Students from Crescent College Comprehensive SJ went to St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn, Waterford in September to live and work with Ireland’s only Cistercian contemplative nuns. The retreat was organised by Crescent Chaplain Grainne Delaney and she was with students Jo Burke, Kate O’ Carroll, Aisling Walsh and Maria Twoomey (see photo).
The students joined the nuns for prayer seven times a day including the vigil prayer at 4.10 am. They also went to work in the three businesses operating from Glencairn. They made eucharistic breads, worked in the card factory and planted seeds in the garden which is part of the monastery farm. Grainne Delaney says the experience for the students was deeply prayerful at times but they also had plenty of laughs. “We had fun moments such as rounding up a group of nuns who were arguing about who might be in the front of the photo while shouting ‘Up Limerick’ led by Sr. Kathleen, who hails from Newcastlewest!”
Sr Mairead, who worked in the Central Bank in Dublin before joining the nuns as a late vocation, took charge of the girls, according to Grainne, adding that “Sr. Fiachra the resident horticulturalist who also specialises in eucharistic bread making, introduced the students to her craft and disclosed that brown hosts are not made with brown flour but are cooked in a hotter oven!”
Grainne says that the students all agreed that although the nuns were solemn and respectful as they prayed in the Church, they were down to earth and full of fun on the farm and in the monastery, “and hearing the nuns tell their vocation stories and watching them at work and prayer, the students were all struck by the commitment they had made.”
The retreat was part of the Annual Retreat offered to all 6th years in Crescent College Comprehensive. Grainne Delaney says the classes for 6th years stop for two days in September to allow students to reflect, pray, talk to each other and contemplate their hopes and dreams for the year ahead. “We offer the students 6 options. The retreat in St. Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn was a new retreat this year, a kind of pilot programme. Because of the success of this one next year we hope to bring 10 students.”