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14 09, 2017

300 years of Dominican Women in Dublin: Part 8

2023-07-13T15:56:42+00:00September 14, 2017|Dominican News, News, Stories|

Channel Row expenses: basic provisions were vegetables, meat, butter, eggs. Although tea and coffee were sometimes bought, the regular drink was beer! Snuff also was customary. As well as rent and legal fees, payments were made to the smith, the ‘hucster’ woman, the basket woman, doctor, apothecary, coalman. At times, contracts were drawn up. e.g the gardener in 1728, “is to keep ye garden clean and in good order…and keep everything proper for ye kitchen in its season as ye ground will afford…if he fails…he’s to forfeit” [part of his wages]. He’s to carry all ye rubage out of ye garden and to ye garden bring in ye dung at his own cost.”

Taxation levied on Dubliners was often of a penal nature. Catholics had to pay tax for the upkeep of Protestant ministers, their clerk and church in each parish. The ministers’ money was paid to St Paul’s and St Michan’s as their buildings straddled both parishes. Besides these “Protestant” taxes, other taxes, (“cess”) included cess for workhouse and foundling, tax on the local river (“Bradoge cess”). The community paid “harth mony”, “lamp mony”, “Grand Jury cess for transporting felons”. It must have been galling for Catholics to pay the latter, who may have included relatives or friends. In later years new taxes were added for paving, pipe water, a police tax, a window tax. [to be continued in part 9]

From Sr. Maris Stella McKeown, Archivist, Mission Area of Ireland

For more details, see this website link WHO WE ARE, with Drop down menu –HISTORY and BOOKS.
The drop down menu in WHAT WE DO provides insights into how and where the seed, planted in Dublin in 1717, has grown and sprouted other branches in the following three centuries.

16 08, 2017

300 years of Dominican Women in Dublin: Part 7

2023-07-13T15:55:32+00:00August 16, 2017|Dominican News, Uncategorized|

As in all Dominican communities, the Channel Row nuns were devoted to the church’s liturgy, especially the Mass and the Divine Office. These were enhanced by good music (as testified in Part 6) and an organ donated by the Bellew family. The chapel was adorned, with paintings, the altar with silver candlesticks, and silver sacred vessels were used during worship. Most of these were gifts to the community from various family members and benefactors, and have survived the vicissitudes of time -from Channel Row to Clontarf and finally to Cabra from 1819. If only they could speak of the many events of which they were part, and ‘witnessed’ during 300 years!

Aspects of the nuns’ spirituality are reflected in the books listed in the convent library. Titles included (in 1726) were various works of St Teresa [of Avila] and St Francis de Sales, Four Meditation Books, one Martiroligie, one Processionary, [the latter two refer to memorials, ceremonials and chants celebrated in the liturgy. [to be continued in Part 8]

From Sr. Maris Stella McKeown, Archivist, Mission Area of Ireland

For more details, see this website link WHO WE ARE, with Drop down menu –HISTORY and BOOKS.
The drop down menu in WHAT WE DO provides insights into how and where the seed, planted in Dublin in 1717, has grown and sprouted other branches in the following three centuries.

28 03, 2017


2023-07-13T16:01:06+00:00March 28, 2017|Dominican News, Education, Events, News, Uncategorized|


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.

Past Pupils Union Choir

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.

20 02, 2017

Launch of Prayer Book in Dominican College, Portstewart, 13th February, 2017

2023-07-13T15:45:27+00:00February 20, 2017|Dominican News, News, Uncategorized|

On Monday 13th February, Sr Lucina Montague greeted Dominican staff as they gathered to celebrate the launch of the 2017 centenary prayer book. She spoke of her arrival in Portstewart in 1962 and the appropriateness and relevance of the date chosen to launch the first in our series of Centenary events as the feast day of the blessed Jordan of Saxony, the successor to     St Dominic.

Sr Lucina, on behalf of the Dominican sisters, spoke of how the 2017 prayer book spoke of a continuation of the ethos established here in 1917 and how the spirit of St Dominic continues to live on in the works of his followers. She told staff that the publication, a labour of love for the school’s RE department was “ something valuable to be proud of and a publication that will set before our young people the influences, challenges and responsibilities that lie before them, and ourselves as 21st Dominicans.”

