rome never-to-be-forgotten

Sister Hyacinth Butler OP

My parents, Michael and Bridie Butler who lived in Carrigbeg, were the parents of 13 children, 8 boys and 5 girls. I was sixth in the family. I was educated at the Convent of Mercy which I left in 1956. I knew about the Dominican Sisters at Bushey Heath from my sister Leonie, who had entered with them about 6 years before, and so a few months after leaving school, I sailed to England that same year. After my postulancy I received the Habit of the Dominican Order in 1957 and made Profession in 1958. I made my Final Vows in 1961.

Having spent until 1969 at Rosary Priory our Mother House, I was sent to Rome to share in the care of pilgrims who came to Rome. I remained at our guest house for 20 years. My years in Rome were a wonderful experience for me. Pilgrims came to stay at our house, Villa Rosa, from all over the world. Meeting these people from different countries and different cultures and also Sisters from South Africa whom I had not met before broadened my view of the Church and of the world. Guests and Pilgrims were, able to use our chapel for private prayer and also, when they wished, to join the Sisters for communal prayer and for Mass.

Besides meeting all different people, I also learned to speak Italian and this allowed me to communicate easily with Italian members of Staff, those who visited our house, people at church and people whom I met on the road who needed help or directions. Another area of experience which I gained, and which I appreciate, was the opportunity to explore many of the ancient Churches of Rome. Besides the church of Santa Sabina which is the home of the Master General of Dominican Order and the General Council, on the Aventine Hill, we also had connections with the Benedictine Fathers at the Abbey, San Anselmo, also on the Aventine. Exploring the four great basilicas of Rome – St Peter’s, St John Lateran, St Mary Major and St Paul’s Outside the Walls – was a great experience.

Some churches remain prominent in my mind, like that of St Ann and St Joachim, and Trinita del Monte near the Spanish Steps, and the Minerva which is a Dominican church with wonderful stained class winfows and paintings. It is in this church that Saint Catherine of Siena, the patroness of our Congregation of Sisters, is buried. Also in this church is a painting, by Fra Angelico (another Dominican!) of my own patron: Saint Hyacinth of Poland. It was always a great experience for me to visit this Dominican Church.

Other lasting memories from this time in Rome were the annual visit of the Holy Father to Sant’Anselmo and Santa Sabina on the Aventine on Ash Wednesday. The Holy Father processes from Sant’Anselmo with an escort of Dominican friars and Benedictine monks to Santa Sabina where he celebrates Mass.

Other places I visited in Italy include Nettuno, the home of St Maria Goretti; Ostia where St Monica (St Augustine’s mother) died; Assisi the home of St Francis and the Franciscans; Siena, a wonderful mediaeval city and the birthplace and home of St Catherine; and of course Venice and Florence.

The other great experience was having, with the Villa Rosa Community, a Papal audience with John Paul II. A great moment to remember! Shortly after his election, Pope Saint John Paul arranged for visits with all the religious communities in Rome.

Left to right: Sr Stephana Duggan (d. 1997); Sr De Pazzi Kilkelly (left); Sr Hyacinth; Sr Paula Hanrahan, Prioress (d. 1992); Sr Clement Burke (d. 2005)


Another great moment was the celebration of my Silver Jubilee of Profession in 1983.

Whilst continuing to work, in caring for the pilgrims at Villa Rosa. I was very fortunate to live in a Community where the Sisters made it possible for everyone to take opportunities to travel with groups to places such as the Holy Land with a group formed by the Christian brothers, to Lourdes with a group from Regina Mundi, a place of study for Sisters, and to Medjugorje. All these pilgrimages have helped me in my spiritual and religious life and I remember them with gratitude to all the Sisters who made these travels possible for me. In 1989 I was asked to return to Rosary Priory to assist in the care of our frail and elderly Sisters. This Community had been established in that year, and I still remain a member of this community. Even yet my travels were not quite finished. I was given the opportunity to travel to the places we know as St Dominic’s Country with a group of Dominican Sisters, namely Spain and France. This was a never-to-be forgotten experience which has helped me in my life as a Dominican.

I have been blessed to celebrate two Jubilees of my Profession with the Community at Rosary Priory: my Golden in 2008 and (pictured here) my Diamond in 2018 with my companion of 62 years, Sister Elizabeth Lynch (d. January 2019).

For these 60 years of Dominican life I give thanks.


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