For God’s Sake
IGRO launches “For God’s Sake: The Hidden Lives of Irish Nuns” by Dr. Camillus Metcalfe.
On the evening of November 6th 2014 over 70 people braved the rain and wind to be our guests at a very successful and enjoyable book launch in the Teachers’ Club, Dublin. This new book by Camillus Metcalfe, an active member of IGRO, draws heavily on her doctoral thesis and is both a social history and type of group memoir covering the period 1930-2008 of religious life in Irish convents.
Bernie McDonnell, Director of IGRO, was Master of Ceremonies for the evening and she began by introducing Camillus’s book and spoke about its significance in deepening our understanding of institutional life during the period in question and shedding a light on the type of society that created and sustained these institutions. Bernie also explained the connection between the book and Group Relations/IGRO. She explained that Group Relations offers us an alternative way of thinking about and understanding the behavior and dynamics, conscious and unconscious, of individuals, groups and organizations.
Dr Margaret Mac Curtain, Writer and Historian was our esteemed guest speaker and she shared her insightful observations on how the book resonated with her own experience as a Dominican sister for over 60 years. Margaret emphasised the importance of the book as an oral history of the treatment of women in religious institutions over a 70 year period. Although she claimed to know very little about Group Relations, she was nevertheless impressed by its psychodynamic and systemic theories. She was most interested in how this way of thinking was very liberating and had the potential to move society away from a culture of blame and towards one that advocates a more holistic understanding and sense-making. Interestingly, she questioned why the Group Relations discourse has not yet emerged as part of established disciplines such as sociology, psychology, business and history.
The centerpiece of the evening was the beautiful and poignant readings by Camillus and her good friend Orla Gildea. They read in alternate format, a carefully selected collage of fragments from the life stories of the 10 nuns recounted in the book. These readings evoked a wonderfully rich word picture of how the religious life was lived. The authentic voice of the 10 nuns who courageously agreed to tell their stories, echoed in a most illuminating way.
Following the readings and in true Group Relations fashion, a type of inter-group event followed with our guests responding to the readings and sharing their experiences. The evening was brought to a fitting end with the recitation of a powerful and haunting poem entitled: “An Act of Contrition” written especially for the occasion by IGRO member, Paul Dolan, and the singing of “Turn, Turn, Turn” by IGRO’s Gordon Clark and Bryan Maguire, spontaneously assisted by our guests who were in fine singing form.
Feedback on the event has been extremely positive with one guest describing it as one of the best and most creative book launches that she had attended.