She spoke of the belief of Meister Eckhart, a key figure from within the Dominican tradition, who compared prayers to “God’s coughs”- his way of letting us know he is there!  She thanked the RE department, Mrs McLernon , Miss Smyth and Miss Willighan and in particular Miss Rainey for steering the prayer book , our retirees Mr Gilmore and Mrs Gillen for their input , Ms Ronan and Mr Fleming and the Centenary Committee and concluded by reminding staff : “ There are three distinct phases to our centenary celebrations; anticipation, celebration and prolongation. Enjoy all that we are going to do over the course of the next twelve months as a Dominican family and community and be a part of it”.

Our school chaplain, Fr Raymond McCullagh, concluded the celebration by reading the powerful Prayer of Abandonment written more than 100 years ago by Charles De Foucauld.

Miss Rainey, the school’s liturgical co-ordinator explained: “Dominican College has, for the past century been a place of prayer and reflection for Dominican Sisters, staff and students, and it is our hope that this book will help continue this tradition into the next phase of the school’s future.

The RE department have been working on this publication for the last 6 months and the book was specifically designed for our young people as they face the challenges of life. We viewed the publication as a challenge in terms of balancing the spiritual legacy of the Dominican tradition with the pressures and demands of C21st life for our young Dominicans.

We hope that whatever Christian background our pupils are from, or whether they are of faith or no faith, that they will find the book relevant, informative and inspiring.

St Padre Pio believed that prayer is the oxygen for the soul” and it is our hope that this small, powerful book of prayer and reflection will help breathe new life into the conversation between God and our spiritual selves.”

The Dominican prayer book is divided into categories to make it easier to access as they journey through the different experiences of life. There are quotes and reflections from people of all faiths around the world and throughout history.
All our pupils are familiar with the Veritas motto but there are two other mottos which are equally intrinsic to Dominican education: Contemplare et Contemplata aliis Tradere (To contemplate and to give others the fruit of contemplation ) and Laudare, Benidicere, Praedicare ( To praise, to bless, to teach).

The school is delighted to be able to offer the book as gift from the school to mark the Centenary year and Ms Ronan told our 2017 cohort of pupils at a special assembly on February 14th that they were special pupils within the history of the school and that the centenary gift would remind them, wherever they would go in the world and whatever they would choose to do in their life beyond school, that they would remain part of the Dominican family here in Portstewart.

Fr Raymond explained to our pupils that prayer is “becoming present to yourself in the presence of God” and he celebrated the “ big work that has gone into a small book of wisdom, reflection and prayers designed to help us along the various phases of life’s journey”.

Additional copies of the book of prayer and reflection will be on sale for £5.00 from the school and copies will be available at the various milestone events along our year of centenary celebrations.

From website of Dominican College, Portstewart  –  http://www.dcpni.net

10 08, 2015

Reflection by Sr. Helen Mary Harmey on Congregation Day 7th August

2023-07-13T16:12:11+00:00August 10, 2015|Dominican News, News|

Evening Prayer Congregation Day 7 August 2015                          Mt. 16:24-28

“Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone wishes to be a follower of mine, let them renounce themselves and take up their cross and follow me”

If you look closely at the script in the leaflet you will notice a typographical error. (They say that the best artists have a mark of a mistake on their work! It proves their originality!)

The text reads “if anyone wishes to be a follower of mind”.   “A follower of mind” echoes St. Pauls’ exhortation to the Philippines:  “In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus (Phil. 2.5) – that mind which accepted death on a cross.  If we had the mind of Jesus we would be well on the road to transformation.  What is it that holds us back as individuals, as Church, as Institutions?

This year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the poet W.B. Yeats and we hear quite a bit about his life and works.  Yeats wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

The battlefields of the early 20th century were gruesome and horrific places so those who have no experience of it may underestimate the daring courage needed to be a soldier then.   And yet this is the courage we need to face ourselves, to face, name and accept our own darkness.  The courage we need to face our shadow so that the light gets a space to shine through.  The courage we need to take up our cross.


This integration of darkness and light, the acceptance of failure, betrayals, the humility of frailty are all aspects of taking up one’s cross.  Christ dies on a cross, on a crossbeam where the vertical and horizontal met; where the intersection of good and evil met.  We are invited to do likewise – “to take up our cross”.  It may help to translate the phrase into different language today but the meaning and the challenge is the same.  We are challenged to integrate all aspects of our humanity, our personality and our divine destiny.  We are invited to enter fully the mystery of being human.


