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Laudato Si '

Life spreading before our treading footsteps is our common home

Given to each with its promise fair

We journey blithely on to roam

Bright flower of youth and autumn leaf of age

With hope we dream of life to share

In Sister Earth, freely our lives are in your care

Continuous, Faithful Universe

Enabling creation to be immersed

Showing our humble place in the world

Inspiring in all for good to be unfurled

The Earth, like a dying child has no tears to cry

Sister soil, barren, labouring, feeds her young

Faithfully she struggles tirelessly on

NOW, help our Common Home before it’s too far gone

Co-Creators, for noble service we are enrolled

The World in sacramental communion, vision of the rising sun enfold

Our gleaming torch, lit from the golden lasting fire

Faith holding firm to protect our common home is the brave desire

Everlasting faithful Triune Lord

Strengthen the Earthling umbilical cord

Faithful to our heritage we must be

Caring for creation, permitting all to be free

To see the wrong with vision clear

To see the right and continuously persevere

True must we be, whatever life may send

In saving our common home, faithfully to the end

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Summer Sun

By Robert Louis Stevenson

Great is the sun, and wide he goes

Through empty heaven with repose;

And in the blue and glowing days

More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull

To keep the shady parlour cool,

Yet he will find a chink or two

To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad

He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;

And through the broken edge of tiles

Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around

He bares to all the garden ground,

And sheds a warm and glittering look

Among the ivy's inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,

Round the bright air with footing true,

To please the child, to paint the rose,

The gardener of the World, he goes. 

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By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –

When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;

Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush

Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring

The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;

The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush

The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush

With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?

A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning

In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,

Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,

Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,

Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.     

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By MJ Langdon




Half the world lives in poverty.

Millions of children are starving.

The innocent are being slaughtered.

Leaders are selfish and live only for the now.

Our planet suffers destruction at the hands of greed, gluttony and envy.


For every newly born baby there is a freshly lit candle of hope for all of humanity.

A babe born in lowly circumstances,

Long hours of labour pains

In a draughty lowly stable for shelter.

No warm water or sustaining food.

The hard cold floor to lie and roll upon as the pain of labour increases. Time passes, exhaustion and fear of death are always near.

Outside the night sky is bright with dancing stars,

In the distance, a sheep can be heard as she calls for her lamb. Silently, the owl hunts it’s prey,

Swiftly swooping down to catch a rabbit and then off into the darkness. A dog barks in the echoing surrounding air.

In the deep stillness, can a chorus be heard?

The twilight of changing lights of night to dawn when the sky is no longer filled with darkness,

A newly born is heard crying.

The cry is the Song of all Songs

A song of mutual love.

The song is clearly heard by many.

The birds listen before contemplating their own dawn chorus

The donkey flicking his long grey ears back and forth hears the needs of the babe.

Turning his head he gently blows warm breath on the face of the child.

The mother takes hold of her babe in her arms for the first time.

They greet each another as their eyes meet.

Outside the the birds sing their dawn chorus announcing to the world the birth .

The sun slowly rises and brings with it mellowing colours of pink, mauve and orange.

All tinting the new day into life.

The sunrise brings a story which will continuously change the world.

The heralding angels chorus can now be heard,

‘Glory to God in the highest.’

And on earth peace to all people of Good will’

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Christmas Card

Christmas card based on a stained glass window

Stained glass windows as I am sure you well know began their history about a thousand years ago

with the purpose of sharing a story.

Hence this electronic stained glass also has a little story.

1. The white horses at the top represent the ‘Heralding Christmas angels’.

2. The top left is a little disabled child riding a pony. She represents St Nicolas the Saint of children.

Nicolas’s kindness in giving gifts to the poor & those in need lead to the tradition of what we now know as Father Christmas who brings gifts to children of all ages.

3. The centre shows a traditional stained glass window nativity scene which is taken from the Notre Dame.

4. The top right show a donkey who happens to be called Rudolf.

Donkeys are regarded as lowly animals. They are beasts of burden and are normally associated with poor people.

As we know traditionally Jesus commenced his journey on earth on a donkey, while Mary his mother travelled with Joseph to Bethlehem.

Then towards the end of his life Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a humble donkey.

