Sr Bridget O’Driscoll OP has spent much of her life as a Dominican Sister living and working in Brazil. Her motto in life has been to “try it” and she has approached all of her major decisions including becoming a Sister with this belief.
After completing her secondary education in boarding school in Sion Hill, Bridget decided to further her studies, opting to pursue Home Economics in St Ann’s, again on the Sion Hill campus. While there, she began to consider a vocation following a conversation with one of the Sisters. The spirit of the Dominicans attracted her and the sense of truthfulness. She consulted her mother, who urged her to “try it” to see if it was for her and shortly afterwards, she began her novitiate at Kerrdifstown.
This led her to the Froebel in Sion Hill and then to her first job, teaching junior infants in primary school in Ballyfermot where she was also to become Principal. She enjoyed immensely her role as a teacher and this combined with her time in Ballyfermot led her down a particular path in life. She believes that “one is made by their circumstances and I was made by the people I met in Ballyfermot.”
Bridget has focussed much of her life working with the more vulnerable in society. Shortly afterwards she moved to Galway where after a year in Taylors Hill Scoil Rois school she began teaching Travellers. She helped set up St Brigid’s National School for Travellers who had left the school system early. While there, she believed she could better empathise with Traveller children if she lived on a halting site and spent two and a half years living in a caravan with a Charles de Foucauld sister, Monique. Bridget recalls this time as a “wonderful experience, giving me as an Educator, some understanding of the tough living conditions for Travellers”.
From there, Bridget was elected for a period of six years to the General Council of the Congregation. During this time, the Council set up a mission in Brazil. After her period on the Council, she made the decision to go to Brazil to “give it a try” and to assist the Sisters who were already there. She has now spent 21 years there and is currently on an island in the state of San Paulo, Cananéia, living again in an intercongregational community, this time with a Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary, Ann Griffin. Throughout these years Bridget has seen some improvements in structures for the more vulnerable in society.
However, there is still a huge divide between rich and poor and for the less well off, there is a basic requirement for housing and for programmes that give children opportunities in life. She is also increasingly concerned about the rural communities which have been devastated where she works.
Her life is dedicated to working closely with young pregnant mothers, imparting to them basic knowledge on nutrition and development to help them to give their babies the best start in life. This work continues after the child is born, up until the age of six and Bridget could have been working with up to 40 families at any one time. Her work extended to distributing food baskets to the poor, providing health information and giving Bible classes to laity who are preparing for ministry in the church.
She sees her role now, while not in a school setting, as an Educator. She believes that education can help draw out a person to be true to oneself and true to the World in which they live.
Dialogue, openness and trust have been hugely important elements of her life as a Dominican Sister. The Congregation has given her the freedom to try new and different things, which she is grateful for, enabling her to use her talents and gifts to help improve the lives of those around her from Ballyfermot, to the West of Ireland to an island community in Brazil.
She was recently appointed Director of Novices.