St. Matthew in his gospel highlighted to the Jews and Gentiles – the new inclusive Christian Church that God was a God of history and that Jesus was showing what it was to be human, calling the people to a new vision of humanity.


We today, need to reclaim that vision of humanity that was in the mind of Christ.  We need to claim the wonder of our being, the creative power, the imaginative ability together with our destructive capacity.  As followers of Christ and St. Dominic we need to study and reflect, to speak a word of hope and compassion and to show that it is possible to live in right relationship with God, others and the planet.


Our world today, more than ever, is torn apart due to extractive economies, the forced global movement of peoples, institutional and political corruption and the absence of moral guidance in the areas of technological and scientific advancements.  We see the poor get poorer, the abuse and exclusion of women on the increase, the inhumane treatment of migrants and differing groups of people together with the intolerance and ignorance of the need for diversity.


The Congregation can as a group of consecrated women look back on a history of courageous women who got it right many times over the centuries but equally had its lean and dark times.  Pope Francis encourages us this year “to look back with gratitude” in order to live “the present with passion”.


Our sisters have lived since Vatican II through many changes.  We have had to let go of many ministries, convents and houses.  This letting go has been painful, done graciously in most instances and with generosity on the part of individuals and groups.  This pain of letting go comes to all of us through sickness, death, betrayals, calamities, particular events and broken relationships.  This pain is inherent in the cross.  But the cross is not the final statement of the mind of Christ, it points to transformation. ecal044


The Christian Cross symbolises the endurance, the suffering, the steadfastness that leads to life that opens us to the mind of Christ – to compassion, service, joy, love and above all hope amidst the mystery and paradoxes of life.


Sister Helen Mary Harmey, OP

Congregation Prioress

7 07, 2015

Sr. Joan O’Donovan OP

2023-07-13T18:23:04+00:00July 7, 2015|Dominican News, Ireland, My Vocation Story, News, Stories, Uncategorized|


My Vocation Story

A family story, that I was never too happy to hear repeated, was about my being brought as a small girl to visit a convent. One of the Sisters asked me what I would like to be when I grew up and my reply was “I would like to be a Reverend Mother”! Let me hasten to add that I do not proffer the story as an early indication of a religious vocation, but rather because it suggests, correctly, that convents and sisters were a familiar and positive part of the ambience I grew up in, as were churches and priests, Mass, Benediction, Sodalities, other Church devotions.

In other words, I was lucky enough to grow up at a time in Ireland when for many people God was acknowledged as the ultimate context of life, even though they probably wouldn’t have expressed it in so many words.

I went to school first to the Ursulines in Cork and later, as a boarder, to the Loreto Sisters in Dublin. I remember my school days as happy and in hind-sight I realise that, as well as being well-taught, I learned a great deal about my faith through the example as well as the teaching of the Sisters. Their lives had a certain mystery about them too, which like many other girls, I found intriguing. In fact in many ways they became my role models. Which was, I suppose, why in my final years in school I found myself seriously considering whether I was being called to become a sister myself.

However, when I told my father about it, he was quite adamant that I should go to College first. And so I went to UCC where doing an Arts Degree, making new friends, and being part of various College societies and wider student social life absorbed all my time and energy for the next four years. All thought of religious life faded into the background. After that I had the good fortune to be invited to teach in a newly opened and innovative lay Catholic school and so to begin my professional career in a dynamic setting which I found challenging, absorbing and fulfilling.

Around the same time, my brother, who had entered the Dominican Order some years previously, was ordained. Attending his Ordination and his First Mass were very happy and significant family events. In the succeeding months I found myself, possibly because questioned by my brother’s life and values, beginning to revisit my own attraction to religious life. But not only was I very happy in my job but I had just begun a 2-year Master’s degree course in French. This gave me a further reason for deferring the decision I now knew had to be made. When I did finally face it, it took me a further two years of indecision before I finally applied to be admitted to the Congregation of the Irish Dominican Sisters and was accepted. This Dominican Congregation, in contrast to the two congregations with which I was familiar, was almost completely unknown to me.

That was in July. There were still three months of inner churning, where I lurched from making necessary preparations to enjoying, what I saw as for the last time, a hill-climbing  holiday with friends, and visits to places I thought I would never see again. I have a vivid memory of free-wheeling one day down a long hill enjoying, though with a certain sadness, the wind in my face and the sense of utter freedom. Yet the inner call remained insistent.

