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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Good habits leave young nuns the wiser

Sr Niamh (right) on her profession day - summer 2007 - with companion novice, Sr M Teresa.

Good habits leave young nuns the wiser

Sunday February 24 2008

WITH so many young people obsessed with the accumulation of material wealth, the perfect body image and nabbing their dream man or woman, those who have broken ranks and decided to give it all up for life in a convent are a rare sight these days.

But two young professionals -- 26-year-old Teresa Dunphy and 31-year-old Niamh Galvin -- have done just that.

And, despite missing the odd trip to the cinema along with the obligatory popcorn, they couldn't be happier.

Teresa Dunphy gave up her job as a qualified chartered accountant, while Niamh Galvin traded in her post as a primary school teacher for life at the Monastery of St Catherine of Siena in Drogheda, Co Louth -- where silence and prayer now fill their days.

The Dominican nuns -- associated with "holy preaching", through a hidden life of prayer and sacrifice, and their motto Veritas (Latin for truth) -- continue to attract young women to their ranks.

Niamh Galvin, who hails from Beaumont in Dublin, explained, "It occurred to me to become a nun during my late teens, but I just kept putting it off. I think I needed to be ready. When I finally decided, I got mixed reactions but everyone was very supportive in the end.

"It wasn't an easy decision and my friends were concerned that I'd be happy. Some were shocked and others were a little bit sad -- but that's only natural. When a father lets his daughter go off and get married, there's always sadness there as well; it's a normal part of life."

Now, spending the rest of her days living a simple life of silence and contemplation, she explains that she doesn't miss the material world.

"I don't miss the competition and the feeling that you have to ... keep up with other people. There is a great freedom, a fantastic freedom in being away from all that. I have a sister and I told her that she could have whatever she wanted; all of my things are still at home as far as I can gather.

"I had a nice job, a nice car, a good social life, everything that I thought I needed, but I was always looking for more."

Theresa Dunphy, from Portarlington in Co Laois, said of her decision to be wed to the convent: "In this world, you can't have everything ... I know friends who have dreamed all their life of the big wedding, but I never yearned for that. All I've ever longed for is to know God better and to be closer to him."

Although she is at her happiest in the convent, there are some things she misses.

"The first Christmas here, I could have been very homesick, if I let myself, because we were a very close family and Christmas was a very big occasion in our house. But it's little things like films and the whole cinema experience that I miss -- everything right down to the popcorn."


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