Learn More

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5. Lower left shows another stained glass depicting the 3 wise men.

They were men of great learning and wisdom.

Each gave a gift to the new born King

Gold - pointed to the begotten Son who was given by God to be King of His people.

Frankincense - is a symbol of prayer, an aromatic resin used in incense and for healing.

Myrrh - is a spice used with oil for anointing and is still used today to anoint a king or queen.

6. The lower middle is a beautiful picture of 2 different animals.

Orlando & Bambi who are peacefully sharing the same space in a stable which is mystically draped in sunlight.

7. Lower right shows the shepherds. These men were probably the local rough lads but they were given a message from a host of angels.

2000 years later this message is still incredible important to each one of us and I believe is the Christmas message that we should all share.

‘Glory to God in the highest heaven.

and on earth peace to all people of good will'

I followed a wild dolphin

I’d like to share the occasion when I first encountered a wild dolphin.

This was when I was a junior professed sister.  I was on holiday in the West of Ireland.

The Infant Jesus Sisters have a house in a place called Ballyferriter which is approximately ten miles from the Dingle peninsula. This house is a place where the sisters can go and spend time together away from their normal work.

It is a fairly basic habitat but everybody enjoys going there owing to the beauty of the sea and surrounding landscapes. The house is situated in a very rural area and until fairly recently the Irish language would have been spoken in preference to the English.

The house is called 'St Josephs' and originally a small community of sisters ran a knitting factory there which gave training and a trade to the local women and young girls.

This enterprise came to an end when more sophisticated careers became available and it was then that the house was converted into a holiday retreat house for the sisters.

 I made my first visit to Ballyferriter as a novice and soon recognised why so many people could fall in love with this area. 

Several years later I found myself with a exciting fresh reason to wish to return to this beautiful part of Ireland.

I followed a wild dolphin

I had learnt about a wild dolphin that was regularly coming close to the shore. It had been said that some people had even been able to swim with this sea creature. This had been a dream of my youth, to swim with a wild dolphin. I really yearned for this to happen and dreams do come true if you believe and give them time.

I decided to take my bike and pack all I would need plus my camping gear to spend my holiday living under the stars in this peaceful holy place.

Following a long journey by boat and train I set off on the cycle journey to Ballyferriter. When I eventually arrived I was tired but very enthusiastic to cycle another 10 miles to Dingle where I would make enquires about the dolphin. I discovered there was a fishing boat due to be going out at 6am the following morning in search of the dolphin. With eagerness I arranged with the skipper to be on the boat.

I went to bed that night so excited about the potential meeting I was to have with the dolphin. Of coarse being a wild animal there was no guarantee that this would happen. Somehow I eventually managed to go to sleep and woke in the early hours of the morning from a dream about a dolphin.

It was a dream that I can still remember clearly to this day.

I was swimming deep down into the clear green water. My purpose was to go as deep as I could and this would enable me to find the dolphin.

As I swam deeper I had an amazing view of the strange and wonderful under sea world. When I reached a certain depth some inner voice told me to go no deeper.

I, as a human was not yet ready to enter the world of the dolphin.

With this internal message I swam to the surface and woke up gasping for air.

I am not a dream analyst so if you wish I leave the dream for to you to decipher.

I followed a wild dolphin

Following a simple camp breakfast I set off on the 10 mile cycle to Dingle to meet the boat. It was a small vessel and could probable carry about six to eight people. Before leaving I had put on my swimming costume just in case the opportunity arose for me to swim with the dolphin.

The little boat chugged out of the harbour into

deeper water. The skipper told his passengers that he had seen the dolphin the previous day so I was hopeful that the dolphin would swim our way.

I looked out across the sea with great expectations of seeing a leaping dolphin but all I could see were grey waves.

The boat sailed near to some of the Blasket Islands and the skipper told his passengers that the dolphin often followed the fishing boats in this location. After an hour of experiencing the Atlantic sea and wild environment the skipper decided to head back towards the harbour. As we came closer to the harbour someone screamed with excitement that they had spotted the dolphin in the distance.

We all turned our heads and glued our eyes in the direction of the sighting. The skipper headed towards that direction and then stopped the boat. The water was a dark grey and when I first caught sight of the dolphin it was difficult to distinguish him in the dark grey hue of the sea. However this wild creature was fully aware of us and swam towards the little boat like a dog that would quickly run to greet its owner.

