2011 Dublin Pilgrimage Traveler
The Dublin Pilgrimage is an opportunity I never imagined having during my collegiate years at Gwynedd Mercy, but I'm thankful for it every day as I grow personally and professionally.
When I first heard about the experience through Campus Ministry, I knew this would be a special way to learn more about the Sisters of Mercy's roots, the significant meaning of mercy, and how to embrace the qualities that Catherine McAuley embodied. The Mercy International Centre's Young Mercy Leaders Conference in Dublin was a chance to meet other students from Mercy academic institutions around the world, and learn how the Mercy tradition has affected our lives at school. It is the main similarity connecting us, despite some of our cultural differences.
The Dublin Pilgrimage also allowed us to learn about The Troubles, and how this historical period affected Northern Ireland. Exploring Belfast, as well as the Northern Ireland coast, helped us to better understand people's actions during that time, and what they're doing to promote a more peaceful environment for future generations. Visiting the Corrymeela community showcased what Northern Ireland is doing to bring peace and reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants. The entire pilgrimage made me appreciate the religious and political freedoms we have in the United States.
Even though three years has passed since the 2011 Dublin Pilgrimage, I still feel that I'm "giving back" in some ways through my personal and professional life. The experience was eye-opening, and actually inspired me after graduation to seriously consider applying as a one year volunteer at Corrymeela Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. I had the application completely filled out and was working towards obtaining recommendations until I received a full-time job opportunity at Malvern Retreat House. Although I accepted the full-time employment, there's a part of me that still cares about the peace process and what I could have done for retreatants at Corrymeela.
Malvern Retreat House is the oldest and largest Catholic retreat house in the United States, so I try to incorporate some ideas taught at the Young Mercy Leaders Conference through publicity of spiritual retreats and events. At MRH's Young Adult Retreat in May 2013, participants discovered their charisms and how they can be applied in their daily lives. It was similar to the session at our conference called What Am I Going to Do with My One Wild and Precious Life? which helped us discern our calling through listening and prayer.
Since the Catholic Church encourages us to focus on the New Evangelization efforts, I've worked to also implement monthly gatherings for young adults' spiritual growth and fellowship. These get-togethers include Mass, dinner, and some type of social or service activity. Every time they are organized, I remember how Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy inspired people to mercifully serve others and compassionately accept our diverse backgrounds and personalities. I hope these regular opportunities at MRH encourage young adults to reflect in their faith and become active in society.
In my personal life, I reference and promote the Dublin Pilgrimage frequently with family, friends, Gwynedd students & staff members, MRH co-workers, and others. Also, most of the conference participants still communicate with one another in our own Facebook group, so it's a nice way to receive updates and stay connected. Once I visited Ireland and Northern Ireland in 2011, I knew I had to return sometime in the future. They are beautiful countries with interesting histories and kind people, so I'll actually be traveling there with Gwynedd's Spring Break group from February 28 to March 9. It will be a nice opportunity to explore both countries more thoroughly.
Since the Dublin Pilgrimage continues to positively impact my life, I can only imagine the effect this year's opportunity will have on undergraduate students and soon-to-be alumni. The more applicants selected to represent Gwynedd Mercy University, the better their personal and professional lives will be. It will help them to evolve as leaders, and carry the Mercy tradition in the "real world." Please consider donating towards this worthy cause; just like I discovered so many possibilities, the Dublin Pilgrimage will definitely prepare participants to "discover the next" in terms of their potential.