My Story

My parents, Michael and Bridie Butler who lived in Carrigbeg, were the parents of 13 children, 8 boys and 5 girls. I was the 6th in the family. I was educated at the Convent of Mercy which I left in 1956. I knew about the Dominican Sisters at Bushey Heath in Hertfordshire, England from my sister, Sr Leonie, who had entered with them about 6 years before, and so a few months after leaving school, I sailed to England that same year. After my postulancy I received the Habit of the Dominican Order in 1957 and made Profession in 1958. I made my Final Vows in 1961.

Having spent until 1969 at Rosary Priory our Mother House, I was sent to Rome to share in the care of pilgrims who came to Rome. I remained at our guest house for 20 years. My years in Rome were a wonderful experience for me. Pilgrims came to stay at our house, Villa Rosa, from all over Ireland and from all over the world. Meeting these people from different countries and different cultures and also Sisters from South Africa whom I had not met before broadened my view of the Church and of the World. Guests and Pilgrims were, able to use our chapel for private prayer and also, when they wished, to join the Sisters for communal prayer and for Mass.

Villa Rosa

Having spent until 1969 at Rosary Priory our Mother House, I was sent to Rome to share in the care of pilgrims who came to Rome. I remained at our guest house for 20 years. My years in Rome were a wonderful experience for me. Pilgrims came to stay at our house, Villa Rosa, from all over Ireland and from all over the world. Meeting these people from different countries and different cultures and also Sisters from South Africa whom I had not met before broadened my view of the Church and of the World. Guests and Pilgrims were, able to use our chapel for private prayer and also, when they wished, to join the Sisters for communal prayer and for Mass.

Besides meeting all different people, I also learned to speak Italian and this allowed me to communicate easily with Italian members of Staff, those who visited our house, people at church and people whom I met on the road who needed help or directions. Another area of experience which I gained, and which I appreciate, was the opportunity to explore many of the ancient Churches of Rome. Besides the church of Santa Sabina which is the home of the Master General of Dominican Order and the General Council, on the Aventine Hill, we also had connections with the Benedictine Fathers at the Abbey, San Anselmo, also on the Aventine. Exploring the four great basilicas of Rome, St Peter’s, St John Lateran, St Mary Major and St Paul’s outside the walls was a great experience.

Rome is a small city and these churches were within walking distance, or easily reached by bus. My favourite church was that of St Alphonsus, not far from St John Lateran, and the home of the renowned original painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. This is one of my favourite devotions and the painting is housed in one of the most beautiful churches of Rome. Another of my favourite churches was that of San Silvestro which ministered to Irish residents of Rome and to Irish pilgrims. From the Irish pilgrims who stayed with us, 3 couples were married at San Silvestro, and I was privileged to be asked to be witness at their marriage ceremony. I regarded this as a great honour and it is a good memory for me.

Spanish Steps and Trinita dei Monte

Some churches remain prominent in my mind like that of St Ann and Joachim and Trinita del Monte near the Spanish Steps and the Minerva which is a Dominican Church with wonderful stained glass windows and paintings of religious character. It is in this church that St Catherine of Siena, the patroness of our Congregation of Sisters is buried. Also in this church is a painting, by Fra Angelico, of my own patron, St Hyacinth of Poland. It was always a great experience for me to visit this Dominican Church.

Other lasting memories from this time in Rome were the annual visit of the Holy Father to San Anselmo and Santa Sabina on Ash Wednesday, when he processes with an escort of Dominican and Benedictine Fathers and brothers from San Anselmo to Santa Sabina where he says Mass. Large crowds line the route of the procession and attend the Mass. Other places I visited in Italy were Nettuno the home of St Maria Goretti, Ostia where St Monica died, Assisi the home of St Francis and the Franciscans, Siena a wonderful medieval city and the birthplace and home of St Catherine of Siena and of course Venice and Florence.

The other great experience was having, with the Villa Rosa Community, a Papal audience with John Paul II. A great moment to remember!Whilst continuing to work, in caring for the pilgrims at Villa Rosa. I was very fortunate to live in a Community where the Sisters made it possible for everyone to take opportunities to travel with groups to places such as the Holy Land with a group formed by the Christian brothers, to Lourdes with a group from Regina Mundi, a place of study for Sisters, and to Medjugorje. All these pilgrimages have helped me in my spiritual and religious life and I remember them with gratitude to all the Sisters who made these travels possible for me.

In 1989 I was asked to return to Rosary Priory to assist in the care of our frail and elderly Sisters. This Community had been established in that year, and I still remain a member of this community. Even yet my travels were not quite finished. I was given the opportunity to travel to the places we know as St Dominic’s Country with a group of Dominican Sisters, namely Spain and France. This was a never-to-be forgotten experience which has helped me in my life as a Dominican.

Sr. Hyacinth (centre) on her Golden Jubilee Day

When I first entered the convent in 1956, I  had no idea of ever visiting home again. Over the years, after the Second Vatican Council, the situation changed and now Sisters from England whose home is in Ireland have the freedom to visit their families each year. After more than 50 years in the Congregation I appreciate all that I have received as a Dominican Sister. I also appreciate the opportunity to visit my family. I have remained very close to them and also close to the people of the place where I was born and brought up. For my life as a Dominican Sister, I am very grateful.

Sr Hyacinth Butler