I could hardly stop my self jumping in before I’d removed my clothes. I was also surprised why the other passengers didn’t want to avail of this unique opportunity of swimming with a wild dolphin. Just before jumping in I did check with the skipper that it was okay and as he nodded his head I made the jump.

What I hadn’t anticipated was the bitter icy cold of the early morning Atlantic water. I initially had great difficulty breathing but the adrenalin rush soon put this to right when the boat spectators started screaming with excitement that he was coming towards me. At this stage owing to the swell of water and being much lower that those in the boat I had no vision of the dolphin.

Then my eyes caught sight of a large dark dorsal fin heading straight towards me.

Help! Was this really a dolphin or was it now a shark?

Of coarse it was a dolphin and then the magic commenced. Initially he swam up side down directly underneath me, apparently these highly intelligent animals do this so they can assess another dolphin or in my case a human.

He continued to swim around me and gently touch me with his beak. We swam together and he seemed to invite me to play with him. I can only describe the encounter as if I had met an extremely intelligent being from another planet but unable to fully communicate in the same language.

After a period of approximately 20 minutes I had to get back into the boat but this was a problem as the sides of the boat were too high for me to pull my self up out of the water. I was beginning to think I’d never get back into the boat and it was certainly too far for me to swim to shore. Eventually an old tyre was lowered which gave me something to cling onto and this enabled me to climb and scramble on board.

Later that morning I returned to my little camp feeling exhilarated and excited that I would be going to sea the next morning. My youthful dream had come true and over the following days I had several more dolphin encounters each one being very different.

On all occasions I found that I was the only one who entered the water. The first morning was very special as I was only wearing a swimming costume and the dolphin appeared to pay me more direct attention by swimming underneath me and gentle touching me with his beak. Any future swims I made I always wore a wet suit on top of my costume to help keep me warm. The dolphin would still poke me with his beak but his behaviour was slightly different, it could have been that he remembered me from the previous day.

I followed a wild dolphin

I will now share a different type of encounter I had with the wild dolphin. 

This time he was swimming very close to the shore and I managed to borrow a canoe and I paddled out to where he was.

The canoe seemed to be a great attraction to him. He was acting in a very playful manner which included leaping several times over myself and the canoe. Following the leaping game he then took in his beak the front of the canoe and spun me around. This was both fun and for me and a little scary as I was not experienced at getting myself out of a canoe that was upside down in the water. At the time I did share with the dolphin my concerns and fortunately the little vessel was not flipped over.

Each encounter was indeed extremely special which made me return to West Ireland for several visits to see my friend the wild dolphin.

Dolphins are one of the most amazing creatures on our planet and they should be treasured and given all the protection they require.

Many years ago I read a book about a wild dolphin off the Cornish coast.

The book begun about the Aborigines and Dream Time, saying how dolphins came from the sea to earth and how they then became human.

Well, I do believe dolphins are at least equal if not of a higher intelligence to humans. They are highly social creatures with a great sense of fun and enjoyment of life. They live in a different environment to us where they have developed into an elite creature in every respect.

May we all follow the ‘Wild Dolphin’ and learn before it becomes too late to learn. MJL 1987

Follow a wild dolphin

I finally include my original reflection that I made after my encounter with the wild dolphin.

'Into icy water I plunged, unable to breath freely owing to the biter cold.

He was sited and

 Adrenalin pumped warmth around my hypo thermic body.

I was alone in deep water, black water, 

strong water.

 Fear ran through me, may be that dorsal fin was a shark!

With great excitement they on the boat screamed and

 yelled across the water

‘He’s by you and like the pantomime I turned and could not see him

. I bobbed around with my head just above the turbulent water and 

all I could see was the grey swell of the waves.

‘He’s under you’ they screamed from their vantage place on the boat.

Then as if to oblige me we met face to face.

 I swam like a fish out of water in comparison to my 

new aquatic companion.

 He stayed with me; he touched me and then circled around me, leaping and plunging as if he were inviting me to play. 

Then he swam underneath me.

 he was upside down.

 I could clearly see his large white belly.

It’s another world I thought. 

It’s the world of the Wild Dolphin.

