Would You Believe? Documentary Special on Glencairn Abbey

This Easter Sunday RTÉ’s Would You Believe? School of Love goes behind the scenes into Ireland’s only women’s Cistercian Monastery.

For the past year, RTE’s Would You Believe? team have been given special access to monastic life at Glencairn in order to produce this one hour special documentary to be broadcast on Easter Sunday.

With unique footage of the early steps and special moments in the monastic journey of Dublin woman Angela Finegan and other members, together with interviews with some of the professed sisters of the community against the backdrop of the seasonal changes of the Abbey’s beautiful natural surroundings, School of Love gives unprecedented television coverage of contemporary Cistercian life for women at St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn.

We hope that viewers will enjoy this opportunity to gain insights into a life that brings us such joy and challenge, as we Cistercians endeavour to learn, in this School of Love, the paths of the Lord together as a monastic community.

RTE Press Release:

On Easter Sunday, in School of Love, RTÉ’s Would You Believe? spends a year behind the scenes in Ireland’s only women’s Cistercian Monastery. Nestled in the lush valley of the Blackwater, in Co Waterford, the nuns of St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn, dedicate themselves to a way of life first laid down by St Benedict in the 6th Century. It is a life of silence, solitude and prayer.

Each day of their monastic life, they rise at 3.45am and gather to sing the Lord’s praises and to keep vigil with all those who wake during the night in fear, or sadness or pain. It is the first of seven prayer ceremonies which end after sunset and Sr Fiachra, a former horticulturalist, says of the early start, ‘it is in the darkest hour of the night, at 4am, that people wake and worry about their troubles. So, that’s why I’m on my feet praying for all the people that are suffering, whatever it is that they are suffering, so that they will feel God s presence and comfort in that trauma.’

Sr Sarah, Director of Vocations, is in charge of promoting vocations. She also runs the Abbey’s website and organises regular ‘Monastic Experience Weekends.’ They are well attended and have led to a number of new postulants. One Dublin woman, Angela, an IT specialist with qualifications in science and social work, came for a weekend, stayed and is now thinking of taking her vows and joining the order. The film follows her journey throughout the year as she faces a life-changing decision. It would be a unique television experience to witness a postulant receiving the veil in a ‘Monastic Initiation Ceremony,’ but that is the choice that Angela will make during the course of the documentary.

St Mary’s Abbey is a busy and happy place. The nuns work as a community, surviving by their own labour and running a number of businesses: Communion host production, greetings card printing, farming and cleaning, maintaining and restoring their large and demanding collection of buildings. They possess a wide range of skills and are hugely self-sufficient.

Most of all, though, they are a happy and caring community. They live a monastic life in a monastery which, in St Bernard’s phrase, is a ‘school of love’. The women, who include a former Central Banker, an IT specialist, a radio producer, a farmer and a midwife, are committed to a way of life that is counter-cultural in the contemporary world. And yet, they believe their chosen life is the best contribution they can make to that world. Join us for a unique insight into their challenging, but uplifting, way of life.

You can watch this programme on RTE 1 on Easter Sunday, 20th April 2014 at 10:30pm. You can also watch Would You Believe? School of Love online at:

Photo: RTE’s Would You Believe? Camera-woman Úna Farrelly filming the sisters in choir