McDarby Institute Reflection: The Culture of Ireland

Cynthia A. Karaffa, Ph.D., Department of Sociology -

In the United States many of our practices are extreme: extreme sports, extreme competition, etc. The Irish practice extreme hospitality, of which we have been recipients—and it’s wonderful!

On Thursday Sister Mary Murphy from Campus Ministries met us at our hotel, Seven Oaks Hotel and Leisure Club, and we were off to Carlow College/St. Patrick's.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in Carlow, Ireland

Bishop O’Keeffe, who was educated in France, paid 9,000 pounds Sterling for the land and opened the College in 1793. Here we are at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption in front of the Jubilee Door of Mercy, which is from December 8, 2015 to November 20, 2016.

An Interior View from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption

After visiting the Cathedral, we went to the Carlow County Museum (16,000 visitors per year) where John McDarby (yes, a decedent of Veronica, pictured at the bottom left corner in the photo below) and his work assistant, Aoife, who will graduate in 2019, gave us superbly knowledgeable tour. There were so many interesting facts that to share them all would be a dissertation; however, there was one that was written into a book, Lucinda Sly; A Woman Hanged. Lucinda was a married woman who was constantly brutalized by her husband to which people turned a blind eye to her predicament. She took the situation into her own hands and shot him. She was the last woman to be hanged in Ireland; her date of death was March 30, 1835.

 The travelers with the McDarby Institute tour the County Carlow Museum.

Another stop on today’s pilgrimage was Visual, an art museum, where we saw an exhibition by Yinka Shoibare, MBE RA. Yinka’s work is an exploration of colonialism and post colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization, race and class.

We went back to Carlow College to have lunch in the President’s formal dining room with Dr. Dr. Thomas McGrath (he has two PhDs, one in history and one in education). He is the Registrar, which is comparable to our Vice President of Academic Affairs. Also joining us for lunch were two faculty members from history and sociology, and Dr. Eric Derr (originally from Iowa!), the coordinator of the international program.

Sister Mary Murphy provided us with a scrumptious lunch and absolutely AMAZING desserts. We are all coming back to Pittsburgh five pounds heavier!

Our last stop of the day before going to Teach Pub for dinner was St. Brigid's Well. St. Brigid and St. Patrick are the Patron Saints of Ireland. Traveling from County Carlow to County Kildare we were witness to the beauty of the Irish countryside—the gently rolling hills, flat lands with White Hawthorne trees and yellow Gorse bushes, green fields with ambling sheep, and highways lined with St. Anne’s lace—until we reached our destination, St. Brigid's Well. It is a "thin place" between the sacred and the profane, a place where mere humans can feel the Divine in the Universe.

Sister Mary Joy pictured at St. Brigid's Well in Ireland


Visitors can make a wish at the cornerstone of St. Brigid's Chapel in Ireland.

Pictured above: Cynthia Karaffa poses at St. Brigid's Chapel, where visitors can make a wish after putting an arm through the cornerstone and touching their hearts.

Read more posts from the pilgrimage.

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