The Nanovic Institute is committed to the Catholic mission of the University of Notre Dame. Thus, we were happy to provide grant funding for two students to travel to the House of Brigid in Wexford and Dublin to do discernment work. Lynne Bauman ('15) is double-majoring in Psychology and Arts & Letters Pre-Health. Emma Fleming ('16) is double-majoring in English and Spanish. Both of these young women are discerning a call to a year or two of post-graduation service, and are seriously considering House of Brigid as a possibility. A trip to visit, they thought, would significantly help their discernment process. Both of them sent us reports of their experience.
Lynne Bauman: Over fall break of this semester, I was fortunate enough to travel to visit the House of Brigid (Teach Bhríde in Irish), a small lay community that serves the Catholic Church in Ireland. As a senior who is planning on doing a year or two of postgraduate service, I wanted to visit this program and witness their work in an effort to discover whether this would be a place I could see myself living and working next year. My discernment process was greatly aided by the opportunity to experience a week with House of Brigid and share in their presence and community.
I arrived in Dublin on Saturday morning and took a bus to Wexford. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the House of Brigid members and visited the Clonard Church of the Annunciation, the parish they serve. That afternoon was the 40th anniversary of the parish, and I sang in the choir for mass! It was invaluable to experience such an important celebration and see the parish come together. I met and talked with many of the parishioners and fellow choir members. I saw how the community members are truly friends with so many of the people there, and I gathered a sense of the House of Brigid’s presence and significance to the parish.
I attended daily mass and had the opportunity to ask each community member about his or her discernment process and experience thus far. These conversations, even if only a few minutes long, helped me gain insight into why they applied for this program. They also encouraged me to search for what motivations and goals I had for my own year of service, even if I do not end up applying for House of Brigid. I also explored the town of Wexford, which has so many intricate little stores and shops, delicious restaurants, and stunning views of the coast. I think this was important to see, since I would not be working in the parish every hour of every day. Walking around the town helped me get a sense of the pace of life in Ireland and envision myself actually living here.
Tuesday night I left Wexford to visit the other, newly founded House of Brigid in Dublin, Ireland. Tuesday night, the community was in charge of a mass for the Notre Dame study abroad students at the O’Connell House, and I sang in the choir for that mass as well. It was, again, a wonderful chance to participate in the ministry and share in the everyday life of the community members. It was particularly interesting to compare the work of the Dublin House to the Wexford House. The Dublin program is more a Campus Ministry/peer ministry program for the study abroad students; however, they are also involved with Harold’s Cross Church and spend 2 or 3 days a week singing in the choirs and teaching faith formation classes in a school. Visiting the school was one of my favorite parts of the week! Meeting the Irish children and hearing their questions about mass got me very excited about the possibility of working here next year.
The research I conducted in Wexford and Dublin was tremendously helpful to my discernment process. The opportunity to visit this service program, to participate in their ministry, and to talk with members has given me a much clearer understanding of what a year of service with the House of Brigid involves. I am most grateful for the concrete experiences that I now have to reflect upon as I explore my path for next year.
Emma Fleming: Through the Nanovic Institute, I was able to understand more fully the ministry of the House of Brigid in Wexford and Dublin, Ireland. Before the trip, I knew I was passionate about music ministry, yet I was hesitant to include it in my future. This week, made possible by the grant program, provided me with clarity and grace. The moment Lynne, a fellow grant recipient, and I left the bus in Wexford we received profound Irish hospitality. Everyone we met wanted to know how we were feeling and how he or she could make us feel at home. When we weren’t greeted with a hug, we received a cup of tea and wonderful conversation. The entire week was filled with this sense of community and love amidst lots of singing and organizing.
In Wexford, the main ministry was stationed at the Clonard Parish. I had seen so many pictures of the chapel and main altar that it seemed like a dream once I was there. God truly was present in my hours at Mass, singing in the choir, and at adoration. It was amazing to see how at home I could feel in such a new place thousands of miles away from the United States. During my days in Wexford, Lynne and I got to have meetings with different parishioners and church workers, sing in choirs directed by the members of the House of Brigid, meet the Papal Nuncio at a 40th Parish Anniversary Mass, and spend time with the community members. For me, the most important part was the time with the community members.
It was so interesting to hear what brought them to this program and the challenges and blessings they have encountered. It was helpful to also see the aspect of “living in community” in action—with all the positives and negatives that come along with that. It is an aspect that I did not believe would affect me as much as it did. The dynamic of both communities reflected the family God calls us to share. They love each other demanding them to challenge, care for, and respect one another and lead their lives as servants to each other and the parish. It was truly amazing to witness how well they have been received into their parishes, as well, as their gifts for music and fellowship have been honored so well.
In Dublin, I was so lucky to get time in the O’Connell House—shadowing the community members as they worked with Campus Ministry to provide spiritual guidance to abroad students and the ACE program, among other demands. As the first two members of the House of Brigid in Dublin, they both demonstrated an extremely powerful sense of motivation and persistence, tackling the unknown within the early stages of the program. As pioneers, they must remain patient, knowing that only time will create trusting, lasting relationships that lead to more leadership within parishes, schools, and the O’Connell House that they minister to. I learned a lot from the members in Dublin, as they embodied servant leadership.
When looking into the future, one year of service is relatively short. Therefore, it was extremely important to have this time to determine if I felt at home in the program. I am so happy to say that I definitely think it is a match and I cannot wait to apply next winter. I am extremely grateful to the Nanovic Institute for making it all possible.