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During the first week of July our prayer group went to Portugal on retreat. Forty two comprised the whole group. We joined forces with a similar group who meet in Wimbledon. A Nigerian priest named Father Ted led everyone for the entire week. He is a gifted preacher. The Prayer Group which is organised by David and Eileen has strong associations with a group of Indian Sisters who work in the field of medicine in India with extremely poor people. Two of them travelled to Castilo de Vide, where we made our retreat to meet the group and tell us about their work.
The programme each day was different. Some mornings the day began with breakfast while on others it was early Mass at 7.00 a.m. followed by breakfast. A constant each morning was recitation of the Rosary said outside at the shrine of Our Lady. That usually lasted about half an hour. The Rosary was prayed numerous times in the day. Father Ted has wonderful devotion to Our Blessed Lady evident by the way he spoke so naturally about her, usually addressing her as ‘Our Mother’. He also showed astounding devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. There was adoration every day for at least one hour. There were two chapels available for our use twenty four hours a day. We certainly had many opportunities for prayer. Mass each day lasted about an hour and twenty minutes. Some days it was longer. Two accomplished musicians provided the music, a guitarist and a keyboard player. The singing was usually charismatic in style. Thus there was a balance between the times of quiet prayer and those of a more exuberant flavour.
On the Sunday, we visited Fatima for the whole day. It was extremely hot there. It was also crowded. We enjoyed lunch in the Convent run by the ‘Daughters of Charity’. It is they who also administer in the Retreat Centre which is owned by the Lisbon Diocese.
Castilo de Vide is a little town about an hour’s drive north east of Lisbon. It is not far from the Spanish border. There is quite a Spanish flavour to the place with typical white adobe buildings and red, slate roofs. The Retreat Centre is owned by the Diocese of Lisbon. It is far from the nearest habitation. Whenever we travelled it was through quite mountainous terrain so although the temperature was high each day, one could feel rather chilly which was good. Yet one would not dream of sitting out in the sun, it was too strong. The cool, mountainous air caused hay fever to flare up for some of the group. There are numerous shrines to Our Lady dotted here and there, indicating the strong Catholic allegiance of the local people. I just pray that their faith may be strengthened.
Sr Nuala McGinley RSC
Pope Francis honours Founder of The Religious Sisters of Charity
The Congregation of the Religious Sisters of Charity are delighted to announce that their foundress Mary Aikenhead has been declared Venerable by Pope Francis.
Being declared Venerable is the second of four steps in the Catholic Church’s Canonisation process.
When Mary Aikenhead set up her Congregation two hundred years ago, there were just over 100 Sisters in Ireland, all of whom lived as enclosed contemplatives behind convent walls. Mary applied to Rome for permission for her Sisters to take a fourth vow of ‘Service of the Poor’, enabling them to visit poor people in their own homes; those who were sick and hungry and cold and penniless and no one to turn to.
Throughout the world today there are more than 400 Religious Sisters of Charity in Ireland, England, Scotland, Zambia, California, Nigeria, Malawi and 145 in Australia.
“Mary Aikenhead was a woman ahead of her time” says Sr Mary Christian, Congregational Leader of the Religious Sisters of Charity “All around her she saw the plight of people who were poor and suffering. Her great faith and trust in Divine Providence enabled her and the first Religious Sisters of Charity to provide education for poor children, establish medical facilities for those in need of health care and to visit the sick and poor in their homes. In one of her letters we read that the sole purpose of the Congregation is: ‘to lend our humble assistance to alleviate the sufferings of the poor of every creed.’ Mary Aikenhead’s life was not easy, but she never lost hope. Her life teaches and inspires us to dream courageous visions, to have compassion for human pain, to analyse unjust structures which are the cause of poverty, to work with others to solve problems and to remain resolute in the face of hardship.”
For more information please visit the Congregation’s website at: www.rsccaritas.org