Ruah 2015 – South African Social Justice and Advocacy Desk

Ruah 2015

Our Social Justice & Advocacy Desk co-ordinator Jessica Dewhurst recently attended Ruah 2015 in Ireland. The two week programme ran from the 14th June to the 27th June 2015.

Ruah (meaning spirit in Hebrew) invited participants to experience a new spiritual awakening in the land of Venerable Nano Nagle and Blessed Edmund Rice. It called participants to immerse themselves in the Mystery we encounter in those moments when we feel awakened and alive. Nano and Edmund’s stories were shaped by their own experiences of Mystery among the people with whom they lived; and so by exploring their stories, participants were able to have a relatable model for self-reflection and growth.

During the first week of the programme participants stayed in Galway, on the campus of the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) at the Corrib Village Apartments. The programme consisted of a week-long facilitated series of reflections on how we encounter Mystery in our lives. The material for this week was presented by renowned spiritual author and retreat director Margaret Silf, who served as the groups guide throughout the week. Margaret’s profound engagement with Ignatian Spirituality, her writing, and shared life stories really engaged participants as they were encouraged to undertake their own journey to the deepest desires of the heart. She spoke from her own heart in an engaging and approachable way that ensured that all participants felt safe in engaging with the Ruah process and sharing their own experiences with the group. Profound yet simple stories assisted participants in engaging with complex theories in a way that would be relatable to all. Margaret’s entire first week was a blessing to all, and really set the stage for the week to follow.

This first week also included visits to the island of Inishmore, to the prehistoric fort of Dún Aengus, the Salthill monuments of Galway, as well as to a traditional musical evening called ‘Trad on the Prom’. Participants were also given the opportunity to join volunteers in a project called ‘Night Fever’ in which local Catholics go out into the streets of Galway carrying lanterns, and inviting passers-by to come into the local cathedral to light a candle and say a prayer. This project was an incredibly powerful and emotion-packed experienced that really impacted those participants who took part.

The second week began with a bus ride to Callan, Kilkenny where participants were able to visit Blessed Edmund Rice’s birthplace. A visit to Br Edmund’s house, to the grounds chapel and an exploration of the Edmund Rice icon was enjoyed by all. Special time was given for participants to meet with the community of brothers currently living in Callan. This interaction was expressed by many as being the highlight of Ruah, as the simplistic yet immensely spiritual lives of the brothers resonated and inspired all. A final ritual outside the Rice house ended our time in Callan as we continued our journey onto Waterford.

The next stop during week two was a visit to Br Edmund’s final resting place at Mount Sion in Waterford where participants stayed at the Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) Student Accommodation at Manor Village. During their stay participants were able to visit the Mount Sion museum and centre, attend mass, partake in a phenomenal reflection facilitated by the Peace Band, and go on a walk through the streets of Waterford as Br Edmund himself would have done.

Participants were also given the opportunity to meet The Integration and Support Unit (ISU) at Mount Sion. This team was established by The Edmund Rice International Heritage Centres (ERIHC) to respond to the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in Waterford. The entire (ISU) team gave a phenomenal presentation of the work they do throughout Waterford, sharing the stories of the thousands of beneficiaries who the group has assisted since its establishment in 2006.

For the next two days participants spent time at the birthplace of Nano Nagle, Ballygriffin. An orientation into the life of Nano, her sense of spirituality, the Nano Nagle icon and the option to explore the Blackwater River and cosmic walk on the property were enjoyed by all. To end our time in Ballygriffin, participants took a trip to all the places around Ballygriffin that Nano and her family may have visited; including Nanos old hedge school and what is suggested to be the final resting place of Nanos parents. An immensely emotional and touching ceremony at Killavullen Mass Rock ended our day as we gathered in prayer to remember those who gave their lives in order to practice their faith.

The final two days were spent in the city of Cork, a place that was very dear to both Edmund and Nano. Participants stayed at the Cork University Student Accommodation at Victoria Cross. The day began with another Nano experience with a visit to the South Presentation Convent and a walking tour known as ‘the Nano Trail’. A lovely reflection at the final resting place of Nano Nagle ended our time with the Sisters. Participants then visited Mount St Joseph the Generalate and international headquarters of the Congregation of Presentation Brothers. The group was addressed by three high school students engaged in the Presentation Brothers ‘Students Harness Aid for the Relief of the Elderly’ (SHARE) project, focused on raising funds and building homes for the elderly. The students spoke of the profound impact that Br Edmund and Sr Nano’s spirituality and dedication to the work of our Lord had on them. Their dedication to the work of SHARE and commitment to improving the lives of the elderly of Cork was truly inspiring.

Br Martin Kenneally (Congregation Leader) then addressed the group encouraging them to continue their work around the world, as together we as followers of Blessed Edmund and Venerable Nano continue to ‘go to the edge’ each day in our various ministries. A closing ceremony lead by the Ruah Team brought our Ruah journey to an end; however if the closing celebrations at the River Lee Hotel was anything to go by, our true Ruah journey has only just begun.

Overall Ruah was a phenomenal experience that included time for private reflection and self-growth; visits to both Edmund Rice and Nano Nagle’s birthplaces, projects and homes; and the opportunity to meet and engage with ‘Edmund and Nano People’ from all walks of life. The programme really brought participants ‘to the edge’ and there is no doubt that this experience will continue to shape their lives for many years to come.

Read this and other news from the South Africa Social Justice and Advocacy Desk here