“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12 

Dear Friends,

Two thousand years later we are celebrating the birthday of this baby who is Jesus our Lord and Saviour. We take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Christmas and to say a very sincere thank you to all of you who have helped us in so many ways throughout the year. We deeply appreciate your interest and care for us. We would like to share with you some of the happenings in our Community over the past year.

As we approached Advent (2017) we were very conscious it would be very short so we made preparations in advance…. man proposes and God disposes…. Or is it woman????
One of our Sisters went to the outpatients for a routine check-up a few days before Advent and was kept. She missed the beginning of Advent which in our house is a big event. She came home the middle of the first week. Week two began with a leak in the boiler house. It turned out to be from the hot water boiler. Plumber came and said a new boiler was in order. Next morning at six am the fire alarm alerted us to a fire in the boiler house, a result of the leak.
Luckily there are fire extinguishers everywhere they were needed and the fire was contained without doing any damage other than putting the hot water boiler out of further use. A new system has been installed and is much more satisfactory. We say might be needed as when the annual review and maintenance of the fire extinguishers comes round we never expect they will be used!

That same evening the above-mentioned sister decided to take another trip to the hospital, this time by ambulance. Thankfully it was not serious although she did need to be admitted to hospital. She was home in a few days.
Week three dawned and we had a power outage. It is amazing how much we rely on electricity. We spent the first hour of the day setting up candles and wondering how best to light the chapel for Mass. The gates are automatic but couldn’t work without electricity and had to be managed manually. Luckily the electricity was restored before everyone came for Mass.

Next day “the bug hit”. With only days to go before Christmas, no one wanted to be down with it. Two sisters attended the unfortunate victim and the rest of us stayed clear. Plastic aprons, gloves and masks were the order of the day for the carers and there was plenty of antibacterial soap and bleach used. Thankfully no one else got it. It took a huge toll on sister and she missed the entire Christmas. Indeed a lot of bugs were about and many of our friends and relatives got one or other of them and were ill for longer than usual. The sunshine was indeed a welcome visitor and luckily banished the sickness that had stayed around for so

In January our dear little donkey Sally Ann took her last illness and departed to donkey heaven. She had lived with us for twenty-nine of her thirty-four years. We were sad to see her go but she had a great life and was well pampered. Lady was distraught, stood in the doorway of the shed, tears streaming down her face and refused to go to the field unless one of us went with her. As soon as we came in she trotted back to the shed. P.J. of the D.S.P.C.A came to the rescue and brought Seolta a delightful little donkey to companion Lady. At first, she looked at him and then at us and inferred that he was not taking Sally Ann’s place! We assured her that of course, he couldn’t take Sally Ann’s place – he must take his own. Slowly she accepted him and he also had to cope with being separated from his donkey pals and the shelter and his friends there. The day after he came Lady wanted to take him on tour to the orchard, but we explained that for the present it was better that they stick to the fields until Seolta got used to us. However on Saturday morning while we were at Mass they figured out how to open the gate and Lady took Seolta on tour and they stayed all day in the orchard. Two days in the place and this laid-back little man was at home. By Valentine’s day, they were a happy couple.
The end of February came and we saw our first snow in years. Then came storm Emma and the beast from the east. Some drifts were three or four feet high and in one place where the wind got stopped in a cul-de-sac, the snow was swirled like topping on a cupcake or ice cream cone. We were snowed in and it was too difficult for the Priest to get here for Mass. Storm Emma had brought down boughs of trees as well as dumping vast amounts of snow. The donkeys sheltered under the trees and only went into their cosy shed when the wind chill got too much. Our adventurous cat Tuppence loved the snow and played in it like a child. After a few days of being cooped up in the snow Lady and Seolta were ready for some fun too so having been let out on the free range they had a good gallop around the garden, orchard and park. Seolta ran straight into a deep drift and almost got lost to view. Snow is fun for the first day or two but it is amazing how one gets tired of it very quickly. We were very lucky we didn’t have power outages or any other discomforts. A burst pipe on the well water system was the only snag resulting in our not being able to bake altar breads on Monday following the snow.

Carmelite Sisters Josephine and Victoire from Haifa and Jerusalem in the Holy Land came to us at the end of May to learn English. They spent three months with us and they really worked hard to learn as much as they could and had a good command of English at the end of their stay. They were a real blessing to the community and we were sorry to see them depart. They keep up to date with us via email and are still practising their English.

In late June we made the decision to discontinue altar bread making. We now buy the breads and distribute them to our customers. While the work was not difficult it was time-consuming – time we just didn’t have. Unfortunately, it meant making three of our part-time staff redundant. While this was regretful it has worked out well for us in that we have the time we need to live our Carmelite lives more fully and have the time we need for prayer. The day after we finished baking our well ran dry, it seemed to be a sign we had done the right thing. Our baking machine doesn’t bake well when we use tap water as it doesn’t like the chemicals in it!

We had wonderful summer weather and beautiful flowers until the well ran dry. Irish water had imposed a ban on hosepipes so every drop of wastewater was carried to drums and kept for the flowers. Some of the flowers, however, didn’t survive as priority was given to those on public display and those nearest the house. The hosepipe had to be used to water the heifers. While the weather was hot they seemed to live on fresh air but as soon as the temperature dropped and the fields were all burnt up most of them had to be sold as the situation was just the same at home for them and winter feed was already being used.
Sadly in July, a medical complaint Lady suffered from, flared up and despite the best efforts of our vet, we had to let her go. In the few short years, we had her she had become a great pet and it was sad to see her go. This time it was Seolta who was left forlorn, in the few short months he had spent with her they had bonded well. However, he needed some human interaction and a little training on the lead before we could get him a like companion. This time we went to W.S.P.C.A. as there was no suitable companion in the D.S.P.C.A. Glen arrived in November. He is half Seolta’s age at 5/6 years and very quickly decided he’d like to be boss. Seolta is mature enough to know that there is no need for a boss and that they can coexist very peacefully but the young one needs a bit of training and manners!!!!

