On Saturday 6 April, the people of Ballybay and the wider Parish of Tullycorbet paid tribute to the years of dedicated service given to them by the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at a Mass of Thanksgiving in St Patrick’s Church, Ballybay. The religious congregation has been in the mid-Monaghan town since 1932 and their mission has included maternity care, care of the elderly, teaching responsibilities and participation in many aspects of parish life.
The special guest was Bishop Larry Duffy, who himself was born at the St Anne’s Nursing Home, Ballybay, in 1951. This was his first pastoral visit to the Parish of Tullycorbet since his ordination as Bishop of Clogher in February last. Bishop Duffy was welcomed by the Parish Priest of Tullycorbet, Fr Owen J McEneaney, who was joined by several other priests and by the sisters themselves along with a large congregation. A commemorative booklet was produced for the occasion.
To mark the long and continuing contribution of the sisters in Ballybay, Bishop Duffy blessed and dedicated an Evangelarium, which will be a permanent place of repose for the Book of the Gospels – the Word of God – in St Patrick’s Church. The Evangelarium, in pitch pine from a pew belonging to St Patrick’s Church, was crafted by Hugh McGuirk.
In his homily, Bishop Duffy said the people of the parish and surrounding areas had gathered to give thanks to God for the nearly ninety years of dedicated and generous service given by the sisters. He highlighted how, from their arrival in Ballybay in 1932 they had been to the fore in welcoming new life, educating the young, walking with and supporting the aged, encouraging
g the talent of youth, supporting and servicing those on pilgrimage at Lough Derg as well as visiting homes and sharing the Christian faith with the people of Ballybay and the neighbouring areas. It was, he said, ‘an outstanding litany of service’.
‘Sisters, you dedicated yourselves with tremendous generosity and we have been enriched by your loving service’, he said.
He went on:
‘There is a truth that can be forgotten and overlooked in the Ireland of today. In days past, when Ireland was a poorer place and life was more simply lived, the religious orders in particular were the first to answer the needs of people in education and healthcare. The rest of society may have seen the need, but that same society was unable to respond to it. The religious, inspired by their Christian faith, felt impelled to answer the needs of the people and so they established schools and healthcare centres – often investing their earnings in the projects.
‘Your faith had a big influence on how you ran these services. You were influenced by the teachings of Jesus and by his example. For Jesus, every person is unique, special, important and each life is precious. This was seen in the way in which you approached people, especially the weak and the vulnerable.
‘While vocations to the priesthood and religious life are in short supply today, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart gave witness to a life dedicated to God, just like Mary in the Gospel reading today. We need people of faith who are prepared to sacrifice everything for God. You, Sisters, have held nothing back.
‘The Evangelarium which we dedicate here in St Patrick’s today will be a reminder to us all of your answer to the Word of God, of your service and your faith. Like Mary, you treasured the Word of God and took it to heart.
I pray that God’s Word may always be a lamp for our steps and a light for our path, May your generosity, service and faith be an inspiration to us all as we hold God’s hand into the future.’, he concluded.
The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart continue to have a convent in Ballybay. The Sisters first arrived in Ballybay in 1932 where opened a Novitiate – the congregation’s first residence in Ireland. In 1947 they opened St Anne’s maternity nursing home, which continued until 1973. During those twenty-six years, some 5,069 babies were born there. In 1971 they opened St Joseph’s Nursing Home for the Elderly in the grounds of the convent in Ballybay, which was under the care of the congregation until very recently. The congregation has a presence in many countries overseas, including Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Kiribati, the USA and the UK.