Reflecting on Ruah 2015...

Date: 09 Jul 2015

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Ruah 2015 has come to an end and Brother Bede, one of the organisers has this reflection on the experience...

The format for RUAH 2015 was changed considerably from previous programmes in response to suggestions from participants’ evaluations of RUAH 2013. The first week was based entirely in NUIG with Magaret Silf as the guest speaker throughout the week. She proved to be an inspired choice as her inputs were rich and interesting throughout. The themes for each day give an indication of the content:                

‘Beginning where we are’;               
‘Sowing the seeds of new possibility’;              
‘Growing into a new consciousness’;                
‘Growing in the dark’               
‘Gathering the harvest’

The process used was:  Reflection; presentation to explore thematic content; personal time; group sharing and open forum. Margaret’s input was interspersed with apt and personal wisdom stories. Her recently published book ‘Sacred in the City’ fitted in very well with the overall invitation to the participants to ‘Come to the Edge’. 

Apart from Margaret’s input, six events brought the participants to the ‘edge’ in different ways:  (i) an hour long prayer service in the city centre St. Augustine’s to which parishioners and others were invited;  (ii) A two hour ‘Nightfever’ exercise based in the Franciscan Church but carried out in engagement with people on the busy Saturday evening streets of the city.  (iii) A day trip to Inishmore and a climb to Dun Aengus following a series of reflections by Deirdre Ni Chinneide – a most resourceful lady who conducts retreats on the island.  (iv) An interactive session with the local Presentation Sisters and two inspiring lay staff members on the bicentenary celebrations of the arrival of the Sisters in Galway. This was brilliantly led by Sr Helen Hyland.  (iv) A very moving ceremony at the Celia Griffin memorial and at the Famine Monuments on the promenade. (v) An exhilarating evening at ‘Trad on the Prom’ – the Galway version of Riverdance.

The participants were fully engaged in the process from the start and the levels of co-operation and depth of sharing were probably the best I have experienced in all the Trasna, Toir and RUAH programmes in which I’ve been involved. Likewise the detail of preparation was far superior to previous programmes even though the team of four was smaller than usual. The quality and variety of prayer experiences was commented on repeatedly. Our interaction with the NUIG Chaplain, Fr. Barry Horan proved mutually beneficial as indeed did our collaboration with the local Presentation Sisters, the Franciscans and the Augustinians.

A comment from Community Leader, Fr. Des Foley OSA was revealing: ‘you have shown us what we should be doing here every week’. During the second week the participants were led into deeper understandings and appreciation of Edmund and Nano. In Callan we had very moving prayer sessions at the cottage and with the Icon but the highlight was an extended facilitated conversation with the five elderly members of the Westcourt Community: Brothers Con, Pat, Paddy (94), Tom and Kieran. Their sharing of their faith stories in answer to participants’ questions and their interaction with the group and among themselves was truly inspirational.

We met an equally committed Community response in Mount Sion and here a joyful Eucharistic Celebration in the Edmund Rice Oratory and later facilitated sharing of some of the participants’ faith stories proved to be equally inspiring. The participants seemed to take their cue from the elders in Callan. There was also an excellent presentation on the work of the ISU by Brother Kevin and his team. A walk through the city completed a rich experience.

In Ballygriffen we held an important ‘harvesting of the programme experience’ to date before availing of a very rich menu of options such as (i) the cosmic walk; (ii) a talk on the Icon; (iii) an input on Nano as a social reformer by Sr Lisa and (iv) a guided tour of significant places in the locality with Sr Eimer Madigan as expert guide. We had a wonderful evening of music, song and dance led by the two of local musicians with participants sharing their many talents.

One of the most moving ceremonies of the whole RUAH programme took place in the early misty morning at Glenville Mass Rock. We had a prayerful commemoration of the events associated with that sacred place, a blessing with the Duagh Ciborium from the penal days and a presentation of the Tau cross with a special focus on the four participants who are preparing for final professions. In conclusion Seamus Gill gave a memorable rendition of ‘Anseo i lár a’ Gleanna’. Our visit to Mardyke and the Edmund Rice Prayer Garden provided a different perspective on Edmund’s life which was much appreciated especially by the women who were in a large majority in the group. The visit to Nano’s tomb is always a highlight especially for those Sisters for whom it is their first visit. The guided ‘walk in Nano’s footsteps’ across the city is another memorable experience. Finally, the concluding ceremonies in Mount St Joseph, including a challenging talk from Br Martin brought the whole programme to a fitting conclusion. We had only to sign off with a gala dinner in The River Lee Hotel attended by members of the leadership teams of the three sponsoring Congregations. There was a high level of energy and affirmation evident at this event and this was captured by the subsequent comments by Sr Mary Deane and Br Peter Dowling.