Winter in the northern hemisphere is definitely the time for contemplating hibernation and wishing one could metamorphosise into a squirrel just for winter. Many an Irish Josephite had such thoughts on Saturday 20th November 2010 while trying to negotiate early morning traffic to train stations, waiting on cold platforms for connecting trains and encouraging cars to warm up while melting frost on their windscreens. However such dreaming was only momentary.
The Josephites with joy in their hearts left their warm houses, wrapped up in coats, gloves and hats and of course carrying umbrellas all heading for Charleville in North County Cork for their final celebration of the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop.
The Charleville and Banogue communities welcomed the train travellers and drove them to join their sister-travellers at the Charleville Park Hotel for the 12.30 celebratory lunch. The young hotel staff listened to Irish voices influenced by Australian, New Zealand or Peruvian accents greet each other. They stood fascinated as the usual Josephite welcome-ritual of excited chatter, hugs and kisses was re-enacted.
After the experience in Rome and the television coverage the welcome-ritual is now almost as globally recognisable as the New Zealand Haka! The staff commented on the blue and yellow balloons of canonisation origin which had found their way from Australia via Rome to Charleville and now decorated the dining room tables alongside Mary MacKillop novena cards and beautiful decorative candles.
The three course menu catered for all tastes and included luscious Irish salmon a fish which is the subject of many stories in Irish mythology and is known as the bradán feasa the salmon of wisdom or the salmon of knowledge. The celebratory meal ended too quickly as the travellers had to leave at 2.30pm to catch trains however they went happily energised by spending time with each other and each carrying with them the beautiful souvenir of the canonisation, the Mary MacKillop paperweight.
The Irish Josephites returned to their convents to hibernate like the squirrels planning to re-emerge in Spring bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all ready for the 2011 jubilee celebrations and gathering at Roscrea Co Tipperary. And so ended the Irish Region’s celebrations to honour the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop.