Sr Agnes Talty O.P
Born on the 22nd October 1923, at Kilmacanogue, Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Her Parents were John Talty and Teresa Prosser and baptised on the 26th October 1923, at the Parish Church of Kilmacanogue. Sr Agnes Talty made Simple Profession on 25th September 1945, in the twenty-second year of her age, in the Convento of Bom Sucesso. She made Solemn Profession in the twenty-sixth year of her age, on Saturday 25th September 1948 in a ceremony presided by the Very Reverend Father Enda Mc Veigh OP, Prior of Corpo Santo, Lisbon, and called herself Sister Mary Agnes of the Most Pure Heart of Mary.
Sr Agnes celebrates 70 years of profession this year. At her celebration her Congregation Prioress, Sr Helen Mary Harmey, described her as a ‘true warrior’. All the changes that have occurred and continue to come her way she faces with courage drawing on her faith that brought her to who she is today.
Here we read a journey of faith she made to Lisbon in 1944. The following are the words of Sr Agnes Talty.
Everything contributes to the building of the Kingdom of God. When I look at the beautiful pattern of the Arraiolos Carpets made here in Portugal, I cannot but think of the Great Weaver, and compare my own life to that carpet, woven with such care and skill, by Him who cares for us all.
Away back in 1944, when the horrors of war ravished our land, Sister Teresa Faherty from the Arran Islands and myself set out on the 11th of March from Dublin to Foynes, Co Limerick. We had said our good-byes to two great Dominicans who introduced us to Bom Sucesso, and who have long since gone to God. They were Sister Finbar O’Mahony, Eccles St., and Sister Anna Walsh, Muckross Park. Our leaving Ireland during the war had to be a secret, so on our arrival in Foynes we were put up in an hotel, not knowing when exactly we were destined to leave for Lisbon. Days passed with always the same answer “you will be told later”. As both of us were young and anxious to set out on our journey, and since our money was disappearing, we decided after a week or so of this kind of life, that perhaps after all God did not have Lisbon in view for us. So we decided that if we didn’t manage to set out before Monday, 18th March, it was not God’s will for us, and we would return to Dublin.
On the evening of 17th March, St. Patrick’s Day, a man appeared at the hotel and told us not to go out anymore and not to give information to anyone; sometime, and someday soon a car would come to take us to the plane. We remained in the hotel like two recluses! Then, late on the evening of the 18th March the car arrived. We got to the sea plane in Foynes. It was a far cry from the Boeings of today! It was a small sea plane with no lights and a black curtain, with seats available for four passengers, placed around a wooden table. There was one other lady and two young children with us on the plane. It was my maiden voyage, and only after 20 odd years did I have another, but this time not in a sea plane during the war! We were both so dazed by the experience and, I suppose, young and foolhardy, that we seemed to have forgotten to feel the danger of our position, and didn’t even feel anxious. Eventually at 2 a.m. we landed on the beautiful Tagus river.
As one sails up the broad and lovely estuary of the Tagus to Lisbon, two landmarks on the nether bank stand out conspicuously – The Tower of Belem on the edge of the river, and nearer the city, the Church and Monastery of Jeronimos. For hundreds of years these two master-pieces of Portuguese architecture have commanded the attention and admiration of all. Between them, now partly hidden by buildings, is another landmark – not so splendid architecturally, yet very dear to many an Irish exile seeking peace and prayer in a foreign land, the Convent of Bom Sucesso. It was to this Convent that we made our way on the Feast of St. Joseph 1944.
We hailed a taxi and the lady who was with us in the plane explained to the man where we wanted to go. Many a story could be told of the speed of the Taxis in Lisbon” but we will not go into that here. We just hit the road in spots and eventually arrived at the Big Gate. It was closed, we were not expected. I said to Sister Teresa, “It looks as if we are kidnapped.” After much ringing of the bell two quaint, kind, old ladies appeared. They spoke Portuguese to us and brought us into the parlour, where we saw the grill. Then, with the appearance of two sisters, in the Dominican habit, we knew we were at home.
The following day we visited Lisbon with a past pupil as our guide. Then we entered the enclosure. The pupils were enclosed with us. The atmosphere was one of peace and joy, and great simplicity. The Divine Office was the important prayer of our day, and Sister Imelda Warner, who was the chantress and outstanding for her humility and prayerfulness, took me in hand and tried with great patience and little success to teach me to sing alone the simple chant of the Office. Sister Cecilia Murray and her sister Sister Louise Murray were two more great souls who left a mark on many of us by their kindness and love of poverty and also of music. But let me not reminisce I could mention many, Sister Gabriel, Sister Reginald, Sister Baptist all great women who have left behind them footprints on the sands of time, and perhaps some day someone will write about these unsung heroines, who are now reaping their reward in heaven.