 No other mammal can swim like him. 

His creator has perfected his body, his hearing and perfected his intelligence. 

We are so close and yet so far apart. 

His intelligence surpasses mine as I try to understand him. 

I dived deep into the water that rightly belongs to him.

 He studied me with his examining eye. 

I held my breath 

for as long as possible 

He seemed to smile as we looked each other in the face.

 I was forced to surface to refill my human lungs.

 He surfaced with me and he also drew breath through his blow hole, 

A breath that could last him several minutes.

I rattled a tin and he came to investigate and to seek out the new noise.

 I touched his fine body 

 How I wish I could mount him like a horse 

and ride him through the waves.

Then he was gone, out to sea

 I saw him leaping way out of the water,

 leaping for joy. 

He is so free and he loves life.

Throughout the ages dolphins have trusted humans and it is said that on many occasion saved human life. Sadly, today throughout the world many dolphins like my wild dolphin are exploited. They are trapped in dolphinariums, slaughtered by hunters, drowned in fishing nets or poisoned by the contamination of the sea by chemicals.

What a privilege for me to have an incredible and joyful experience of swimming and playing with a wild dolphin.'

Mary Joy Langdon IJS first written in 1987

Reflections, Articles & Poetry

The Communion of Saints

In our tradition saints are those who have led heroic lives and seem disconnected from the imperfections of our world. They are outstanding models of Christian living.

We think, for example of the apostles, martyers, Saints Joseph, Teresa of Liseaux, Teresa of Avila, Anthony to find what we lose, Pio, Maximillian Kolbe, Patrick ,Columcille, and Bridget to name but a few.

 In contrast the biblical concept of "saints" includes all those who live as christians, followers of God's anointed one.

In the translations of the Bible with which we are most familiar the word "saint(s)" is often replaced by "righteous one(s)" or "just one(s)" when referring to holy people e.g. Zecharia and Elizabeth ... "Both of them were righteous before God ..." (Luke 1:6).

In the Old the Old Testament the Psalms refer to the "saints" and their duties to God: "Revere the Lord you His saints" . (Psalm 33:10 grail). In the early church letters were addressed to "the saints :

"To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints"  ( Rom. 1:7).

"To the church of God in Corinth including all the saints throughout Achaia". (2Cor. 1:1).

Other examples: 1Cor.16:1;  Eph.1:1;  Phil.1:1; Heb.3:1.

The Communion of Saints

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (par.962), referring to "The Communion of Saints" in the Creed says this:  "We believe in the communion of all the faithful, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead whom are being purified, and the blessed in heaven ..."


We are initiated into the Communion at our Baptism, on the Name of the Father, the Son and of the holy Spirit. Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity said:  "This is the grace of our Baptism when the Blessed Trinity makes its home in us". (Jn 14: 23).


At Samhain when traditionally the  spirits of the dead are reunited with the living, the Church celebrates All Saints, The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and The Irish Saints. Yet all are united in the one Communion of Saints.


Our response to this Mystery of Our Faith has to be wonder, gratitude and praise:

"O God arise above the Heavens

May Your Glory shine on earth". 

( PS. 56 Grail).

Our challenge as members of this Communion is to follow Christ each day and so deepen our life in the Blessed Trinity.

Sister Peter Fahy IJS

For interest “Samhain” mentioned in the article is the Celtic feast at the start of Winter.

My Spring Garden

Oh, to walk the garden now that spring is here

To see the buds emerging in the cool morning air

The pear tree with her leaves so green

Bursting out her blossom now softly seen

In the living background I see the Seabright Bantams scratch the ground The cock majestically struts standing on a mound

Arches his neck, silky blue

To sing in perfect pitch his cock a doodle doo

Oh to walk my garden now that spring is here Seeing nature’s gifts and wonders all so very near

My Summer Garden

Oh, to walk the garden in the summer warmth

To see the flowers blooming and veggies coming forth Bountiful cherries and strawberries to pick and eat

All is lush and flourishing with froglets hopping at my feet In the living background the Bantams cluster their chicks Proudly stands the cock, on his earthen mound Abundance of creation on this sacred ground

