The Cenacle Sisters of England and Ireland

Helen Grealy

I was born in the sea-side resort of Salthill on the edge of Galway city in the west of Ireland.  While at home we spoke English, I attended an All Irish school.  Somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7, I had a religious experience that affected my life.  I felt surrounded by a Presence and knew that I belonged to that Presence.  My teenage years were normal in the sense of having 'an eye for the boys’, yet, I knew Who’s I was.

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While I didn't have a struggle in knowing I belonged to God, I did not know how to give expression to this.  On the one hand I am out-going and adventurous, on the other I'm quiet and reflective.  I chose to enter a Missionary Congregation. I loved the ethos and found my inner journey developed deeply in prayer.  I found myself very attracted to the contemplative life and after much discernment found myself in a enclosed Order.  Silence, solitude, prayer and manual work were the daily routine.  My spirit was deeply nourished.  However, eventually the regime became too much for me physically and I had to leave.

My Cenacle vocation has brought together the warm out-going and the quietly contemplative aspects of my life.  It is indeed my privilege to care for the spiritual needs of people.  I have worked in various Cenacle Retreats Centres.  I also spent a few years in a Centre for Spiritual Renewal in Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa.  There we formed a team of men and women from different Congregations and nations.  Living in a very different context it was enriching and stretching to experience how another people lived.

Later, I was to have another very international experience, this time I worked in Hawkstone Hall, an International Pastoral Centre in England.  People came from all around the world to be refreshed in body, mind and spirit.  They spent 3 months doing a renewal Course.  Many of them were working in very remote, deprived areas with people suffering from poverty and illnesses.  It was very rewarding seeing colour coming back in their cheeks and they themselves becoming more animated.

Celtic Christianity/Spirituality is an area I have specialised in and have given retreats, workshops and courses in Ireland, Scotland, England, and a little in the U.S.  I live in Dublin now and have worked at Milltown Institute Theological College helping students to integrate what they were learning with their everyday lives.  Our community is quite integrated in the local area especially the parish. I am interested in church renewal locally and wider and at present trying to help this come about.

Over the years, I have indeed been challenged in different ways, sometimes difficult but this has contributed to my personal growth.
Basically, I am grateful for my life experience so far and hold hope for the future.


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