Sisters in Ireland foster practical way of living out spirituality in an evolving universe

  • An Tairseach Dominican Sisters’ Farm and Ecology Center, Wicklow, Ireland (Sarah MacDonald)
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Preview of a story in our print-only Ecology 2017 special section.

An Tairseach is the Dominican Sisters’ Farm and Ecology Center in Wicklow, an area known as “the garden of Ireland.” The small town lies on the east coast, south of the Irish capital, Dublin. Perched on a hill overlooking the main street of the town of 10,000 inhabitants, the convent has a splendid view of Wicklow harbor and its expansive bay.

The sizeable red-brick Dominican convent evokes times past when the building served as a boarding school established in 1870 and had a thriving community of 50 sisters. Today, the boarders are long gone, and the community of sisters has shrunk to seven, but education is still very much at the heart of the mission. A busy day school serves the local community, while some of the convent buildings are now used by An Tairseach, an ecology and spirituality center with an organic farm that was established in 1998 on the 70-acre property.

An Tairseach is the Gaelic word for “threshold.” The sisters who founded the project wanted a name that would suggest a new beginning linked to a more sustainable way of working with the land and a renewed relationship with the whole community of life, human and non-human.

At the Dominican Sisters’ general chapter in 1992, the order chose “care of the Earth” as a priority for their life and mission. Arising from this, the Irish region decided to establish an initiative that would be a practical expression of this commitment.

Dominican Sr. Miriam Therese MacGillis, who founded Genesis Farm in New Jersey in 1980 as a center where people could learn about more authentic ways of living in harmony with the natural world, was invited to visit Ireland. A devotee of eco-theologian Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry, she was pivotal in the Dominican Sisters’ decision to use land they inherited in New Jersey to establish a farm promoting sustainable living, rather than selling it for real estate development.

A version of this story appeared in the April 7-20, 2017 print issue under the headline: Dominican green .
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