Oh, to walk my garden now that summer is nigh

Is a time of appreciation of living life so high

My Autumn Garden

Oh, to walk the garden in the warmth of autumn gold

Leaves droop and flutter to the ground gently forming leaf mould

To see the trees give up their virescent hues of spring and summer green Red apples, golden pumpkins and green pears ready to glean

In the living background I hear the song of the autumn Robin redbreast He swoops low to the soften soil and pulls a worm to digest

The uncut long grass now form sheaves of grain

While softly falling to the earth comes the autumn rain

Oh, to walk my garden now that autumn arrives

Is to reflect on the past giving thanks for being alive

My Winter Garden

Oh, to walk the garden in the lonely winter space

Nature shutting down her active smiling face

To see but a few weeds and flower stalks showing last

I remember what living garden this was in the past

Like the mother carrying her unborn child

The womb of the garden bears all that is wild

In the living background the hens still scratch the ground Producing eggs to be found

All other animals are hidden away

Although the garden remains theirs but in a different way

Oh, to walk my garden in the dark of the winter night To observe the distant stars twinkling so bright Giving gratitude

For my micro ecosystem garden is definitely right

Sister Mary Joy 2017

Catherine KilBride was educated by the Infant Jesus Sisters in Drishane Convent and Rosslyn House. She studied at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. She went on to become Director of Education at the Marketing Institute of Ireland. She is now an Education Consultant and co-author with Deirdre Raftery of 'Choosing a School', 'Second Level Education in Ireland' and 'The Voyage Out'

Dr Deidre Raftery is a past pupil of the Infant Jesus Convent Malahide. She studied at Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin where she is now Deputy head of the School odf Education. She is an Honorary Life Member of Girton College Cambridge and has published many books including 'The Voyage Out'

Above Sister Enda, Mary Angela Fitzgerald

The author: Maurice Egan is a son of Betty Egan [Fitzgerald] and grand nephew of Sister Angela Fitzgerals.

Above Michiko Shõda, 1958

Maurice resides with his family in South Africa. He was fortunate to first meet Sister Angela and where you may ask? No less than with his mother and uncles, Betty and Bunny on the beach at Ballybunnion in 1973

The Voyage Out

Book Review

Catherine Kilbride and Deidre Raftery
(Baird, Dublin 2009)

Cost 40.31 euros 

Publishers IJS centenary committee

 Norwegian Airways are not the only good thing coming out Cork these days. A history has been written of the Infant Jesus Sisters (IJ), more known in Ireland, or rather unknown, as the Drishane Sisters.

A group of nuns came from France in the late 1800s to Millstreet to find English speaking vocations to staff their schools in Asia. After all the usual contradictions in setting up such an entreprise there followed a stream of powerful ladies who set out to conquer that continent. The places they came from sound like a litany of every town and village in Cork and Kerry, with a few other places besides. Every family in Munster could claim to have a share in this incredible story.

The schools were in China, Japan, Thailand and Malaya. It is another as yet unknown history of the incredible achievements of the Irish diaspora. In the Malaysian peninsula these nuns had a network of schools, I heard 23 at one stage, which were the backbone of the educational system for girls in the country.

Ipoh in Malaysia is not the centre of the world or Malaysia either, I passed through there once, but the sisters had a school there with 2,000 pupils. Most of the other schools had the same number.

Having lived there for 12 years, it was at times embarrassing to hear every educated lady that you met talk with such esteem of their Irish teachers. It was strange because in Ireland you tended to hear the opposite. They loved what we hated : Irish discipline. They appreciated what we took for granted : quality education.

“a few past pupils have said to me, especially when they had hard knocks in life, “thank you for the discipline you taught me, otherwise I could not have borne up under it”…

One 20 year old male past pupil told me “you don’t mess with Sr Deidre”.

“The Penang convent has educated in a true sense of the word several generations and it has made them useful citizens…within the hallowed halls of the convent, our mothers, ourselves and our children have received and are still receiving that complete form of education, which includes not only physical and intellectual but also moral training.”

It was one thing for the nuns to be doing all this but then there was the war. What it must have been like for a European lady in Malaya during the Japanese occupation is difficult to imagine. After the nuns arrived and the locals saw who they were and what they were up to, they began to leave their unwanted children on the doorsteps of the nuns. It was a statement in itself. So although it was not part of their original charism it became so over time. They ended up with hundreds of disabled babies, unwanted girl children, the extra child, and babies born out of wedlock. When evacuation time came during the war they had to move with a few hundred children.

