by Elizabeth Lee
The FCJ sisters have taught generations of children in Bunclody since they first established a boarding school for girls back in 1861. After almost 160 years of education, the sisters quietly bade farewell to the town in May, in the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown. They have bequeathed the cherished school and the convent to education through the Le Chéile Schools Trust. Here, Sr Bríd Liston says goodbye on behalf of the sisters
Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, this departure was a quiet event. While we marked the occasion with a Mass of thanksgiving with the FCJ school community on 2 March, unfortunately it was not possible to do so in the parish church as planned.
However, we look forward to holding a Mass of thanksgiving when we can gather again in large groups. We want to celebrate the gift of these years to the FCJ Society and to the people of Bunclody and way beyond its immediate environs. So, when the school reopens it will be living with Covid-19 and a school now extended into the convent building, with FCJ sisters no longer present.
In 1861, when the FCJ sisters first arrived in Bunclody, they took charge of the girls’ primary school. It is known from an advertisement placed in the local newspaper that five days after the arrival of the sisters, they opened a boarding school for girls.
Within four years they had 54 boarders and ten sisters in the community. From the beginning of the FCJ presence in Bunclody, the gospel values of companionship, deep respect for each individual, justice, integrity, faithfulness, excellence, gentleness and compassion, as lived by the foundress Marie Madeleine, were foundational to the life of the schools. These values have been handed down from generation to generation and have always remained central to FCJ education.
In 2009, the FCJ Society handed over the trusteeship of the school to the Le Chéile Schools Trust with the confidence of knowing we had such a fine staff to carry forward this FCJ tradition in education.
This year, the FCJ sisters mark the bicentenary of the foundation of the FCJ Society by Marie Madeleine d’Houet in 1820. In closing the convent, we have deep gratitude and joy, knowing that the education that the sisters began all those years ago is continuing in such competent, professional and caring hands.
As we leave, we remind staff, students and parents of the school motto: ***Le díogrias ‘s le dílseacht*** – ‘companionship with fidelity’. In a world where many things are possible, we ask you most of all to be kind. Yes, work at gaining the best result you can from education, but be a friend, a companion, to the person beside you, to the people you meet each day.
Life is fragile and it can change in a split second. We need each other. We need to watch out for each other and we need God in a life that is transient and vulnerable.
As we leave the convent in Bunclody, the FCJ sisters say a very big thank you and pray for a fruitful future full of hope for the people of Bunclody and its wider environment, the primary schools, principal Brendan Daly, the deputy principals, the academic and ancillary school staff, the board of management and parents’ council, the students and parents and all who ensure Christian education is treasured in our lives.
As a school of the Le Chéile Schools Trust, the FCJ Society entrusts to each one of you:
Our name, Faithful Companions of Jesus, our greatest treasure
Our home, the FCJ Convent, and
The FCJ Secondary School, Bunclody.
We know you will guard this name carefully and always hold it with love, justice, and integrity. We ask you, in your turn, to pass on this name and this great school to the next generation. This is our parting gift to you as we begin the third century of the FCJ Society.
May the bright light of the FCJ Secondary School be as blessed as it was in its past. Shining still with radiant light – brightly beaming to the last.