by Pat Johnston
Nollaig na mBan has become a popular fixture on our social calendar and it was celebrated last year on Sunday, January 5th in Gullane’s Hotel where ladies from town and country, young and old and in-between gathered for afternoon tea and entertainment and to carry on a tradition that is timeless.
Little did we know that day that a terrible cloud was already moving in to darken the new year and threaten all our normal lives and traditions. After first wave and second wave lockdowns and levels our sense of safety and security has been shaken and opportunities to meet our friends, neighbours and even relations have dwindled.
With the recent announcement that a new vaccine is on the way, we can begin to hope again. Many will remember the earlier scourge of tuberculosis, scarlet fever, polio and diphtheria and how the gradual development of vaccines and programmes of mass vaccination put an end to all that misery.
Indeed in those years Dr Dorothy Stopford Price and Doctor Pearl Dunlevy were two of the great unsung women who contributed to this medical progress. And today we are also very proud of the work of local lady, Dr Catherine Motherway ICU consultant in Limerick who has been a very reassuring presence on television during the year.
But the organisers of the Nollaig na mBan event have decided that it is too soon and too risky to gather again so we have cancelled this year’s event. We do hope that our supporters will meet in smaller groups within whatever restrictions and levels the government proposes at the time.
We would also like to acknowledge all the menfolk who got involved with serving the teas ,music,dancing and story telling and of course thank Thomas and Caroline Gullane who graciously sponsored the event each year. We wish all our supporters a very happy Christmas and a brighter happier and healthier new year.
Critically our Nollaig na mBan was also fundraiser and all monies were sent to Kilconnell native Sr. Annette Farrell who has been working to provide education to young girls in Dar as Salaam, Tanzania.
Sr Annette told us recently that while Tanzania had fewer covid infections and deaths than elsewhere, it still faces catastrophe due to the dire economic consequences. She wrote: ‘When churches closed no local fundraising was possible. Our centre for children with disability depends a lot on the local church but collections are down. Likewise where people have lost their jobs or small businesses they can’t pay their school fees and we need the fees to pay the teachers. A lot of people come for food aid, rent and money for basic medicine. We try our best to help sick children and the old but we have to turn away more and more needy people because the funds are exhausted already. Here there is no such thing as a government handout: there is no dole, no old age pension nor childrens’ allowance A meal a day is normal if you are lucky – even for graduates - since there’s little employment. For parents with several children every day is a struggle. That’s our story in a nutshell. We share as far as we can and we pray’.
Should anybody want to help out Sr. Annette this year we hope that you will go online to subscribe to Friends of Holy Union Tanzania https://www.facebook.com/FriendsofHolyUnionTanzania/ This appeal was set up by Ms Ēilis Tracy, Principal at Eyrecourt NS and Ms Agnes Hurley both of whom have worked with Sr. Annette during previous summer holidays.
For now we could do worse than adopt the advice of poet and philosopher John O’Donohue:
This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
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