After the war three sisters were awarded government certificates of commendation, it was public recognition for services rendered to the people of Malaya during the war. However only two sisters attended, the third said she was too busy looking after the children. So the Resident Commissioner of Kuala Lumpur got into his car, drove to her and made the presentation in front of the sisters and the children. The sisters saw the country grow to independence in 1957.

I asked a sister from Doneraile in County Cork who came to Singapore in 1956 how did she teach in a classroom at 30 degrees Centigrade with no fan or air conditioning, her reply was : “we just looked upon it as a vocation”.

Sr Dolores Healy (RIP) who came earlier and spent 50 years, which was more or less the average, told me that they knew Singapore when it was cesspool. She narrated how as well as training the girls in hockey they put on operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. It was high class stuff. Some of the children and grandchildren of Lee Kwan Yew, the mastermind of the economic miracle of Singapore, passed through their hands. It could be said that the economic miracle might not have happened without their influence in educating a large portion of the population.

While the Christian population of Singapore is about 10%, the Christian presence in important places, particularly in government, is about 25%. While not all of this is due to the IJ, some is due to the La Salle Brothers, a large portion of it is to the credit of the nuns. Catholic education both male and female was tops, many Muslims sent their children to be educated at Catholic schools. It is the same story all over Asia. They spent themselves for other people’s children.

When new pupils come in every year I take them on a trip to Victoria St (the original school), they (the government) have kept it all.

When these sisters retired they did not bequeath libraries to their towns of origin because they did not have the means. In spite of their left wing tendencies they did not vacate their large personal individual residences which had now become too big to manage. They did not make good use of tax payer funded luxuries at Dublin Airport because they did not enjoy such privileges. Young people need serious leaders as role models not celebrities.

We associate Yokohama with a US military base but the IJs were there 60 years before. One of them was a sister of Terence MacSwiney, Sr Francis Xavier. When being interned during the war she was told to line up with the British. She protested saying “I’m not British”. At this stage she was looking down the barrel of a Japanese gun. They don’t make Irish women like they used to, but having seen her grandniece playing hockey in the 60s, one can say some of that spirit does live on. Eventually she complied.

After two years internment the Irish sisters went back to their ordinary educational occupations much to the consternation of the Japanese who could not understand their commitment. There was no home leave. Many Japanese sought their help during the war.

“So many came to thank us for what we did for their lives…..they all come to us when they are broken…they could come to the sisters and say all they wanted and know it would stay there.”

They had a leper colony in Thailand from 1885 again staffed by Irish ladies and a school for aborigines in Australia. They also had schools in Weybridge, UK and in California.

Stories like these are not unique I have also heard of two Sacred Heart sisters called Finlay, another name that rings bells, who went to Chile in the 1800s to start schools.

This book is a beautiful story of the influence of the Irish diaspora. It could be in every home but particularly in Munster homes. For descendants who know little or nothing, it is an eye opener. In recent years we have seen a trend of relatives visiting graves of World War I veterans in France and piecing together parts of their family history. The same could happen with these ambassadors. They brought their heart and soul and often left their bones as well.

Conor Donnelly
[email protected]

Book Review

by Maurice Egan

Mary Angela Fitzgerald had a tough life by most measures, but nonetheless, it was a life fully lived in the caring and serving of others. Despite enormous hardship, her generosity of spirit was learned early in her life. Angela, as she was called, was the eldest daughter and was born in 1890, in Galbally, County Limerick, Ireland.

When aged only 10 years, her beloved father Walter J., a National School Teacher, died of typhoid fever, age 35, at the Workhouse, Mitchelstown on the 15th October 1900. Her widowed mother Julia Fitzgerald (nee O’Flynn), aged 37, became solely dependent on her own National School Teachers wage and was fully stretched rearing her four daughters and three sons. Tragedy struck once more, when just over four years later, Angela’s mother, age 42, died of pneumonia at her home in Galbally, on the 8th February 1905.

