A difficult time for our Sister Congregation in IrelandPrint
These past couple of months have been a momentous time in the history of our Sister Congregation, the Religious Sisters of Charity in Ireland.
At the end of May, the Congregational Leader, Sr Mary Christian issued a statement (see below) which said the the Religious Sisters of Charity would end their involvement with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, and would not be involved with the ownership or management of the new National Maternity Hospital.
“For the last two years we have been actively working to find the best way to relinquish our shareholding in the St Vincent’s healthcare Group (SVHG). It includes three hospitals; St Vincent’s University Hospital, St Vincent’s Private Hospital, and St Michael’s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire,” she said.
“Although the Sisters of Charity will no longer have any direct involvement in the provision of healthcare services, we remain dedicated to preserving the legacy of Mary Aikenhead, whose mission in life was to heal and care for the sick and poor.”
Reaction to the news was both swift and somber. The Congregational Leader of the Sisters of Charity of Australia, Sr Clare Nolan (with Sr Mary Christian, below left) wrote to the Congregation here on May 30: “Difficult news from Ireland overnight… after more than 200 years of service to the sick poor of Ireland, our founding Congregation has announced it will end its involvement with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.
“This is a wrench for our Sister Congregation, as well as for our own Sisters in Australia whose vocations to be nurses as well as women Religious were founded and formed in many of the St Vincent’s Hospitals across the world. They are all in our thoughts and prayers at this challenging time – one which should give us all an opportunity to reflect on our call to be consecrated, apostolic women Religious.” (For full reaction, see the special edition of Congregational News from May 30 below.)
The reaction continued in an interview in The Irish Times on June 3 with one of the Religious Sisters of Charity’s best-known members in Ireland, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy.
The depiction of the Sisters of Charity during the recent controversy over the transfer of the National Maternity Hospital to St Vincent’s hospital was akin to elder abuse, according to Sr Stan.
She said she was shocked and surprised by the scale of the controversy over St Vincent’s and the criticisms levelled at her order. “It shook me, it really did.” During the controversy, very little thought was given to the background of the Sisters of Charity and the work its members had done over the years, she contended.
“A lot of the stuff that came out in the media about us was very hurtful. There was a lot of misunderstanding and misrepresentation. It was very distasteful.”
Sr Stanislaus (left), the founder of Focus Ireland and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said her order had been depicted as “a power-grabbing congregation” and “a group of old ladies who didn’t know what they were doing.”
“In another context, this would come under elder abuse,” said the 78-year-old nun.
Congregational News Special edition: 30 May – Special No 11
Read more of the history of Mary Aikenhead and St Vincent’s in Dublin in the current issue of Keep In Touch KIT_June_2017