THE IRISH PROVINCE
The Irish Province held its Chapter in July 2006. Despite our aging profile the Chapter was characterized by a spirit of hope and optimism. There was a willingness to look into the future and face the challenges ahead with confidence in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. During the past year the PLT has been engaged in bringing the deliberations of the Chapter to the communities around the Province.
The momentum given to the Province by the 2006 Chapter will propel us towards the next major celebration of the Province commemorating 150 years of Spiritan presence in Ireland. This celebration will take place in 2009.
At the time of writing the Irish Province has 365 professed members (130 outside of Ireland and 235 in Ireland). There are 12 members in the Spiritan Associate group.
For the purpose of this report I want to concentrate on giving a brief overview of the Province and its main works – especially mentioning our three priority areas of engagement in Ireland namely our justice projects, our work in education and chaplaincy, and our commitment to marginalized parishes in West Dublin.
1. Justice and Peace Projects
The Irish Province has a number of Justice and Peace Projects on hand.
The Spiritan run Spirasi Project provides services to asylum seekers and refugees in Ireland. The project continues to grow and develop and currently has over 60 full time employees and some 80 volunteers on staff. The project concentrates on three main areas:
Care for the Survivors of Torture - catering for over 1,000 clients annually.
Health education - creating access to health services and entitlements for refugees.
Centre for Education and Integration of Migrants - p roviding courses in English and computers.
From the Spirasi offices we also run the Centro de Apoio se Brasileiros na Irlanda. This is a support group for Brazilian migrants in Ireland .
An Tobar (The Well) is a residential meeting place for people from communities who are involved in working for Justice and Peace and who are searching for a meaningful spirituality. Over 70 different groups use this residential facility every year.
In the past year An Tobar has included a drugs counseling service for local people trying to get free from drug addiction.
Riverside Counselling and Suicide Bereavement Support network
This is an inner city project that includes Prison Outreach, Suicide bereavement, and Courage (chaplaincy to a Catholic Gay Group).
Awareness Education Programmes
Focusing on people who live on the margins the AEP runs courses on Facing up to Suicide, Facing up to Alcohol Abuse, Harmony in the Home, and Confronting Bullying.
Irish Missionary Union
The Spiritans are actively involved with the IMU in its justice programmes including Debt and development Coalition Ireland, and Make Poverty History.
From September 2007 the Justice Desk at the IMU will be run by a Spiritan.
The Newlands Institute for Counselling
This is part of our presence in a marginalized area of West Dublin. There are two full time Spiritans working here as counselors. The Institute provides over 3,500 hours of counseling each year.
New Spiritan Initiative
The Provincial Chapter of 2006 asked the PLT to initiate a new Spiritan Justice Initiative. Research has already begun on this. Early indications seem to show a preference for a project that engages with environmental issues and global warming. We are also looking for a location for the project which may be the Spiritan residence at Ardbraccan.
2. Spiritan Education Projects
The Spiritans have had a long history of involvement in education in Ireland. We have five large Secondary Schools – three of which have Junior Schools attached to them. With declining Spiritan personnel and concern for the future of the schools, the Province set up the Des Places Educational Association in 1999. The DEA was established to oversee the Spiritan Education Projects in Ireland and to ensure that our Colleges a) ‘further the aims and purposes of Catholic education' in Ireland, b) promote the ‘ethos and educational philosophy of the Congregation' and c) ‘to secure through the Boards of Management of the colleges the development and implementation of the education policy of the Congregation'.
We are happy to say that all the schools now have Boards of Management in place.
Over the next six years the main focus of the DEA will be around ethos issues in the schools. It is important that the Spiritan spiritual and missionary ethos is maintained and strengthened among the young people attending our schools. Part of this is the promotion of school immersion visits to various Spiritan Mission Projects overseas.
Chaplaincy in our schools remains a priority for the Province. The PLT continues to work with the DEA, the Boards of Management and the school principals to ensure a high quality of Pastoral Care for the students with a qualified chaplaincy team as an integral part of the school staff. We have appointments from other Circumscriptions working in Chaplaincy roles in three of the schools. Those on First Appointment to this work pursue a Masters Course in Chaplaincy work.
Among the Province's education projects we can include the Kimmage Development Studies Centre. The KDSC was founded over 30 years ago and is now funded mainly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the European Union. Over the years the KDSC has hosted students from all over the world who have come to Ireland study development education. Recently the KDSC has won a government contract to provide D-TALK courses to development personnel working overseas.
3. Spiritan Parishes
The Province is responsible for four parishes in the Archdiocese of Dublin – Kimmage and Greenhills are traditional parishes with Kimmage parish church being the former seminary chapel on the grounds of Kimmage Manor. Deansrath and Bawnogue are neighbouring parishes in the more marginalized area of Clondalkin in West Dublin . These two parishes are seen as a priority for the Province because they are considered mission territory in the real sense. These are parishes that call for new evangelization.
The Province has over 24 members working in parishes around Ireland and 13 members working in hospital chaplaincies. These MIDS continue to work effectively in a church that is going through a difficult time. Their presence and ministry are much appreciated. Their presence in parishes has strengthened the good relations that exist between the Spiritans and the local church.
