Hope House, situated on the banks of the Moy in Foxford, Co Mayo, is a residential centre specialising in the treatment of alcohol, drugs, gambling and other dependencies.
It was the brainchild of two Mercy sisters from the west of Ireland, Attracta Canny and Dolores Duggan, both of whom added addiction counselling to their other personal qualifications as teachers and social workers.
Theirs was the vision to provide a residential treatment centre in the west.
The then Bishop of Achonry Dr Thomas Flynn, who had recently purchased the vacated convent of the Sisters of Charity in Foxford, offered it on lease to the two Mercy sisters and Hope House took shape in May 1993.
Its doors opened on September 14th, 1993.
With the very best of local Irish music in the background, September 13th saw Hope House, its combined staff, some of its 3,000 former residents and their families celebrate 21 years of challenge, struggle, perseverance and success.
Admiring the beautiful healthy children running around or in buggies, one couldn’t help but believe that this was a great day for families whose hearts must be bursting with joy and gratitude.
Somebody was with them who might otherwise have not been, were it not for Hope House and its staff.
Canny and Duggan gave a joint presentation in which they spoke movingly of the “spiritual” journey their former residents had taken in the 21 years; a journey from “the slavery of addiction to the freedom of recovery”.
Duggan had a special message for Taoiseach Enda Kenny, which she delivered with her eye focused firmly on him.
It recalled to my mind the religious picture of old, of the infant Christ saying, while pointing his finger: “You. I mean, you. Yes, you!”
Her message was about equality of access, which would allow holders of medical cards to receive treatment in Hope House.
In his easygoing, humorous address, the Taoiseach picked up on the challenge, saying he would welcome an opportunity to sit down with Duggan to discuss her request with a view to implementing it.
The Bishop of Achonry, Dr Brendan Kelly, was also there, showing his support for the continuing work of Hope House.
In her address, Sr Caitlín, our Mercy provincial, congratulated Canny, Duggan and the staff, and presented them with a generous cheque for €50,000 on our behalf, continuing the generosity of our Mercy leaders.
Fad saoil againn go léir!
Joe Kennedy and his wife Kathleen, ever-generous sponsors, celebrated with us and Joe treated us to his spontaneous good humour.
The Taoiseach led us in the Walk of Hope around picturesque Foxford.
Along the way there were special “stations”.
State of things . . .
One was a copy of
The State of Things to Come
, a painting by
, the original of which is in Hope House, with its message of hope for all new residents, as well as the benefits and beauty that recovery can bring.
Another was a photo of a hand-crafted glass teardrop by Róisín de Buitléir, symbolising the many tears that are shed during the journey of recovery; tears of sorrow, shame, guilt, remorse and the tears of joy, pride, happiness and relief.
Next we came to a live crib, a flesh-and-blood family standing silently and dignified beside another “family” of willow sculptures. It brought a tear to my eye.
Among the hundreds taking part in the walk were former residents, their families, local clergy, townspeople, TDs Dara Calleary and Michelle Mulherin and many nuns of the Mercy order.
And then we were back in Hope House, where a surprise awaited from O’Hara’s, our well-known local bakery. It was an assortment of fresh pastries.
O’Hara’s have generously supplied fresh daily bread to Hope House during all its 21 years.
The crowds have departed but Hope House continues.
It offers services including a weekly support group over a period of two years to former residents; a relapse programme if needed, also for former residents; counselling to former residents and families, and a phone counselling service.
This was a well-deserved 21st celebration.
Go maire sibh céad.
Sr Phyllis Surlis is a nun with the Mercy order and lives in Foxford, Co Mayo.