Sister act: Enclosed order of nuns in Dublin takes on Jerusalema challenge

Sisters are shocked by ‘huge response’ to their video after it was posted on social media

Redemptoristine nuns take part in the Jerusalema challenge. Screengrab: Redemptoristine Nuns, Dublin, Ireland/Facebook

Redemptoristine nuns take part in the Jerusalema challenge. Screengrab: Redemptoristine Nuns, Dublin, Ireland/Facebook


An enclosed order of nuns based in north Dublin is the latest group to partake in an online dance challenge, as a tribute to frontline workers.

Aged between 28 and 92, the Redemptoristine nuns at St Alphonsus Road in Drumcondra began practising their moves for their entry in the Jerusalema challenge last week. The subsequent video has been viewed more than 135,000 times since it was uploaded to social media on Monday, according to Sr Lucy Conway.

In the video two older sisters can be seen clapping their younger counterparts as they dance the routine in various rooms and corridors in their monastery.

The video signals the nuns’ support for frontline workers, who “are the real heroes”, Sr Conway explained.

“We did it because our hearts are with all who are suffering . . . We haven’t been affected by the virus. Our life is one of prayer and we are trying to reach out to the world,” she added.

Sr Conway said the nuns were shocked by the “huge response” they have received online and said they have been inundated with emails from people around the world.

“Every email and every text has made me laugh and made me cry. This is coming from a group of sisters who are enclosed,” she said.

The online dance challenge involves participants dancing to the viral hit Jerusalema, composed by musician Master KG and sung by African gospel vocalist Nomcebo Zikode.

Garda effort

An Garda Síochana was the first notable organisation in Ireland to take on the Jerusalema challenge, with members from across the State performing the challenge routine in response to a request from Swiss police. Since then other emergency services, charities, nursing homes, and numerous private companies have uploaded videos of their staff and volunteers attempting the dance challenge.

And going “viral” can have financial benefits. The Redemptoristine nuns have seen an uptick in online donations since their video was widely shared on social media. People have been “mighty generous”, for which the sisters are “very grateful”, Sr Conway said. The self-sufficient order of 13 sisters usually raises funds through altar bread, but it has had to think creatively in this regard under Level 5 coronavirus restrictions. Sr Conway said they have expanded their candle-making business and have also taken up knitting, card production and bird-box decoration.

Sr Conway said it is also important the nuns keep up to date with the goings-on of the world so they can “pray for the needs of today”. Earlier in the pandemic the order held a marathon “prayer relay” in tribute to frontline workers. Each sister walked for 75 minutes while reciting the rosary for those who had died and those who have put their lives at risk on the Covid-19 front line.

Covid-19 vaccines

While many religious orders have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, the sisters’ north Dublin monastery has remained free from the virus. Two of the older sisters have received their Covid-19 vaccines, and two more members are to be vaccinated on Wednesday, Sr Conway added.

Although the nuns themselves are cut off from wider society, they are technologically engaged. Masses have migrated online during the pandemic, while the order’s “Zoom and See” webinars cater to “single, Catholic wom(en), aged 25-45” who are looking to explore God’s calling. A fixture of Dublin since 1859, the order’s newfound digital literacy will aid them in staying relevant in the years to come, Sr Conway said, adding: “In this day and age we, as an enclosed order, need to reach out to the world and let the world know we are here and praying for you . . . If you really want to be around in the future you have to try these things.”