4. Communities in Ireland
The Province has 10 communities in Ireland. The Willow Park community has recently moved to Blackrock College and the Willow Park house is now used by the IMU for its Religious Formation Programme.
I don't want to speak about all the communities but to mention that Kimmage Manor remains our largest community – in fact the largest in the Congregation with over 90 confreres resident on campus. Kimmage also works well as a house of welcome for those who are home on holidays or who are working in other projects around Ireland .
Kimmage caters for the majority of our retired confreres with Marian House, the nursing home, constantly full. The Mission House now houses many retired and contains a separate medical centre to cater for confreres who do not need full time medical care.
Kimmage also has the House of Studies on campus which continues to welcome student confreres, mostly from our African Circumscriptions, to do Second Cycle Formation. There is currently a move to have a single house in Europe for Second Cycle Formation. The Irish Province is willing to host this new venture!
5. Lay Associates
For the first time in the history of the Province Lay Associates attended our Chapter in 2006. Their presence there was enriching both for the Lay Associates themselves and for the professed members present. The Province has a group of Lay Associates who work mainly within Kimmage Manor Parish. All the Associates are involved in a particular apostolate such as social action, justice and peace, youth work, community development, parish ministry. Some are involved with SPIRASI and An Tobar. The Province is looking at ways in which Lay Associate groups can be developed – particularly around the schools.
6. Mission Today
The province continues its commitment to the priority works of the Congregation, to people who have not yet heard the gospel message or have scarcely heard it, to those most oppressed and most disadvantaged, as a group or as individuals, and to where the Church has difficulty finding workers (SRL 12).
Currently we have over 80 members engaged in trans-cultural mission, the majority of whom serve in the Southern Hemisphere. Many of them work in international groups or are part of a Circumscription or Province other than Ireland .
The two groups with the largest number of Irish Spiritans are the Kenya District with 16 members and Brazil South West with 19.
Our numbers have declined radically in some of our older mission areas such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Angola, Trinidad and Mauritius. We still have a small number of confreres in these countries carrying on their pastoral work and acting as mentors for young local clergy. We also have confreres working in international groups Pakistan , Taiwan , Mozambique , Ethiopia , Zambia , Ghana and South Africa . The Province supports the policies of internationality and collaboration laid down by the general chapters of the Congregation. The Province has committed itself to having at least two confreres in any international group. This has not always been possible but in the near future we hope that individual Irish confreres in South Africa , Mozambique and Taiwan/Vietnam will each be joined by a second confrere.
Apart from pastoral ministry, confreres are engaged in justice and peace projects and are working with migrants, AIDS victims, prisoners, indigenous people, ecumenism and inter religious dialogue. Formation is still a priority work for the Congregation and we are involved in this area with EAP, IOF and in Brazil .
We have 35 confreres either working or in active retirement in the United States. We run two parishes in California and one in New York . Our house in Long Island City provides hospitality to confreres from all over the world who visit NYC.
We have 11 confreres working in Australia where their ministry varies from traditional parish work to the very demanding ministry to the indigenous people of Australia.
We continue to organize a meeting of missionaries each summer when confreres are home on leave. These meetings are important to the missionaries as there is time for prayer and reflection, of listening to current thinking on mission and hearing each others stories.
7. Circumscription Europe
In the last six years the issue of Europe as a place of mission has taken on more and more significance. The European Provincials, after much debate, now recognize Europe as a place for Spiritan Mission and thus a place where we should be ready to commit personnel and resources. Each Province was asked to prioritise its works and identify those most in line with our charism and which should be continued. These works nominated by the Provinces of Europe became known as Spiritan Missionary Works in Europe (SMPE). The three priorities of the Irish Province are: 1. Works in JPIC, 2. Parishes in West Dublin (Clondalkin), and 3. Chaplaincy in our schools.
The Irish Province is actively engaged with Circumscription Europe. We have two confreres working in Brussels – Fr. Dick Olin is the Superior of CE and Fr. Brendan Smyth is currently the Bursar for CE and in charge of CESS.
Our Province is getting smaller and older but we still have a large number of confreres engaged in active ministry both at home and overseas. Many will remain active in ministry for a good number of years to come.
While we have prioritized our works in Ireland we still need to prioritise our works and mission overseas. This prioritization will be more based on apostolate that on geography. We will only take on a mission overseas if it involves working with Spiritans from other Circumscriptions, with Spiritan Associates and with laity.
We need to commit ourselves to on-going spiritual renewal within the Province. We need a living spirituality that arises from our own daily experiences, our reflection on the Word of god, and our consciousness of being called to Spiritan Mission.
The Irish Province faces many challenges going into the future: retirement and care of the elderly over the next decade, the on-going restructuring of the management of our schools, the crises facing the Irish Church in general and of which we are a part, the increased secularization of society in Ireland and Europe in general, the decline in vocations and the consequences for our works in Ireland – to name but a few.
Challenges are there to be met. As a Province we are acutely aware that we are living in a time of transition for Church and society. This is a sacred time that has been given to us by the Lord – the time in which we are called to witness to our Spiritan way of life. We face the future with that hope and optimism that characterized the Irish Chapter in 2006.