By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published October 6, 2016
ATLANTA—Three sisters from the U.S. Province of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, including Atlanta native Sister Kathryn Press, began mission work in Ireland in early September.
Sister Kathryn is working in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore with Sister John Catherine Coleman and Sister Colleen Mattingly.
The sisters will serve in this mission as part of an evangelization team. In recent years, the Catholic Church in Ireland has experienced a substantial decline in numbers. The Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus hope to be part of a renewal of the church in Ireland in gratitude for the many Irish missionaries who came to the United States in past decades.
“We spent a good time as a community discerning it. For us, this is a response to what we saw, a hurting church,” said Sister Kathryn. “In some small way, this is how we can give back.”
Sister Kathryn is a graduate of St. Pius X High School in Atlanta. Her parents, Chris and Tina Press, are parishioners of St. Jude the Apostle Church. She attended St. Jude School.
Irish priests have certainly made an enormous impact in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, including in her home parish, noted Sister Kathryn.
Msgr. Joe Corbett, pastor of St. Jude the Apostle, is a native of County Waterford, Ireland, and his predecessor, Msgr. James Fennessy, is from County Tipperary, two of scores of Irish priests who have served in the archdiocese.
The sisters are residing in a convent near the heart of Waterford City. Their hope is to minister throughout the diocese and they are not attached to any one parish or ministry. Their ministry is at the invitation of Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan.
The U.S. province, based in Hamden, Connecticut, will support the community’s ongoing living expenses and welcomes the contributions of others who would like to express support to the Irish people.
Sister Kathryn said she knows they will not be on their own but accompanied by the prayers of many.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to serve the church,” she said. “We move around quite a bit. We go based on the needs of the church.”
Sisters from the U.S. province minister in Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Florida. There are American sisters also serving in Taiwan and Italy. The congregation is in 15 countries worldwide.
While in college, Sister Kathryn visited Ireland. She also goes with the experience of having traveled with youth from the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, to this summer’s World Youth Day in Poland.
Several sisters from the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus participated in World Youth Day 2016. Sister Kathryn was struck not only by the sheer number of youth participating in the event, but also its international nature.
“I was left with a tremendous sense of hope,” she said.
There were 187 countries represented at World Youth Day, held in Krakow.
“These were people I never would have met,” said Sister Kathryn.
She said it was interesting to see what strikes and moves different people spiritually. The trip included a lot of daily walking and required much flexibility.
It was a good experience to be able to attend Mass in different languages.
“Sometimes, we’re insulated,” said Sister Kathryn.
The Atlanta native majored in religion at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana.
She was pursuing a master of divinity degree at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri, when she met Sister Virginia Herbers, a classmate and member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Ultimately, Sister Kathryn began a formal discernment process with the order by teaching in its preschool in St. Louis. She had been considering a religious vocation since high school.
She made her first profession of vows in August 2012.
Since their arrival in Ireland, the sisters have started ministering to the sick and homebound of the diocese and also began a weekly Lectio Divina group at the diocesan pastoral center.
“We’ve received a most warm welcome from all we’ve met thus far,” said Sister Kathryn by email. “People are gracious in helping us get settled and quick to share stories of their faith and the role the church has played in their life.
To learn more about the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, visit www.ascjus.org.