Yesterday marked the official launch of Grace and Grit by current Genazzano FCJ teacher, author and Companion-in-mission, Ann Rennie.
Among the speakers was Pip McIlroy, an alumna of Genazzano FCJ College, who gave an address on her experience of being a contributor to the book.
Below is a copy of her speech, which does both the book and the FCJ Sisters praise and compliment.
It is a privilege to speak to you tonight on behalf of the 16 members of our wider FCJ community who have so generously contributed their own personal reflections to this publication. I’d like to begin by acknowledging Ann Rennie, whose writing we have all responded to. It has been a significant experience for the contributors to reflect on Ann’s words about Marie Madeleine and it is due to Ann’s great efforts that we have had this opportunity. A running theme throughout the book is the necessity that exists to take the time to stop and reflect in our daily lives. Unfortunately these opportunities can at times seem rare. Ann has provided the framework for each of us to reflect on our connection to Marie Madeleine and the FCJ sisters and to express the pride we feel to be part of this tradition. I thank Ann personally for this opportunity and on behalf of all the contributors both present here tonight and those not able to join us.
My involvement in this project has led me to reflect on the importance and power of narrative. Of the different ways that stories come to us, of the various narratives that we ourselves have taken part in the creation of and which ones we continue to be part of. There is nothing like a good story. Narratives inspire people, they make us feel like we belong, and they communicate messages not otherwise easily and authentically articulated.
The 16 contributors to ‘Grit and Grace’ are a diverse group of people. Among them are teachers, principals and leaders in FCJ schools, FCJ sisters both in Australia and abroad, Genazzano alumni and others within the broader FCJ community in Australia. We come from different places and we have different experiences yet we all have in common one thing. We share a part of our personal narratives – our connection with the tradition of the Faithful Companions of Jesus. In my case it is a connection I am both immensely grateful for and proud of.
We are all part of Marie Madeleine’s vision. All of us here tonight are connected to her vision and to her sisters through a shared commitment to what she believed in and what she worked for. Reading through the reflections of the many whose words appear in this book, I feel a real sense of the community that the FCJs have built up in this country.
As a recent graduate of an FCJ school, the one whose walls we sit within this evening, I was so pleased to be asked to contribute to ‘Grit and Grace’. I can see from the list of contributors that I am the youngest. And so in some ways in this setting I am conscious of my youth and perhaps my lack of experience. However, I’m not surprised to be here. It is a testament to the FCJ eagerness to work with young people in meaningful ways that I have been asked to speak this evening. My involvement is a symbol of the enduring vitality of Marie Madeleine’s vision and the life of the FCJ community and the promise of its continuation into the future. Marie Madeleine worked closely with young people, mainly those who were underprivileged. The sisters today continue her vision by involving the young in their missionary activities and varied endeavours.
I am also not surprised to be involved tonight as we stand within walls where I was taught to be courageous and confident. Marie Madeleine believed in the importance of education and she saw in her work with the young, a means to achieve a world that is more just. I am eternally grateful for the education I received at Genazzano and the Ignatian formation I have had in the tradition of the FCJ sisters and the Jesuits.
In Mrs Patricia Cowling’s reflection, she wonders to what extent the original dreams, hopes and aspirations of the early sisters are still reflected in the life and daily experiences of the students and staff of Genazzano today. Would that brave band of sisters who established the school back in 1882 recognise it today? This important question brings to mind Jesuit priest Gregory Boyle’s articulation of our call as Christians to be always “inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognise it”. I feel as though Marie Madeleine’s vision has the power to ensure this idea of our world continues into the future via those who have the grace to encounter the tradition of the FCJ sisters.
Congratulations to Pip, and to Ann Rennie and all who were involved in the making of this project a reality.
For the greater glory of God…