An inaugural event, it was in recognition of the huge contribution they have made in education, human rights, social justice and healthcare in developing countries.
Organised by the Irish Missionary Union, World Mission Ireland and Misean Cara, it included a reading of the names of the 225 priests, nuns and brothers present, as well as the countries in which they had served for decades. Their combined years of service abroad by the missionaries concerned has been put at 8,000 by the irish Missionary Union.
Among the countries where they’ve worked, as read out, were Cameroon, South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Brazil, Gambia, the US, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Mauritius, the West Indies, Fiji, New Zealand, Argentina, Ghana, Uganda, India, Mexico, west Africa, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Singapore, Samoa, Malawi, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, China, Peru, Pakistan, Chile, Tanzania, Haiti and Burma.
In an address, Sabina Higgins, wife of President Michael D Higgins, expressed gratitude to the missionaries for their “outstanding contribution” in those “many countries throughout the world.” It was “very appropriate” they “should be publicly acknowledged.”
She said: “Ireland and its people have always had a great sense of pride in our long history of missionary work and what it has brought to communities all over the world.”
Their experience “has led the way and given a solid foundation to much of the Irish Government’s approach to development”.
Ireland’s missionaries “were the pioneers in development co-operation, predating Ireland’s aid programme and deeply influencing its values,” she said.