It was altogether unexpected then on the day we entered the Novitiate and all the goodbyes were over and my family had departed for Cork that my immediate sense in this unknown place among so many strangers was of total peace of mind. It was not so much an experience of being confirmed in the choice I had made with so much difficulty,  as a sense of having landed in the way of life that God had chosen for me without my realising it.

Although like everybody else I have had my share of major and minor crises and of dark times of suffering, I have never even for a single moment doubted that I was in the place where I belonged. Sixty years later I am still amazed at having the good fortune to belong to the Dominican Order.

There followed three years of initiation into the particular way of following Christ shaped by St. Dominic our founder, which is summed up in one of the mottos of the Order as: “To praise, to bless, to preach.” So from the first day we new arrivals learned the meaning of “To praise” by being absorbed actively into the community liturgy, singing with them the praises of God in the Eucharist and the Divine Office, and in class being instructed in the Scriptures, in particular the psalms, as well as in the chanting and singing of the Gregorian Chant. (In those days the Office was recited or sung in Latin). I found this all most enriching. I grew to love it and continue to be sustained by it as a sharing in the prayer of Christ with the whole Church.

In the same way we learned by the way daily life was organised that “To bless” meant in practice putting others, and first of all the community before oneself, being “time-tabled” rather than organising one’s own time, for example, and more demanding still, learning to love one’s neighbour as oneself. A life-long work, for sure, but for us young people living with others of our own age and in our first fervour, it did not seem too difficult.

The teaching of the formation community both by their example and by their class work was my first initiation into what it is for Dominicans “To preach.” Then after those first three years I was back to the field of education myself and had my first experience of the particular quality of Dominican education as a member of a very creative staff of sisters and lay teachers. I was constantly surprised by their readiness to try out new ideas such as taking part in pilot schemes for curriculum development, and by their ability to draw out the potential of their students by their respect and trust in them.

After some years I became involved in other expressions of the Dominican preaching charism, first as member of a formation team privileged to help young women discern and test their own call to religious life, and later as member of the Council of the Congregation where I had the opportunity of visiting our sisters working in other parts of the world, and of being introduced by them to different contexts and experiences of Church in South Africa, Argentina, Lisbon and Louisiana as well as in Ireland.

My last preaching ministry was a return to teaching, this time to adults, in an Institute founded by a Dominican Friar whose vision it was to put together the insights of modern psychology and the insights of the great religious traditions. I was part of a team made up of Dominican brothers and sisters, lay men and women. As teachers, guides and therapists we worked with the many people who found being introduced to this particular map of the person through a reflective methodology helpful in making sense of their lives in the rapidly changing Ireland of today. It was for me a profound experience of Dominican preaching.

The words of T.S.Eliot: “In my end is my beginning” come to mind when I reflect on my experience of living out the call “To praise, to bless, to preach” in old age. In some ways with the falling away of outer ministries, the mission area is more and more the local community with all the joys, challenges and difficulties that this entails as we struggle to become together a community of holy preaching. Yet we never cease being called to bear witness to God’s compassion for the world and opportunities to do so in our daily comings and goings keep taking me by surprise.

I am grateful to be part of a community where the example of others in their fidelity to the praising of God in the liturgy, and to the blessing of each other in community, encourage me to keep going, and, more importantly, to keep remembering the truth I glimpsed on the day I entered: I am of God’s making, not my own. St. Paul puts it so much better than I can: “We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he meant us to live it.” (Eph. 2:10)


Sr Joan O’Donovan OP

8 06, 2015

Restorative Practices – a Way forward in Education by Sr. Liz Smyth OP

2023-07-13T16:11:22+00:00June 8, 2015|Dominican News, Ireland, News, Uncategorized|

In this article I wish to reflect on how the use of Restorative Practice in our daily lives as Dominican Educators can build right relationships and answer a need in society today to Respect, Understand, Include all by building Positive Relationships.


Education is a powerful predictor of life chances and opportunities. Research shows that those who leave school with little or no formal education have less opportunities in later life. (ERSI, Barnardos). Research on early school leaving states that a significant reason for a student to leave school before completion of the Leaving Certificate is because of “poor relations” either with peers or staff members.

We in St. Dominic’s, Ballyfermot believe that as educators in the Dominican Tradition of “Holistic Education” it is important that our students and staff have a sense of “belonging” by the promotion of positive relationships”. This we believe will lead to the social, emotional and academic progress of our students which is central to our Mission as a teaching and learning community.

