Br Edmund Garvey’s Address

New Province Leadership Team Inauguration
4th May 2014


Good Evening, Everybody!

Firstly, I want to express a few words of thanks.

I want to thank you all for being here today to mark and celebrate this moment in the life of the European Province. It is always good when we gather, even for a few hours.

I also want to acknowledge and express thanks for all of you here, and in the Province, who in different ways support each other in community and elsewhere; who support community leadership; and those of you who support the work and ministry of Province leadership.

“Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine!” We come alive as we live in each other’s shade and protection.

I want to acknowledge and say a special word of heartfelt thanks to community leaders and to all who help in any way to humanise, beautify and make more acceptable the challenges of living in our communities.

You will be well aware, I hope, that we on leadership teams no longer do things alone. At the Province Centre and in other places of ministry and service, including here at Emmaus, we have wonderful and devoted co-workers. I also want to acknowledge and thank those of you who lead and administer Trusts in which we, as a Congregation, still participate. You all know who you are, I will not name names, but I will say to you that we deeply appreciate what you do and we would be lost without you.

By no means last or least, I want to acknowledge all who take care of our elderly and more infirm members in nursing homes and throughout the Province. I recall the voice of the late Malcolm Crummey which was often raised on occasions like this, calling us to be more attentive to our Brothers in nursing home care. I am happy to echo Malcolm’s call today and to prayerfully acknowledge and remember all these Brothers.

I want to thank those of you here today and the Brothers throughout the Province who have written your good wishes and thanks to me personally and to the members of our new Leadership Team. It was lovely to receive your encouragement, support and prayer.

Finally, let me say a word of thanks to Paul Hendrick and the organising committee, and to all here at Emmaus for their preparation and hosting of this afternoon.


Can I say a few words about congratulations and commiserations? In recent weeks and months, including at the Congregation Chapter, people would offer congratulations and commiserations to me for taking on this role. I accepted everything that came, and it all came graciously. But the experience – especially of the commiserations –  made me think, and even to wonder if my original hunches about a special kind of madness in me was not more real than I thought. Until I realised that this role and service is not about me.

Last weekend I attended an international conference on Religious Life organised by CORI. Sandra Schneiders and Pat Farrell were the two keynote speakers.

Each of them characterised the current state of Religious Life somewhat differently. I want to emphasise that they were talking about the Religious Life which we joined many decades ago. However, the characterisations or images which they offered were somewhat stark and made a similar impact on me.

Sandra who pulls no punches said:

The fact is that Religious Life is on the rocks and recovery, even under Francis, is most unlikely.

Pat Farrell took a somewhat different image to describe the same reality of today’s Religious Life. She used the image of Jeremiah shattering the clay pot when he tried to convey the sense of what it is to be a people

“who have stubbornly refused to listen to me” (Jer. 19:10).

“On the rocks” and “smithereens” are two very striking images to express the current reality of Religious Life and of some if not all of our experience within it. If it is all true – the rocks and the smithereens – and if that’s all there is, I begin to understand the commiserations a little more.

However, I also appreciate the congratulations in the context of so many wonderful experiences in our Congregation and particularly in recent times the experience of our Congregation Chapter in Nairobi.

As I see it, the only thing that’s wrong now with “being on the rocks” or “in smithereens” is not to know it – to be unconscious; to be, as it were sleep-walking through our current experiences and the paths on which God is having us walk.

This is a time when we are called to know each other and to know God, interconnected and One in the whole of creation, as the place and condition in which the mystery we call God now wishes to speak to our hearts, to awaken us, to transform our consciousness. All we have to do is to allow God. The transformation is about God – it is not about me! It is not about us!

If we do not wake up, then we will be like the two disciples that we read about in today’s gospel. Or we may be like a Mary Magdalene, wanting to stay and cry over a dead corpse; or a Thomas who wants simply to touch old wounds in a reality that no longer exists. We will be talking about a reality that is gone and not getting very far in that conversation except possibly as far as Emmaus, when in reality there is another and deeper journey to be taken.



This day represents another beginning in the life of the European Province. Thanks to the leadership of Kevin, John, Jim, Eddy, Martin – and I was with them also – much has been accomplished.

We have chosen a new leadership for the coming years. My experience in the Congregation has always taught me that good leadership emerges when the confidence and support of the Brothers is strong. With the members of the new Team, I ask you again for this confidence and support, and I include with that the confidence and support of the women and men of the Edmund Rice Network. I would like you to know that the Province Centre in Marino is yours and you will always be welcome there for a chat, a cup of tea, or a meeting when the occasion arises.

