Sr. Stan conferred with Honorary Doctorate at Dublin City University

(17 Oct 2017)

Dublin City University paid tribute to Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, President William J Clinton, 42nd President of the United States; and Mr Martin Naughton, entrepreneur and founder of Glen Dimplex.

The trio were conferred with honorary doctorates (Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa) at a special ceremony in the Helix, DCU on Tuesday 17th October.

In Sr. Stan's address she said:

"I feel honoured and humbled and undeserving, and I accept this, not for myself, but on behalf of the hundreds of people who came to me seeking help, support and justice over the past nearly 60 years," she said. 

"And I accept it on behalf of the hundreds of people who helped and supported me and fought with me to give them what was their right. I was only one. I could have done little on my own.

"I got a chance in life. I only wanted to give that chance to other people."




Read Sr. Stan's full address below

In accepting this great honour I want to say thank you to Dublin City University, a university I hold in the highest esteem.  I feel honoured and humbled and undeserving, and I accept this not for myself but on behalf of the hundreds of people who came to me seeking help, support and justice over the past nearly 60 years.  And I accept it on behalf of the hundreds of people who helped and supported me and fought with me to give them what was their right. I was only one.  I could have done little on my own.

I got a chance in life. I only wanted to give that chance to other people.

I got a chance from my parents who worked hard to give us an education and who passed on to us their strong faith. 

I got a chance from the Sisters of Charity who gave me a spiritual foundation and a spiritual way of life that sustained me, and who supported me in many ways over the years and above all introduced me to Mary Aikenhead, our Founder, an extraordinary woman who 200 years ago gave her life to the service of the poor and who pioneered new ways in health, education and home care. I learned from her a deep respect for the poor. “There is no justice or charity”, she said, “where there is no respect for the poor” and again she said “we must give to the poor what the rich can buy with money”.  That was the inspiration of my life.

I got the chance again when I was sent to Kilkenny where I worked with an extraordinary Bishop, Bishop Peter Birch, who transformed his diocese into a caring community where people cared and shared for each other and where no one was excluded, where he created new innovative services, a living example of the living out of the Gospel of Christ. He created a model church where people came from all over the country and all over the world to learn about it.  I learned all that from him.  Above all I learned the importance of being a voice of clarity for justice, for compassion and for human rights.

I got the chance again when I came to Dublin and I met for the first time homeless people who really didn’t want to be homeless, who were so because of circumstances beyond their control and whose deepest desire was to have a place they could call home.   And with the help of hundreds of people who gathered around to support me, including homeless people, I was able to set up Focus Ireland, and to develop it. Focus Ireland which is now the biggest organisation in Ireland in the fight against homelessness by providing housing, support and advocacy and giving people dignity, respect and restoring their sense of self-esteem.

15 years later I got a chance again when I met immigrants who had been brought here to work during the celtic tiger years. They had no rights.  They were totally at the behest of their employer.  Their right to reside or work here was in the hands of their employer. There were literally no services for them, and again, with the help and support of many people, we set up the Immigrant Council of Ireland to promote and support the rights of immigrants and advocate on their behalf through our legal centre.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland has worked hard to reform our immigration system and helps thousands of people to navigate that system and gain their rights to live and work and make a home here if they want to, and make a big contribution to their society. This included women and girls, victims of human trafficking who were trafficked here for sexual exploitation.

I got the chance with Rachel Collier when we recognised the many young people in Ireland who wanted to be active citizens, but who did not have the opportunity to do so. There was no structure, there was no leadership for them.   Again with the help of hundreds of teachers and guides and volunteers we set up Young Social Innovators which now has over 6,000 young  people every year engaging as active citizens, working for others in their community.  They are the leaders of the future, promoting justice and human rights.

During all those years I knew this work wasn’t easy, particularly for the many helpers and carers. I knew they needed support while they provided, to keep their vision, their spirit and their enthusiasm alive.   I knew like Brendan Kennelly that “self knows that self is not enough, the deepest pool becomes exhausted” and put in various supports for them.

But I had a dream of being able to open a door somewhere in the city, where people could come to nurture their spirit and keep their flame alive.  I was given a patch of land, one third of an acre from the Sisters of Charity. But we had no funds, but again with Sile we found an architect, an engineer, a builder and a landscape gardener who turned that little patch of land into a beautiful place, a sanctuary, a place of beauty that spoke to the beauty within everyone, a place of peace that spoke to the peoples inner peace, a place of stillness that spoke to their inner stillness, a place of love where people felt loved and cared for, a Sanctuary.  This Sanctuary has been a powerhouse for thousands of people nourishing their spirit and nourishing their soul and sending them forth with the flame of love and justice alive.

I got a chance and I just wanted to give to others a chance.   

I was not and am not perfect but others made up for my imperfections, and by prayer and above all the prayer of so many supporters, I was sustained by the miraculous grace of God.

I was sustained by my little community in Stanhope  Street of Sile and Josie, and Tony and Johanne who often popped in, they were always there for me, the good days and the bad days, and reminded me like Brendan Kennelly…To Begin Again

Begin again to the summoning birds

to the sight of the light at the window,

begin to the roar of morning traffic…..

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending

that always seems about to give in

something that will not acknowledge conclusion

insists that we forever begin.

Thank you.

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© 2021 Sister Stanislaus Kennedy
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