Her older brother Willie (born in 1888) and her younger brothers John (1895) and Innocent (1896), Walter (1893, died 5 weeks), along with her three younger sisters Nora (1891), Madge (1898) and Kitty (1900) were all orphaned at a young age. Julia’s younger unmarried sister Mary A. Flynn returned from Canada, age 35, to permanently look after her nephews and nieces, renting a cottage in Galbally.

Founded by Père Nicolas Barré in Paris in 1662, The Infant Jesus Sisters came to Ireland from France. The shortage of English teachers forced the Sisters to turn to the British Isles in hopes of recruiting and training potential missionary teachers. In 1909, Mother St Beatrice Foley, returned from Singapore, and established Drishane Convent in Millstreet, County Cork, Ireland. It had a "knitting school" for younger girls and was also used to train teachers for the Asian missions. Less than half a decade after opening, the convent was sending teachers and Sisters to British Malaya, and Japan.

Like her father and mother and grandfather before her, Angela qualified as a National School Teacher, aged 20. Later she became one of the early novitiates to join Drishane Convent. By 1919 she had taken her holy vows having being professed Sister Enda and was sent to the missions in Yokohama, some 30kms south of Tokyo, Japan.

She became a renowned teacher of English and piano. With her fellow Sisters, she helped set up and build educational facilities, schools and places of learning for the poor and in particular for girls.

Angela would spend her lifetime serving the people of Yokohama and would not see her family for another 27 years, visiting in March 1946, and only thereafter post Vatican II, December 1965, when she returned to visit Ireland in 1973. In that time, much joy and notable hardship was to come her way. Yet her unbending faith kept her going through all that was to unfold.

By 1919, Angela and her fellow Infant Jesus Sisters, had continued to build upon the work of their fellow Sisters, which included a fine well-built bricked Catholic Church and School at St Maur’s. It was and remains, the first and oldest International School in Japan, established by them in 1872.

While attending 11am morning mass and at the exact moment of receiving the host and sacrament of Holy Communion from the priest, Japan’s largest ever earthquake struck the city of Yokohama. The roof of the church caved in and the priest with all of his 234 congregants died.

Only Sister Angela Fitzgerald survived.

It was the 1st September 1923. 140,000 people perished as a result of that dreadful 7.9 earthquake. 90% of all homes were damaged or destroyed throughout Yokohama that day.

It was an enormous task for the authorities, the businesses and the hundreds of thousands of homeless people to tackle. Much strife, jealousies and violence followed.

Sister Angela and her fellow Sisters sought international help and set about providing as much assistance as they could to those devastated by the earthquake and the resultant twelve metre tsunami. Rebuild they somehow did. By the early 1930’s St Maur’s had re-established its school and church buildings and was well recognised as an International centre of learning.

In 1938, Sister Angela was summoned by one of the city’s well known and respected businessmen, Hidesaburō Shōda, who was the president and honorary chairman of Nisshin Flour Milling Company. He and his wife Fumiko Soejima commissioned her to teach their young five-year-old daughter, modern English. The young girl’s name was Michiko.

Sister Angela’s only connection to Ireland was through writing letters and receiving much looked forward to, mail from Ireland and home. Her favourite nephews and nieces were her younger brother Innocent’s children Brian, Betty and Bunny. Sister Angela would teach the young Michiko English and how to become pen-pals with the three Fitzgerald’s who spent their annual summer holidays in Ballybunnion, County Kerry, Ireland. The following ditty would be recited out loud for Michiko by Sister Angela, and with the required proper English pronunciation;

‘Brian, Betty and Bunny on the beach of Ballybunnion now repeat after me’

‘Brian, Betty and Bunny on the beach of Ballybunnion and repeat after me’

Michiko Shōda later graduated summa cum laude from the Faculty of Literature at the University of the Sacred Heart (a Catholic university in Tokyo) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. She too was an accomplished pianist.

In August 1957, she met then Crown Prince Akihito on a tennis court at Karuizawa near Nagano. At that time, the media presented their encounter as a real "fairy tale", or the "romance of the tennis court". The engagement ceremony took place on 14 January 1959. The wedding took place as a traditional Shinto ceremony on 10 April 1959. The wedding procession was followed in the streets of Tokyo by more than 500,000 people spread over an 8.8 km route, while parts of the wedding were televised, thus making it the first imperial wedding to be made available for public viewership in Japan, drawing about 15 million viewers.