We, for our part, will also do our best to be present with you in communities and at places of ministry so that we can confirm and encourage each other.


I am delighted that so many have signed up for the Province Chapter, Part 2 in August (6th-9th). I am happy to announce that Brother Hugh O’Neill, our new Congregation Leader, who I think formally takes up office tomorrow in Rome, will be with us in August. It is planned that he will be accompanied by Brother Richard Walsh. You will be hearing more in the weeks to come about the Province Chapter and the preparations that are being made for it.


As you see today, we as a new leadership team are right at the very beginning of our life and ministry and we may very well hit the ground running, so to speak, in the next few days. Be that as it may, we will also need time, and your patience, to walk, talk and live ourselves into this life and ministry, as we devote ourselves to the Province, the Brothers, the Edmund Rice Network and our ministries.

We are deeply grateful to the former team for the briefing days we have had with them and to L&P for their more technical briefing earlier this week.

In this context I will make one request of all in the Province: pray that our wisdom and our love fail not!



We will talk and share much more about the Congregation Chapter in the weeks and months ahead. Let me say just a few things about it.

It was a truly wonderful experience of Brotherhood, shared in love, respect, great conversations, and in deep commitment to each other and to the Congregation.

The men and women of the Edmund Rice Network brought these same qualities with them to the Chapter and left them with us long after they had departed.

The gift of being brother and sister for the world and in the Church today is a precious gift and one for which we should live with deep thankfulness and appreciation. It is experiencing its fragility in new ways, but as a gift it is not less significant or prophetic for that.

Even Pope Francis recently tried to get us to think about this gift by inviting us “to imagine the Church without the sisters!” He couldn’t, and I hope that we do not try to imagine the Church without the Brothers either, however counter-intuitive that might sound or feel in our times.

Pope Francis also spoke recently about consecrated religious as being men and women “who are there to awaken the world,” and this is referenced in our Chapter document as you will see when you receive the full text. What does it mean to awaken? I leave the question with you for now.

The opening sentence of our Chapter document from Nairobi reads:

At the core of our call to be brother for the world is our being drawn into the Mystery we call God.


In the words of Christopher Fry, what the Chapter is saying is:

Affairs are now soul-size.

The enterprise is exploration into God…”

I think that when we get this, everything else follows. This is the meaning of the life of Jesus and of the Christ event in ours.

And later in that section the Chapter document states:

In this current reality, we are invited to awaken to an evolving consciousness of God’s presence in the whole Earth community

Just listen now to the words of Sister Pat Farrell (former LCWR President) uttered at the recent international conference on Religious Life:

We are now undergoing major changes in world view, inviting us to nothing short of a transformation of consciousness

This is the awakening that must take place among us and in the world. This is why we have come into the world.

There are many calls made on us by the Congregation Chapter. We may have to sift the document carefully and with discernment to see what they are, but don’t under-estimate it on a first reading. We will do some of this sifting and discerning in the weeks to come and especially at the Province Chapter next August. However, these calls will remain nothing more than a piece of documentation

  • unless we hear them in our hearts
  • unless we allow ourselves to be awakened and touched by the contemplative energy in us
  • unless we bring these calls to conversations, like the one described in today’s Gospel
  • unless we prayerfully agree as Brothers in communities that we wish and are willing to implement them in our lives

In all of this we need to remember, as we prayed in the Chapter Prayer and as we will continue to pray it, that “we are not in control.”  And so our confidence lies in this, as St. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “that God who began this good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

I invite us all to look at those aspects of life, ministry and spirituality to which the Chapter has urged us to offer our energy and commitment.

Tomorrow is the Feast of Blessed Edmund. So I offer a second invitation – may I invite us all to go to Waterford – something like going back to Galilee that Pope Francis invited us to do recently. Not to the Waterford of Edmund or the Galilee of the Nazarene – the places on the map – but to those experiences and glimpses in our lives where we allowed God afresh and anew to speak to our souls.

Sometimes, the kind of a programme set out by Chapters may look too idealistic, or as containing not much that is new, or even as something that is beyond us at this stage of our lives. However, all that it really asks of me is to take one step; maybe to make one change; possibly to explore with others how we could together make one difference, and leave the rest where it belongs – it all belongs, as does the whole of creation and its mystery, in God.

May I conclude with a poem by David Whyte. It is called start close in:

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems

I wish you a Happy Feast Day tomorrow, and we hope you will continue to enjoy the evening and the company. Safe journey as you travel home.

Edmund Garvey

4 May 2014