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2024 Commencement Eucharist

Unveiling and Blessing of
Bríd: Bean an Cheartais, Bean na Síocháin (Irish),
Brigid: Woman of Justice, Woman of Peace

Yesterday, Thursday 15 February, was a particularly significant celebration for our school community as we celebrated the commencement of our 120th anniversary year and unveiled our life size bronze sculpture of St Brigid. Our Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Tony Ireland DD STD and our Chaplain, Father Peter Matheson and we were blessed to have many Brigidine Sisters, representatives of Kildare Ministries, past Principals, and other special guests with us.  Following Mass, we held our Unveiling and Blessing Ceremony, with Sr Louise Cleary, Congregational Leader and Rosemary Copeland, Co-Chair of Kildare Ministries Trustees unveiling our sculpture which was then blessed by Bishop Tony Ireland. Artist Christine Sage was engaged to create the sculpture for the College in recognition and celebration of 120 years of education in the Brigidine tradition here in Mentone.

Brigid of Kildare, patroness of the Brigidine Sisters and one of Ireland’s most revered saints, was a woman of deep faith, a spiritual leader, a woman of the land, an advocate for the poor, a peacemaker, and a woman of legendary hospitality.

From an early age Brigid showed compassion and a strong inclination towards helping others. Raised in a pagan family, she converted to Christianity and dedicated her life to serving God and humanity. She established her church and monastery, for men and women, under an oak tree in Kildare and other monastic communities where she provided shelter, food, and education.

Brigid was not only a woman of great compassion and hospitality, she was also a trailblazer for gender equality and empowerment. She defied societal norms by founding monastic communities where she encouraged women to play active roles as leaders, scholars, and artisans.

Despite encountering numerous obstacles in her life, Brigid remained steadfast in her pursuit of justice and compassion. Her life is a testament to the power of determination and the ability to effect positive change, even in the most challenging of circumstances.

The sculpture stands in our main courtyard, which is a central point of the College. She stands on the ground rather than raised on a pedestal, in amongst the people just as she was in her life. She looks out to our oak tree, just as she would have looked upon the oak tree under which she built her church and monastery in Kildare, and the College chapel named after her.

She presents as a strong compassionate figure, witnessed by her gentle face. Her hair symbolises her Irish roots, the wildish strands bound with grass braids.

Her hands are outstretched, welcoming all. One hand is turned toward the earth to remind us of our own sacred duty to the ground we walk on and to our own calling in the now. Her other hand is tilted up in prayer and a reminder to us of our own spiritual journey.

Though the daughter of a wealthy Chieftain, Brigid cast aside wealth to work with the poor. Her bare feet give witness to her detachment from earthly possessions and align her to the ground.

Her garments are simple with hand woven bands made out of flax. The boddice reminds of female Celtic warriors, symbolising the courage of Brigid to spread her faith and advocate for the poor and marginalised.

The cloak itself, holds so much meaning. Besides the well-known story of Brigid asking for land to build her monastery and being told that she could have as much land as her cloak could cover, it is also a symbol of Faith and trust in God’s intentions for each of us.

Carved into her cloak, are symbols that tell the story of Brigid’s life, inviting those who encounter her to learn about this courageous and compassionate woman, whose life and legacy has and continues to inspire people around the world.

It is my hope that students today, and in the years ahead, will look upon Brigid as a woman of great strength and kindliness and be both comforted and empowered by her presence among them. She will also stand as a constant reminder of the courageous, faith filled, Brigidine Sisters, who dedicated their life to the service of others and established the College.

Nicole Mangelsdorf