Empress Michiko is a known Hibernophile with an interest in the Children of Lir and recites ‘I See His Blood Upon The Rose’ by Joseph Plunkett as a party piece, and even speaks passable Irish.

Sister Angela by now was based at their convent in Fukuoka, until October 3rd 1942. On that ill-fated day, she as a holder of a British passport, was taken from her home and religious community and landed in an internment camp where members of other religious congregations were already imprisoned. That same year on Christmas Day 1942, they were removed to one of their schools outside Tokyo, a much larger number of internees were there. In late 1943, they were again moved, this time to a Franciscan Monastery and then finally to the Archbishops House in Tokyo, where they remained until their release.

During World War 2, from January 1944 until August 1945, the U.S. dropped 157,000 tons of bombs on Japanese cities, according to the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey. Fifteen million of the 72 million Japanese were left homeless.

‘The Irish department of External Affairs has been notified in response to representations to the Japanese authorities that arrangements have been made for the release from internment of 13 nuns who hold British passports and for the supply to them of identity cards indicating that they are Irish citizens. The nuns, who are members of the Sisters of the Infant Jesus order, Drishane Convent Millstreet Co. Cork are: Sister Francis Xavier (Catherine Teresa MacSwiney, sister of Terence Mac Swiney); Sister Peter (Catherine O’Mahony); Sister Enda (Mary Angela Fitzgerald) dated: 13th November 1944’.

On the 6th November 1944, Sister Angela and her fellow Sisters of Sr. Maur, had been released together, along with the other religious orders. Two or three others were kept until the end of the war. Sister Angela was now sent to Shizuoka, her former charge was given to a Japanese Sister. She stayed there until the month of June. They were bombarded on the night of the 20th June 1945. Fleeing into the countryside they were way-laid with the American forces blanket bombing campaign, including their use of incendiary napalm bombs. No lives were lost. The convent and schools were reduced to rubble, not only at Shizuoka but also in Tokyo and St Maur’s at Yokohama. The convent in Fukuoka was spared.

Once again, the church and buildings of St Maur were flattened to rubble. As they ran for their lives with the school children in tow, Sister Angela in her understandable fear ran out of her only pair of shoes. They lived for many days in the relative safety of the rural hill areas. The diminutive, Sister Angela writing back to her brother Willie and sister Nora in Ireland, spoke of the devastation. The Red Cross were out of many supplies and so she humbly wrote home requesting her sister Nora to send by post, a pair of simple, size four, one-inch rubber heeled shoes to her, as she no longer had any to wear.

The school did not reopen for a number of years after the war but recommenced in the late 1940’s and once again within 20 years had established the school and church of St Maur, as an exemplary International School of learning, which it is to this day.

On the 7th September 2005, Emperor Akihito and his wife Empress Michiko, paid a state visit to Ireland. Empress Michiko, in an interview given before they travelled, said she had been taught by Irish nuns and recalled "the charm and loveliness of each one of them".

Betty Fitzgerald, now married and residing in Tullamore, Ireland, known as Betty Egan, read this article in the Irish Times newspaper. She lifted the phone to the Japanese Embassy in Dublin and requested to speak to the Japanese first secretary. She relayed her story of whom had and how was the Empress educated. She mentioned the ditty ‘Brian, Betty and Bunny on the beach of Ballybunnion now repeat after me’, and passed on her very best wishes to her former pen pal on her visit to Ireland.

Within 60 minutes the excited first secretary had phoned Betty Fitzgerald back. He conveyed the Empress’ delight on hearing from her and wished to convey her memory of ‘Brian, Betty and Bunny on the beach of Ballybunnion now repeat after me’, as being as clear as a bell, as if it was only yesterday.

Betty Fitzgerald had in her own way, reconnected two remarkable women and, she gently put the phone down and was indeed satisfied.

Sister Angela Fitzgerald died on the 26th July 1980 and is buried in the Infant Jesus community cemetery in Yokohama, Japan. She died in her ninetieth year.

Empress Michiko turns 83 on the 20th October and next month, in August 2017, she celebrates 60 years since she first met her future husband, that fateful day on the tennis court at Karuizawa.