Building Right Relationships
Since 2007, we have been using Restorative Practice as a process to help us change inappropriate behaviour and alleged bullying incidents within our teaching and learning community through the promotion of positive relationships and personal responsibility. Restorative Practice is central to our Code of Behaviour and daily school life.  Our school’s moral purpose is “never give up on any student, and relationships are the key to a successful education”. It is our firm belief that if students and staff are not happy then teaching and learning does not take place.  Happiness is real when relationships are Positive. This philosophy in St Dominic’s takes its foundation from our Congregational Mission Statement of 1998, where we are called to “Build Right Relationships”. This we believe leads to success.

What is Restorative Practice. (RP) ?
According to the International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) “Restorative Practice is a social science that studies how to build social capital and achieve social discipline through participatory learning and decision making”.   The Childhood Development Initiative (CDI) Tallaght who are spearheading Restorative Communities and Schools describe restorative practices as “both a philosophy and a set of skills that have the core aim of building strong relationships and resolving conflict in a simple and emotionally healthy manner” (CDI, 2014, p7)
Restorative Practice (RP) grew out of Restorative Justice (RJ) and mediation. Unlike RJ and mediation which is focused on solving conflict problems or dealing with a problem after it has arose, RP can give us the simple skills needed to prevent the conflict in the first place if we live and work in restorative environments.

RP is about consciously working to develop and maintain good relationships. It encourages each one to take personal responsibility for their actions, have high expectations of each other and  also offer high levels of support to meet those expectations.

The philosophy of RP is rooted in respect, recognition of the importance of good relationships between people for human well-being and development; and the understanding that relationships can and should be restored when they have been harmed by conflict or wrongdoing. Key RP skills include the abilities to listen and to develop empathy between people, fairness; problem -solving; and conflict resolution skills.

Restorative Practice creates a positive environment where members have the necessary skills to self-regulate their own behaviour and learning. It helps to
Develop – emotional literacy, truth telling, accountability, responsibility;
Improve – behaviour, attendance, learning environment, teaching;
Increase – empathy, happiness, social and communication skills;
Reduce – bullying, exclusions, conflict, need for sanctions.
Developing Social and Emotional Intelligences (SEI)
The practice of RP involves the building and expanding of our social and emotional intelligence which gives us the ability to perceive and evaluate our emotions. This development leads to a healthier well-being and prevents us from “reacting”.  It promotes a more positive “action” in situations and prevents conflict.

Restorative Language
Restorative Language is inclusive, respectful and a collaborative process for putting things right, with consensual outcomes. We use restorative language to establish, maintain, strengthen, relationships. It can be used to “resolve conflict” but it can also be used when promoting positive behaviour.

Aims of Restorative practice
According to Thorsborne and Vinegrade (2008) Restorative approaches are based on four key aims;
1. Respect – for everyone by listening to other opinions and learning to value them;
2. Responsibility – taking responsibility for your own actions;
3. Repair – developing the skills within a school or community so its individual members have the necessary skills to identify solutions that repair harm;
4. Re-Integration – working through a structured, supportive process that resolves the issue and ensure behaviours are not repeated.

The Restorative Process
There are six key questions that are used when promoting Restorative Practices.

1. What Happened?
2. What were you thinking of at the time?
3. What have you thought about since?
4. Who has been affected and in what way?
5. How could things have been done differently?
6. What do you think needs to happen next?

These can be used when dealing with conflict (but can also be used when promoting positive behaviour attitude). If there is a clear wrongdoer then they are asked the first five questions first and then the person who was harmed answers the five questions – finally the harm doer says what he/ she thinks needs to happen to restore the relationship.

The RP Process can involve any of the following settings:

Informal / formal conversion (1:1 eg issue on corridor, minor conflict, to promote positive behaviour / relationship)
Restorative Meeting (more than two people or when there is an issue that needs to be resolved)
Restorative Circle (either to build a sense of belonging or to solve a problem within the class / group)
Restorative Conference This takes place when a more serious allegation has been made or incident occurs, there is preparation for this, and the victim and accused will have the opportunity to bring support.

Being restorative involves being fair therefore it will always involve Engagement / Explanation / Expectation. It separates the person from the problem or their behaviour.
It is the no blame approach  and it gives the wrong doer the opportunity to take responsibility for their behaviour and say sorry and it gives the person who is harmed the opportunity to forgive and move on in their life’s journey.

