Program in Ireland helps religious women and men discern spiritual and pastoral paths

by Sarah Mac Donald

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DUBLIN — Sr. Samira Gill, a Presentation Sister from Pakistan, dedicated her life to serving the poor. But that left no time to understand her own spiritual needs.

Then she joined the one-year Religious Formation Ministry Programme, or RFMP, at Loreto House in Blackrock, County Dublin, in Ireland.

“I was ignoring myself,” said Gill, 38. “This course has helped me understand the need for balance.” 

That idea of being better able to serve others by also serving your own needs is reflected in a framed quote from philosopher Carl Jung, which hangs in the hall of Loreto House: “Who looks outside dreams, who looks inside awakes.”

“You can live for others, but you need to develop and care for yourself and your emotions,” Gill said. “I was living with the poor and doing all those things for God but inside the spirituality was lacking something.”

More than 1,000 religious men and women have participated in the program since it was established in 1982, half of them women religious from Ireland, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America. It operates under the auspices of the Association of Leaders of Missionaries and religious of Ireland (AMRI) but is funded by participants’ tuition fees and is therefore self-financing.

The program developed in response to the need to prepare religious women and men for ministry in the formation of new members and for leadership roles in their congregations or dioceses. Over its four decades, the number of international participants has steadily increased. A significant number of religious also participate for personal renewal or to discern future ministry during a time of transition.

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