180 YEARS IN THE LIFE STORY OF SION HILL
Given by: Sr. Christina Greene OP on March 26th 2017
Good afternoon. Welcome to the Sion Hill event of the year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sheila Drum, Principal of Dominican College, all the staff and students, parents, committee and Board of Management for inviting us to what I call a banquet of life.
I want to particularly welcome two former principals of Dominican College, both valiant and inspiring women, Sister Michèle O’Donovan and Patricia Fitzsimons.
When I walked into St. Thomas’ building this afternoon I felt embraced by energy, enthusiasm, culture, history and life bubbling up from the very wellsprings of the foundations of Sion Hill. We all know that days like this don’t happen without a huge commitment from staff, students and parents, to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude.
Today is a day to rejoice and be glad:
• A day to reflect and reminisce
• A day to meet and greet friends, old and new
• A day to look back with gratitude
• A day to look forward with courage and hope
• A day to be proud, not just of achievements but of the people committed to the legacy of Dominican education. As I said to Sheila Drum, the pioneering women of 1836 would be very proud today.
Today we celebrate a story within a story. As the well-known author, Henning Mankel said, “It is sometimes good to go backwards. To a beginning.” And I’m going to take a step backwards for a moment.
Over 800 years ago a Spanish priest called Dominic de Guzman, known to us affectionately as St. Dominic, founded the Dominican Order. He founded the Dominican Sisters first because he recognised the importance of education for women so that they could take their place in society and the Church – I’ll make no comment on the Church part of it! From then till now is a long story and I’m going to skip a lot of chapters to come closer to our own time. Yesterday, 25th of March, the Dominicans celebrated 300 years of Dominican women in Dublin – we’re on a bit of a celebratory roll at the moment. But today is the icing on the cake, 180 years of educating girls at Dominican College, Sion Hill.
About 1836 a group of Dominican sisters from Cabra, inspired by their mission to preach the gospel through education, ventured across the Liffey to new horizons in suburbia Dublin – and Sion Hill was born. This mission would have been impossible without the many teaching colleagues who collaborated with the sisters down through the years.
Legend has it that Sion Hill got its name from a rare plant brought from the Holy Land – so a small piece of the Holy Land is part of the fabric of Sion Hill. That’s what I like to believe even though it has never be verified.
As I watched eight decades of uniforms being modelled so elegantly by the Sion Hill students I noticed that the Dominican Crest and Veritas motto wasn’t a feature until the 1960’s. It has now become part of our DNA. The Crest is not exclusive to Sion Hill. It is worn on every Dominican uniform from Buenos Aires to Blackrock and beyond, reminding us that we belong to something bigger than ourselves, that we are part of a rich Dominican tapestry ever ancient ever new.
The Latin motto Veritas translates into the word Truth – it’s a motto that the world badly needs, as we all know that truth is under siege at the moment. On the 21st of January this year, Pope Francis spoke of what he called “a liquid society” – that we are making up truth as we go along. But our motto, Veritas, invites us to be ambassadors of truth. It challenges us to keep searching for truth – about God, the world and ourselves – to contemplate truth and not to be afraid, to share it with the world. St. Dominic said, “We must sow the seed of truth, not hoard it”.
As we wind down the 180th celebration we move to new times and new chapters in the life story of Sion Hill with courage and hope. I’d like to leave the last word to Catherine of Siena, 14th century Dominican woman, “If you are true to yourself, you will set the whole world on fire with truth and beauty.”
May God bless Sion, may she live and prosper
In loyal love beneath God’s Blessed rule
And may her children o’er the world be ever
True to their God, their motto and their school. (Sion Hill’s School Song)
Christina Greene, O.P.