Ultimately RP gives each one of us the opportunity to be RESPONSIBLE for our behaviour and RESTORTATIVE in our dealings with others.

Sr. Liz Smyth OP

5 06, 2015

Srs Maureen MacMahon and Edel Murphy on Froebel education in Ireland

2023-07-14T13:09:53+00:00June 5, 2015|Dominican News, Good News, Ireland, News, Stories, Uncategorized|

Sr Maureen MacMahon OP looks back on beginnings of Froebel education in Ireland

On Monday morning in September 1943 four of us; Frances Lodge, Ann Fitzgerald, Sr. Dorothea O.P. and myself, (Sr. Grignion, now Sr. Maureen O.P.) sat down in a small uncomfortable room in Sion Hill to attend our first lecture.  We were pioneers of the Froebel method of primary education in the Republic of Ireland.  The lecturers were as perplexed as we were, but as the course unfolded, revealing the open, liberal method of Frederick Froebel, both rose to the task and the first few years passed quickly and successfully.Sr Maureen MacMahon

I was full of enthusiasm for the new method of learning through activity – “no more sitting on a hard old bench” – of encouraging pupils to explore the world around them, especially their immediate environment, to see and respect the beauty of nature and to express themselves through art.  The child was now at the centre.  We learnt how to discover the gifts and strengths of each, how to respond to these and so help the child to develop in a holistic way.  I loved especially the emphasis on self-expression through creative crafts and art.


Further years were to bring changes.  I found myself teaching Art at senior and then at student and adult levels, but whatever the age group or subject, the principles advocated by Froebel, were as relevant at 5, 15 or 50 years.

Sr Maureen MacMahon OP

See more at National University of Ireland Maynooth 



Sr. Edel Murphy the last Dominican Sister to be a full time student of Froebel
Proud to call myself a Froebel Teacher!

sr edelWhen I think of my years at the Froebel College of Education the words freedom and trust come to mind. My Froebel days go from 1990-1993 and being immersed in the philosophy of education that highlighted free play, discovery learning, drawing from the child, engaging with children in their learning, the recognition that children have unique gifts and capabilities and the image of a garden where all these children are to be taken care of and nourished- gave the sense of freedom, trust and a wonderment of what lay before us as educators. The philosophy of Fredrich Froebel (1782-852) was tangible throughout my three years in the college. Froebel created the concept of ‘Kindergarten’. In this Kindergarten children are to be taken care of and nourished like plants in a garden. He taught the connection of human life and life in nature and central to it all was the importance of free play. It was a busy time of putting together treasure boxes, adapting stories to suit the needs of the children in front of us, collecting all sorts of materials to recycle into maths, English, Irish equipment for groups of children, arranging play areas and planning activities where nature was to be a prominent part of the child’s life.

On a personal note I was always grateful to Sr Maura Duggan for giving me the space to engage with the course and with the students and for encouraging us on any ideas or thoughts about aspects of college life we may have had. It was truly a fun time, though the teaching practices were difficult, but the closeness and support of students to and for one another filled the atmosphere of the college. Sr Conleth Wilson also comes to my mind first when I reflect on Froebel and his method of education. Her art classes were always calm, safe and seemed the right place to be at the time. She gently led us through the theme of the class, instructed on what was required and then stepped back and watched with love what was produced by each student. One day in particular, feeling that I should by now be producing a work of art, I put down my utensils and gave up ready to dispose of what I had done. Needless to say Sr Conleth stepped quietly forward and simply suggested that I stop for a minute. She then invited me to take another look at the piece and told me to point out what part of the picture stands out for me when I look at it. This I calmly did. I was then instructed to rule lines around that one little piece, cut it out, mount it twice and finally put it up on the display board. Time moved on and I completed the task and stood back to look at the picture. Sr Conleth returned to my side and said simply, “well, what do you think now?” I actually thought it was good and said so. She agreed of course and finished by saying, “yes you did that, I guided you to show you what you can do. That is your task with the children you come into contact with will be. You are to guide them gently so as to nourish and draw out from their talent”. I thought later that for Conleth asking me to display the work implied that our talents when drawn from within are to be gifts of beauty for others where God becomes a visible sign for that moment anyhow.
Each time I go into a class my years in Froebel stand to me and the importance of respect to be shown for the work children produce must be prominent. I was always somewhat chuffed when after displaying children’s work on a notice board I almost always had the comment from an older member of staff or a principal, “you would know that you were a Froebel teacher”. For this gift I do thank those sisters who enabled it to be so and I am deeply proud that I became a Froebel teacher!

