‘All of us who have been privileged to know the past and present Sisters have no doubt that the spirit of Nano Nagle is still alive and thriving’.
I can almost unconsciously fall into holding a mental picture of ‘pilgrimage’ not so much as a personal opening and connection, but more akin to the ‘old fashioned’ idea of going around with a group of people to ancient and blessed sites and reciting formal prayers and expected rituals while seeking indulgences along the way.
However, recently I have had a number of ‘pilgrimage’ experiences that have reminded me that just as our way of doing things changes and evolves with experience and time in the physical realm of our lives, this is also something that happens if we are open to recognising it and letting it be, in the spiritual dimension of our lives too. We are an entire Universe of inter-connectedness and inter-relatedness.
I was able to go to Rahan recently, to share in the bicentenary celebrations there, in particular in the re-enactment of the arrival of two Presentation Sisters who travelled on the Grand Canal from Dublin to Killina, near Tullamore, Co. Offaly in July 1817. It was a joy-filled community celebration of both thanksgiving and remembering, but so much more than that, as we walked the local laneways, visiting historic starting points and sharing and pondering the opening from Rahan to Madras (India) and beyond. This was no sentimental, historic visitation looking at times gone by.
Then again, just the other day, we welcomed back with joy some of those who had formed the Province delegation attending the International Presentation Association (IPA) Assembly in Sydney*. Having travelled that distance, one of the Sisters had included a visit to New Zealand. She shared, that as a child she remembered waving off local women, leaving as Presentation Sisters to set up schools there, and that it then seemed natural to her to go now to visit that spot. When I thought afterwards about what she had shared, it struck me again as a lesson in ‘pilgrimage’, an acknowledgement of the ‘Yes’ of those women, re-echoed again in her, as she was present on that patch of Earth – ‘a pace beyond’.
Both of these experiences redefined the pilgrimage experience for me. Like being part of a wave that came from way back, from those people whose ‘Yes’ individually, and together created a momentum and ‘flood of Life’ that could not have flourished otherwise, and who, by their so doing, created possibilities for those made poor, to find their place, and say their ‘Yes’ too. A ‘Yes’ to their life’s possibilities that, it seems to me, would not have been made so real in any other way.
It seems to me that if we continue to walk the tracks together and revisit these ancient pathways, regardless of where they come from, and often not yet knowing where they still can lead, we keep the channels open to the infinite possibilities that are in the mind of God.
We are part of a forward looking evolving pilgrimage along the path of life, coloured by a charism that I believe can best be described as valiant, compassionate, responsive, just, transformative, inclusive and Universal. Nor is it a lone journey for all of that. It seems to me that accompaniment is an essential part of the pilgrimage process, both companionship now in the walking of new roads, but also with the assured accompaniment from those gone by.
*Note: the theme of the 2018 International Presentation Assembly (IPA) in Sydney was: ‘…Our feet know the way … Our hearts carry the Light’.
The initial quotation at the front of this blog is taken from : ‘Presentation Convent, Killina 1817-2017 – A Celebration of 200 years of Service’. A wonderful book prepared for the Rahan 200 Celebrations. The painting is: Pilgrimage VII Painting – Jessica Eichman.