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Interview with Sr. Rosaleen Cunniffe, Superior General of the Holy Faith Sisters

by | Oct 24, 2020 | News, Vincentian Family | 0 comments

Sr. Rosaleen what is the mission to which you are called as congregation of Holy Faith Sisters?

“True to the fundamental inspiration of our foundress, we strive to proclaim, by word and action, the love and truth of Jesus to the people of our day” Constitution 2 (Mission)

In recent years we are concentrating on three priority areas for our mission:

  • Faith Development
  • Support for Struggling People
  • Care for the Planet

Let’s go to the origins: what is the link between your founder and Saint Vincent de Paul?

Our foundress, an Irish woman, was a member of the Ladies of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul in Dublin. They worked in the city centre with people living in poverty after the Irish famine of 1845-47.

With the help of a Vincentian priest, Fr. John Gowan CM, she pioneered a ‘family rearing’ system to care for destitute children, known as St. Brigid’s Orphanage. She founded schools for children living in poverty in the inner city. This work eventually evolved into the congregation known as the Sisters of the Holy Faith.

Last January you participated in the Vincentian Family meeting held in Rome: after almost a year what are your reflections on that meeting? What are the challenges of charity?

The meeting in Rome was my first experience of working in a totally Vincentian environment and I was particularly struck by the efficiency, friendliness, acceptance of all participants as equals, the energy, enthusiasm, and sense of urgency. I learned that charity must be constantly evolving in its response to the needs to the time. I experienced the living out of St. Vincent’s insistence that charity must be affective and effective. It was a wonderful experience.

Charity in our day has been upset by the arrival of COVID-19: how did you respond as a religious congregation to the pandemic?

With a mainly elderly membership, we tried to be as compliant as possible with local procedures. We have a spirituality centre on the grounds of our motherhouse here in Glasnevin. The Director made most of the courses available on zoom and we adapted quickly to see the potential of technology for reaching even larger numbers of people than we might do through the Centre’s normal operation. This has been a revelation for us.  Sisters in the U.S.A., Trinidad and Australia/New Zealand have all adapted their ministries and living situations, as necessary.

Could you leave us a sentence that encompasses the meaning of your service as a Congregation?

The words of our foundress Margaret Aylward to the Archbishop of Dublin in 1866, “our chief care being the poor and our principal object the defense of the Faith.”


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