Sr Edel Murphy OP





20 02, 2015

Inspirational life that changed girls at Muckross forever

2023-07-14T06:55:15+00:00February 20, 2015|Dominican News, News|

Below is article from The Irish Times by Breda O’Brien on Sr. Barnabas Kett OP who died on 1st February 2015.

Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that you worked closely with thousands of people, and your phenomenal memory allowed you not only to remember the vast majority of them, but also their families, spouses and children.

Imagine that you also had a unique ability to make and maintain vibrant connections with dozens of friends and family of all ages. Imagine possessing highly honed intuition of a kind that prompted contact with people when they most needed words of encouragement.

Finally, imagine that, although you suffered from poor health for much of your life, you retained all your faculties and were as sharp as a tack right up to the age of 98.

Until last Sunday, when she closed her eyes for the last time, those of us privileged to be connected with the Dominican Sisters in Muckross Park, Donnybrook, did not have to use our imaginations.

We simply looked in awe at the human dynamo that was Sr Barnabas Kett OP, known to everyone as Barnie. The convent in Muckross is full of exceptional women, but none of them would begrudge praise given to her, as they grieve for her just as much as her beloved family of origin do.

Barnie was the beating heart of the Muckross Past Pupils’ Union. The current newsletter, Muckross Mail, features a tribute full of affection and grief – emotions mirrored at her huge funeral last Wednesday.

As many people reminded me at her removal and funeral, when Barnie had a plan that involved you, it was best to capitulate immediately. Resistance was always futile.

Her brain teemed with schemes, which fell into two rough categories – things that she believed would be good for Muckross Park, or for one of the people she cared about.

How was she to achieve these two goals unless she managed to persuade someone to make use of the talents God had given them?

She worked her phone in a way that made American political activists look like rank amateurs. At nine or ten o’clock at night, the call would come. Often, there was no preamble, just a simple command or announcement.

sr barnabasPersonal warmth
Her immense personal warmth, and a smile that could have melted polar icecaps, meant that capitulation usually happened with good grace. It probably helped, too, that the person she phoned was just as often a recipient of care, and not merely always a conscripted accomplice.

Barnie was a person of deep feeling, yet utterly devoid of sentimentality. And sometimes she could be too tough. If you were a young teacher, and she felt you were failing to communicate a topic to a pupil, you might get the rough edge of her tongue.

Pupils who were acting up would receive the same treatment. And yet, one past pupil now in her 30s told me that Barnie was the first adult who ever apologised to her.

Barnie had walked into a classroom where there was a row, and jumped to conclusions about who was guilty.

The past pupil tried to point out that Barnie had not got the full picture, and got a tongue lashing. But later, Barnie returned to apologise, an event that left a deep impression.

Enclosed order
Born in Clare in 1917, Barnie’s connection with Muckross Park began at eight, when she came to the school as a boarder. She made her religious vows with the Dominicans in 1941. At the time, the Dominican Sisters were fully enclosed, not even allowed out for family funerals. Then came the late 1960s. Enclosure ended, and those feisty women adapted gracefully and, perhaps in some cases, gleefully to a wider world.

The Dominicans have always had a profound commitment to educating women. When the primary and secondary schools opened in Muckross Park in 1900, they also ran lectures for women undergraduates, who in a classic catch 22 had been allowed to sit university exams, but not to attend lectures. If you can’t join them, outmaneuver them, seems to have been the philosophy.

Like all the sisters who taught, Barnie believed that education was the key to a good life, one where you could be useful. For example, she organised driving lessons in the 1960s for sixth years, all part of her grand plan to make those young women independent, participating citizens. She also promoted sex education long before it was mandatory.

She organised exchanges with French schools, and instituted Muckross’s involvement with Lourdes. The pilgrimages where teenagers worked selflessly with the elderly and the sick proved life-changing for many, and some return every year.

She would have been so proud of the current pupils ranged along the railings in a guard of honour at her funeral, immaculate in their green and black. Her dearest wish for them, and for all whom she loved, would have been that they continue the tradition of veritas , the school motto, and that they would find their way to the truth that sets all human beings free.

The final lines of an eloquent poem written for Barnie by Valerie Cox, RTÉ reporter and past pupil, speak for many of us: “Your work is done/Go, with our love.”

