HAMDEN – The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will open a new mission in Ireland “to give back” to the church there for its missionary work in spreading the faith across the world.
Three sisters from the order’s United States Province will arrive Sept. 1 to begin an evangelization ministry in the Diocese of Waterford/Lismore, Ireland.
Sister Kathryn Press, Sister John Catherine Coleman and Sister Colleen Patricia Mattingly will serve under Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan and the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Waterford, Ireland, as part of an evangelization team that will work with youth, young adults and families.
“It’s very exciting to be able to serve the church in this way by listening to and walking with people in their journey of faith,” said Sister Kathryn.
She explained that the sisters are going there to “be a religious presence” in the cathedral parish by working in collaboration with existing church programs, such as visiting the homebound, working with youth and assisting with faith formation.
“As Apostles, we’re called to go out and serve … to follow in the footsteps of Jesus to share the Good News,” she said. “This is an opportunity for the American church to give back for all the Irish church has given to us here.”The invitation came following visits to the country by Sister M. Clare Millea, who recently completed two six-year terms as the congregation’s superior general in Italy; and U.S. Provincial Superior Sister Anne Walsh, who recently was elected vicaress general and first councilor of the congregation.
“I have long nurtured the hope that the American Apostles might in some small way be a part of the religious renewal of Ireland,” said Sister Clare in a statement that appears in a video about the mission (www.ascjus.org). “I am encouraged by the warm welcome shown to us by the Irish bishops, priests and laity, especially young people who are searching for true meaning in their lives. I strongly support the American province in this new missionary venture.”
Sister Anne echoed those words, noting that the Catholic Church in the United States owes a “debt of gratitude” to the Irish priests and religious who came here to staff Catholic parishes, schools and hospitals.
Observing that church attendance in Ireland has dropped from 90 percent in the ’80s to less than 20 percent in recent years as a result of a decrease in vocations and the priest sex abuse crisis, Sister Anne offered, “This is a window of opportunity to see if we can help the tides change by paying back what we owe to the Irish immigrants who came here.”
Founded in Italy in 1894 by Mother Clelia Merloni, the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an international congregation of more than 1,000 members with provinces and missions on five continents, including those in the 15 countries of Benin, Mozambique, Haiti, the Philippines, Taiwan, Switzerland, Albania, Italy, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina, as well as Ireland and the United States.
In the United States, the first group of six sisters sailed from Genoa, Italy, to Boston in 1902, before arriving in the Diocese of Hartford in 1906 and settling in the Wooster Square area of New Haven. The provincial house was located in Hamden in 1953 on a 125-acre property now known as Mount Sacred Heart.
“We owe a profound debt of gratitude to our Italian missionary sisters who gave us our roots ... and to the Irish priests, brothers and sisters with whom we have worked alongside in our U.S. parishes and hospitals, and who educated many of us in their classrooms,” the video says.
Today, the sisters of the United States Province are involved primarily in education, but also in social work, legal assistance, nursing and health care, pastoral ministry, after-school programs, elderly day care and other works of charity.
The congregation will support the living expenses of the sisters, who will reside in the diocese’s Mount St. John Convent. A fundraiser for the Ireland mission, featuring Irish music, raffle prizes and a silent auction, will be held from 1-4 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Irish-American Community Center in Hamden. Information is available from Alison McCormack at 203-530-5011 or Kerry Martens at 203-996-9196.