteem and gives prisoners the skills to become facilitators and to conduct workshops for other prisoners. Participating as an ‘outsider’ in AVP helps you to see the person behind the crime. Their crime is never mentioned unless they themselves choose to bring it up. Sr. Marie is a member of the Irish Prison Reform Trust which is doing very positive work. She feels that conditions in some Irish prisons are slowly improving. The IPRT believes that deprivation of freedom is sufficient punishment. They argue that further punishments within the prison system ought not to be part of a sentence. She hopes at some stage to return to working with prisoners or those at risk, as she has always been drawn to this type of work.
For further information on vocations and formation with the Dominican Sisters Cabra, please contact : Sr. Edel Murphy OP, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org