From Irish Times 7th February 2015 . See more at www.irishtimes.com

20 01, 2015

Sr. Maeve McMahon speaks about her work in JUST (Jesuit University Support and Training Centre

2023-07-13T15:29:55+00:00January 20, 2015|Dominican News, Ireland, News, Uncategorized|

The Jesuit University Support and Training centre in Ballymun or JUST as it is more widely known was recently visited by six executives from the Higher Education Authority.  Invited by the Director of the Centre, Dr Kevin O’Higgins, following the recent publication of the report on access to education in disadvantaged areas, the executives wanted to hear how this Centre, which was opened in 2006 has managed in less than ten years to increase three fold (close to 10%) the numbers of local residents enrolled in third level programmes.

JUST which is located in the local Jobs Centre in Ballymun is in touch with the local community and its formula for success is that the volunteer staff, many of whom are retired teachers, offer a range of supports to those who wish to attend third level but also through supportive one to one relationships with the students already in enrolled in third level and throughout the years of their studies.

Sr Maeve McMahon OP joined the Centre in 2007.  As a Dominican and retired school Principal of St Leo the Great in New Orleans she is aware of how structural support in education is vital in disadvantaged areas to foster an interest in further education.  She believes that the “one to one relationship is very important to assist students with what can sometimes be a daunting process of entering third level”.

The JUST centre now has eight individuals working there, many of whom are Jesuits but all of whom have education experience either in 2nd or 3rd level.  It was started by the Jesuits who have a long history in Ballymun.   Sr Maeve feels that it also marries very well with the Dominican charism and approach to education, which sees the blend of seeking education and truth as a means of liberation.  So much so that the Dominican Sisters Cabra have committed an education fund to JUST. Sr Maeve has worked with wonderful people during her time there.  Starting out with 20 students, the Centre now has 100 and has supported 300 since its inception.  It has supported five young people who are pursuing PhDs and many others pursuing Mas.  The rest are preparing for or participating in undergraduate courses.

She believes that access programmes in the major Universities have been vital but often the students also need support such as assistance with note taking and essay writing and this is where JUST plays an important role.  She explains that many of her students have come from families that have been affected by addiction and for this reason may also require support with other personal development skills to cope in difficult family situations.  She also helps many to connect with their spiritual side.   JUST also aims to address the general educational deficit of many students from an area like Ballymun who have never experienced an art gallery or cultural institution.  The centre facilitates cultural outings and also offers regular evening classes on diverse topics like philosophy and psychology.

Sr Maeve explains that “all human beings need to be feel that they are valued and need to be seen and heard” and that in Ireland we have failed as a nation because we have not honoured these basic Christian values.

Dr Kevin O’Higgins has asked the question of how the success of this programme can be replicated elsehwhere? The centre, because it relies predominantly on volunteers and rents inexpensive facilities, has neither sought nor received state funding.   And this is the conversation that Dr O’Higgins has commenced with the HEA.  The programme taps into the whole ethos of volunteering in Ireland and could be rolled out with larger volunteer organisations like the GAA or where there is a bank of retired teachers who are willing to help.

Sr Maeve believes that structurally in Ireland within the education system, we have serious problems.  She draws on a wonderful school model she has seen in the United States called the Cristo Rey network, which was also started by the Jesuits and is the largest network of urban high schools in the country enrolling only youth from low income families.  It offers an approach to inner-city education that equips students with the knowledge, character and skills to remove them from a cycle of poverty.  This school network now has 100% enrolment into further education and the key to its success has been 24/7 support to the students if and when they need it.    Dr Kevin O’Higgins is a strong proponent of this model and believes that it can be replicated in Ireland.

Sr Maeve does not expect JUST to expand further in terms of the number of students receiving support because of her fear that the one on one support would then be lost.  However, the overall vision is to continue to offer an opportunity to people who have found life hard to have freedom and a realisation of their own potential through education.

Sr Maeve lived through a challenging time herself in the United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Kathrina which temporarily closed St Leo the Great.  She believes that life is a task master and will create its demands but it is attitude that can make a difference in attempting to make the world a better place and she has seen this spirit alive in JUST.

She also believes that every human has an inner flame and we are entitled for this inner flame to be alive so that we can all reach our full potential.  It is clear when Sr Maeve talks about her return from the United States and her chance conversation with a Jesuit about the need for volunteers in JUST, that her inner flame continues to shine brightly in the field of education.

For more information about JUST, please visit www.justballymun.org


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