From Ballymun to Boston
“I never saw it as a moral issue,” she says. “I felt people have a right to earn a living. It’s not up to me to be judge and jury of anybody else. I did this research and I saw their plight. I saw how they battled with depression, how they couldn’t go home to Ireland when a family member died. I saw the awful struggles when they could see nothing but bleakness if they went back to Ireland. I didn’t judge them. I just worked really hard to get the legislation changed and help people where it is needed”.
She became a US citizen herself after winning a Morrison visa but continues to spend a lot of time in Ireland, enjoying time with family and friends. Her spiritual identity has evolved over the years. It’s not that the sexual-abuse scandals in the church shook her faith but “they did shake my faith in the institution of the church”. She is saddened and disillusioned with the church now. She feels let down and angry and yet is still hopeful about the goodness in the people she meets in the Christian community. “I know the church is very flawed; I know there are people who have abused their power. And then there’s the other side, when I travel to Brazil and Haiti and Africa, and I meet amazing people doing incredible things. I hope that the church will learn from recent events and that it will start to include a more diverse range of voices.”
In terms of church doctrine she is openly progressive. “I think women who want to be priests should be allowed to be priests. I think celibacy should be optional. A lot of friends of mine left the priesthood because they fell in love. It was a great tragedy they had to leave. The church would be richer with people like them at leadership level, because they represent the people on the ground.
“There is a lot to be said about diversity. I think it’s dangerous when a few like-minded people are making decisions for the rest of the world. ”
When asked if she has ever fallen in love herself she says without hesitation, “Yes, I have. And I had to struggle with it and make choices, and I chose to remain celibate and to stay with my commitment to the church.”
That must have been difficult. “We all face difficult choices in life.”
Her heroes are mostly strong women who have challenged the status quo. People such as Rosa Parks, Mary Robinson and Dorothy Day. Although she would like to put more energy into advocating for change regarding the role of women in the church, she says that as you get older you have to choose your battles.
“My biggest concern is the cause of undocumented immigrants from Ireland and worldwide, so that is the work I will continue to do.”