Documentary On Newstalk: Returning Home

Returned Irish Missionary Sisters tell their stories from around the globe

This weekend, Documentary On Newstalk will broadcast the premier of a new radio documentary, ‘Returning Home’, which tells the story of six Irish Missionary sisters who have now returned home.

Returning Homewill be broadcast on Sunday 5th August at 7am, with a repeat broadcast on Saturday 11th August at 9pm

This weekend Newstalk 106 – 108FM tells the story of the lives of six extraordinary women in a radio documentary called Returning HomeThese women have spent most of their lives working overseas and have now returned home.  They are all in their 70s and they are all Missionary Sisters. Their stories go from living in shacks in Chile, to working in orphanages in India and prisons in Sao Paulo. These Missionary Sisters left Ireland in the 1950s and 60s with their long habits and rosary beads.  They lived through wars, genocides, and natural disasters.They established institutions, lobbied governments, and they set up medical centres and support structures.  After decades overseas these women are now returning home, where they continue to work fiercely for the rights of others. 

Quotes From ‘Returning Home’:

“I joined the convent in 1957 after I did my Leaving Cert.  I was 17.  I took it for granted I would be sent to Africa.  But I was sent to India, and I remember the Mother Superior General said to me ‘I thought that is what you wanted’, and I said ‘I don't even know where it is on the map’. I had never been out of Ireland, and I hopped on the mail-boat and went off. In those days you left thinking you might never come back. Philomena Dowd.

“We arrived in Chile where there was high tension with Pinochet being in charge, and the military, and people disappearing, and torture.  Being a Communist was the last thing you could be, and we were supposed to be Communist, too, because we were on the side of the poor.I moved from Santiago to the Atacama Desert, where I joined a group of homeless people, and we looked for a piece of land to squat down on, and to build little shacks. The wooden panels I was using on my house were the ones that came in on the ship from Japan, with Suzuki written on them, being parcelled around cars. Now it was just the bare essentials enough room for my bed, I loved it, and the toilet was an old paint can. Bernadette Joyce

“The circumstances were very basic for women in the prisons in Sudan. We had women living in cages who were condemned to death. We would go to the prisons everyday, and teach the children and help them get into school. We played with them and taught them what it was like to be out of prison. Then we knitted cardigans for them so that when they went to school they would have little cardigans. They were very basic things but it meant a lot to those children. Sister Patricia Hogan

“I went to Zambia, where I worked as a teacher.  Life in Ireland is uneventful compared to the colourful life in Africa.  I was so glad to have had that experience.  Teaching religion in a class with Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, and some with traditional African religions, and the books were written to cater for all that, that was a great education.  In the early days there used to be records of how many baptisms where carried out.  You had no desire to convert these Muslims, Hindus or traditional African people. We lived and worked together. We learned to appreciate each one, and the richness of them, that was a great opportunity.  Sister Eilis Coe

“One of the most challenging things when you come back, is that no one knows the work I did in New Zealand or Zambia, you come as a blank page. Denis Boyle

BROADCAST DETAILS: ‘Returning Homewill be broadcast on Sunday 5th August at 7am, with a repeat broadcast on Saturday 11th August at 9pm

PODCAST: The podcast will be available at after the broadcast. 

CREDITS: ‘Returning Home’ is a Curious Broadcast production funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the television license fee.