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The Two Sisters

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When Kevin McDermott was a child, his two sisters joined convents. Then, they left. As a small child, at the end of a large family, Kevin knew what was going on - but didn't really understand it. 50yrs. later, he's decided to find out about their lives.

Kevin McDermott writes:

"My two sisters were absent from my childhood and although I knew where they were, as a child, I looked upon them as mysterious, almost unreal beings.

Now, in my sixtieth year, on the occasion of a family reunion I go in search of answers to two questions which have intrigued me for decades: Why did both my sisters enter religious life? And why did they both leave?

I am the youngest of a family of eight, the kind of sprawling, stretched out, two-generation, working-class, Catholic family, you don’t find nowadays in Ireland. The oldest of my brothers and sisters grew up in the 40s and 50s. I grew up in the 60s and 70s. The childhood they recall is as strange to me as if I read about it in a work of fiction. The ‘Mam and Dad’ they speak about are not my Mam and Dad.

Reena is the oldest child. I was a few months old when she left Ireland to join a French Canadian Order in Ontario. I was all of 5 when Nuala went to boarding-school in Carrick-on-Shannon (North West Ireland) and afterwards entered the Marist novitiate there.

I have no memory of their leaving. But I do I remember that a great hush fell on the house when Nuala returned from the convent, without having made her Final Profession. It was as if the family had suffered a bereavement. But why was this?

As a child and a teenager I was the watchful observer of the family drama but I was never really part of the adult world of our family. Now in my sixtieth year I want to understand the choices my sisters made all those years ago and the circumstances in which they made them.

Also, in searching for answers I learn, as I hoped I would, more about my sisters, my older brothers, and my Mam and Dad in family and a world that I really didn’t know.

Today my two sisters, now both in their seventies, share a home in Wicklow on the East Coast of Ireland. They answer the questions of their ‘baby’ brother with warmth, wit and honesty."

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