In August just before the World Meeting of Families, we had the relics of Sts Louis and Zelie Martin and their daughter St Therese to visit. We had been told that the reliquary of St Therese was different to the one which visited on the last two occasions and that it was heavy. We were supplied with the dimensions of the casket in good time before the arrival. One of our Sisters visited Clarendon St. to see for ourselves and take measurements! Yes indeed doors would have to be removed, even the frames to let our Carmelite Sister in!!
Great preparations began, Therese, as usual, would have to come in the back door but this time the door frames were gone! All went well, the relics arrived and the procession began. We were led by Sr Josephine who played the African drum and set the atmosphere for a very prayerful four hours with the relics. However having reached the Chapel with the relics of Louis and Zelie, Therese failed to make an appearance. Measurements had been taken but height had not been anticipated as being a problem!! Due to the weight, it was deemed appropriate to use a trolley to convey the relics from transport to Chapel. The corridors being so narrow made it difficult to remove the casket from the trolley safely so the logistics had to be renegotiated. Finally, all was well and we had both caskets in the Chapel. Therese’s friends from far and wide came to visit as did friends of our new Saints Louis and Zelie. Our allotted four hours were over very swiftly and we had to say goodbye again. They left for the R.D.S. where they were present for the opening ceremony of the World Meeting of Families.

Our Sisters from New Ross Carmel who were attending the World Meeting of Families stayed with us and it was truly a wonderful few days. Croke Park was an experience never to be forgotten, truly magical and spiritually uplifting. Indeed the Meeting and Pope Francis’ visit were over all too soon.

Since then we have had our own celebrations. Sr Regina celebrated the diamond jubilee of her profession. In case you are wondering how that is, Sr Regina spent the first part of her Religious life as a Mercy Sister. Sr Marie also celebrated her diamond jubilee more recently. We had a beautiful celebration in November for her and had a surprise when Kerrie our organist brought along her friend Mary to play the harp. All agreed that the music was really special. We are deeply indebted to Kerrie as none of us play the organ and Kerrie comes along for all the feasts and occasions and plays and everyone enjoys her beautiful voice.

We had our Community elections in August and Sr Teresa was elected Prioress for the next three years. Our most urgent prayer for our Community at this time is that we would be blessed with new vocations so that we can continue our ministry here in Roebuck.
In October we had our annual retreat and were blessed to have Fr Peter O’Kane O.P. direct it. He based the retreat on the Holy Father’s letter to Contemplative Women Vultum Dei Quaerere – Seeking the Face of God. It is a beautiful document which is challenging, supportive and affirming. We are continuing to study the document both individually and together.

More and more we are becoming aware of our ecosystem and the challenges of global warming. We try to do our bit knowing that every little bit each one does is a help. Nature has the great potential to heal itself if given a chance and time and time again we have seen that. All nature works together and ecosystems are made up of elements that support each other. When something else is introduced the balance gets a bit knocked. We have seen this with the introduction of grey squirrels. Our native red population have been in serious decline over the years as a result but nature has its way of righting things. The pine marten is on the increase and when they move into grey squirrel territory they have a feast. The red squirrel must be swifter through the trees as numbers of the red are increasing in pine marten territory. We have our own pine marten in the shape of our cat Abby who has a passion for squirrel meat and will sit all day waiting for the careless grey squirrel who comes too close. She’s a small pussy and it is amazing to see her dragging her kill to a safe place. We don’t really like to see this happen but the grey squirrel was becoming a bit of a nuisance.

The Magpies were back in force this year too. Two years ago we had our friend Pete who used to come into the house and thought he had every right to do so. He rarely soiled the place and wasn’t too much of a nuisance. But this year as soon as the blue tits started nesting in the cloister the Magpies moved in in force. They waited and watched for the fledgelings and in the meantime flew in and out of the house and left such a mess. We tried all the suggested remedies to be rid of them and some remedies of our own! but to no avail. The blue tits were wise. They kept the fledgelings in the box for a full month after hatching and on the day they fledged they were strong and able to fly out of the cloister and off over the roof and away to safety.

During the year the sale of the Firhouse Monastery went through and the house will now be used by Respond to temporarily house homeless families until they secure more permanent accommodation. The fields have been sold to Ballyboden GAA club as their need of playing pitches is ever on the rise with the expanding population of the surrounding area. The Sisters are delighted that the Monastery which is being so thoughtfully prepared is to be used in this way and having served the locality for some many years as a place of peace and solace it is good that the Monastery will continue to benefit the local community in this way.

We have been blessed to have shared your life stories over the past year, family celebrations, births, marriages and more sadly our many friends who have died and gone to their eternal reward. We continue to pray for you who grieve the loss of a loved one. Some very recently for whom this Christmas will be lonely as you miss those who made Christmas special for you. We assure you of our prayers around the crib and in all our Masses over the Christmas season.

A very sincere thank you to all of you who have helped us in so many ways throughout the year. We deeply appreciate it

We wish all a very blessed Christmas and assure you of our prayers for all your needs, worries and anxieties as the New Year dawns. May you experience God’s blessing on all your families and on all you do and undertake this coming year.