Sr Mary Teresa
My name is Teresa Dunphy. I entered the monastery in 2005, when I was 26 and on the 29th of June 2008 I had the joy of making my first profession.

After College I worked in an Accountancy Firm, in Tax Consultancy and qualified as a Chartered Accountant shortly before I entered here. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a Religious. It always seemed to me to be the only possible response to God’s great love for me. As a child I was absolutely convinced that God loved me and so I was determined to do something ‘great’ for God when I grew up. Of course that didn’t mean that I was a particularly good child – I was waiting until I grew up!

It was only later on that I realised that it wasn’t I who would do something ‘great’ for God but that God was doing something ‘great’ for me. The year after finishing college I decided to begin ‘discerning’ my vocation by meeting religious orders. Everything about the Dominicans appealed to me – especially their motto “Truth” and the fact that they were founded to preach the Word of God. Their idea of study and contemplation in order to know God had a great appeal for me as I have always longed to ‘know’ God better – you cannot love someone you don’t know.

So I was determined to be a Dominican and then I started getting “niggles” about being a contemplative nun. But I fought it, I told the thoughts to shut up and go away. I told myself that I was going to be an apostolic Dominican Sister and being a contemplative nun was no longer a possibility. But the “niggles” got more and more frequent and then I discovered there were enclosed Dominican Nuns in Drogheda and arranged to visit for an afternoon. On that day we arranged for me to come to the guest room for three days – during this time I felt as certain as one can be without having lived the life that I was meant to come here. On the last night, at Compline I thought that I could be completely happy here and then I thought “God desires my happiness”. I arranged to get 4 weeks off work in November in order to come for a ‘live-in’. I loved it and knew that I would come back. I entered as a postulant the following October.

One of the most frequent questions I was asked was why choose to be enclosed, why not join an active congregation and ‘do some good’?

1. The core of it is that I think here is where God wants me to be and so that is what I’m doing. Sometimes I think of it like being an artery in the Body of Christ. By being here and open to God’s Will, grace can flow through the ‘artery’ to the world. I’m not aware of it, or of who is benefiting but the important thing is to be open to God. I believe that many of the problems of the world today can only be solved with the help of prayer.

2. Ever since I was a child I have been gutted by Jesus’ question in the Garden of Gethsemene “Could you not watch one hour with me?” (Mt 26:40 & Mk 14:37). What Jesus was looking for was so little but the disciples slept. When I read this as a child my heart ached for Jesus’ sadness and his disappointment and I decided that I would ‘watch with Him’. Here in that line I see Jesus appealing for companionship, for those who will stay with Him, i.e. for contemplatives.

 

I would like to mention some things which have particularly impressed me since I entered here.

  • There is a very strong sense of family within the community, so much so that you almost see the sisters’ relatives as your own, and also with the rest of the Order. The Friars, Sisters and Lay Dominicans often visit, ask our prayers for themselves and their projects, give us retreats, talks etc.
  • The singing of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist as the focus of our day around which everything else revolves. ¢ Eucharistic Adoration – For me this is an essential part of contemplative life, ‘to watch with Jesus’.
  • The strong emphasis on Lectio Divina. The idea that our pondering/praying the Word bears fruit in our lives and also in the lives and preaching of our brothers and sisters in the Order.
  • The joy and friendship within the community.
  • Community Life – We come to God with and through the members of the community. When I go to choir and don’t feel like praying their prayers support me. The emphasis on mutual responsibility for the Common Good and decision-making.
  • Study – I have already in just 3 years discovered so much about the liturgy, monasticism, prayer etc., which means that the various aspects of our contemplative way of life are now much more meaningful for me eg the celebration of the liturgy, lectio divina, prayer etc. I can see more clearly what great things God has done and come to know Him better, and I have years left to know more.

 

To those who are considering a vocation I would say: “Jesus continues to call young people to follow him. If you think you might have a vocation you are not alone. Sr Niamh – who made her profession last year in our community – and I have met many others who are discerning a vocation to our own or other communities and others who have just entered religious life – Have courage, do not be afraid to try!”

 

Sr Niamh

I think, if I’m honest, a part of me has always known that I would grow up and be a nun. But the rest of me didn’t want to know it. The rest of me was hoping for something else, something ‘better’. God blessed me with a very happy family, with cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents who always enjoyed being together and even sad occasions are among my good memories because we pulled together well, thank God.

So, there God was, hugely important and working away silently, impressing me through the faith of the parish community, through family and later through the Legion of Mary. I was looking for Him everywhere, wanting to be good enough for Him but not knowing how.

So when it came to my Leaving Cert a vague notion flitted through my mind about religious life, but I decided to put it out again (quickly) until I was 20. Then I was 20, and I said to myself, “25 is time enough” and when I was 25, I put it off again – “30 isn’t too old!” I thought to myself.

But all the time some One wonderful was waiting for me. I woke up at last when I was 27, attending a ‘Credo’ catechetical weekend in Tallaght, run by a few young Dominican priests. The initial reaction was a feeling that I could and would willingly do whatever the Lord asked of me, but it wore off and I was left quite worried and scared and I didn’t want it to be true, this calling. I needed a second opinion, got it, and I was free again – free to go for God!

And now here I am, living a contemplative life in a community of Nuns of the Order of Preachers, having made first profession on 31st May 2007, dare I say “home at last”?! It fits. And believe it or believe it not – I am not alone – it’s not so unusual to have a vocation to this life (I’d never have believed that until recently). Sr M.Teresa made her profession on the 29th June 2008. Maybe that’s what took me so long, all the time I was putting God on the “long finger” – no one of my friends was being drawn this way, so who could point me in the right direction?

The secret of the joy of this kind of intimacy with the Lord (though not the only one) is that however far from home I may be, however infrequently I see family and friends – still, my love and appreciation for them deepens – the peace – that I just know they’re in the safest of hands. The hardest part was letting them go, but once I made the decision to give them back to God, I discovered that He only took them in order to give them back to me in a new way. And I have to say, the community here is such a welcoming, loving one.

I can’t change the world to make it beautiful for God, but He has invited me to sit with Him – right next to His heart – and to see how beautiful it already is; to love it as He does and to give Him all my longing and desire for the world and all the precious people it holds. And that’s what I hope to spend my life doing, with His help. And while He’s at it, He may draw me more and more to Him in love, and everyone I carry in my heart.