Sister Irene chose the MA in Applied Spirituality for her sabbatical

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Conferring stories: Irene Balzan

Conferring stories: Irene Balzan

MA in Applied Spirituality was the experience Irene needed to look back on her life and see the invisible hand that has been guiding her through life

Irene Balzan originally from Malta and a missionary in South Sudan for the last five years is a recent graduate of the MA in Applied Spirituality

Q. Where are you originally from?

A. I am originally from Malta, but I have been a missionary in South Sudan for the past five years, and as you know Sudan has been a war torn country, so it was really and extraordinary adventure. You adjust to the situation. After five years I felt like I needed a sabbatical so I chose the programme in Waterford the MA in Applied Spirituality.

Q. How did you come across the course in Waterford?

A. I came across it on the website. I have always loved the combination of psychospirituality so that was what I was looking for and I found that in this programme.

Q. This programme is a full 12 months?

A. Yes this is for the full 12 months, the first semester we wrote about our spiritual autobiography which for me was long, but it was a golden opportunity to look back at your life and to really pick out where god has been leading me through my past life, to see the invisible grace of this hand that leads us in life.

Q. When did you decide you wanted to be a sister?

A. When I was young I enjoyed the life of sisters, when I looked at them they looked so happy and radiant, I said yeah. The way they would come and share about their experience they seemed so full and satisfied I decided yeah I have to do this with my life. But then there came a time when I forgot all about it, I brushed it aside and travelled a lot but somehow it came back to me and I felt if I did not give it a try it was leaving me restless and I needed to give this restlessness a rest. It is an Irish congregation that was founded in Nigeria with a particular interest in mother and child and family life, very much responding to mother and child needs where there high mortality rates in the Philippine countries. My first mission was Uganda, I spent four years in Nigeria, seven years in the Republic of Benin and fiver years in South Sudan. A lot of travelling but something inside you, a rock always stays the same.

Q. I can imagine you have great faith as that work is not easy?

A. No the work is not easy but that passion, once we understand what our passion is in life we must follow it, and that is my passion.

Q. Was this your first time in Ireland when you started this course?

A. No I have been in Ireland a few times, I did my midwifery in Drogheda and because the congregation is here, I have been here a couple of times. This is my first time in Waterford and it is a lovely city.

Q. Did you get to go on any trips or was there any speakers?

A. We had brilliant lecturers I must say, and very inspiring topics, like contemplative psychology something I never knew existed and an introduction to contemporary spiritual writers and all about spirituality which is something I was yearning for. All about how to live with good values which lead us to our ultimate horizon and meaning in life. The course was also full of experiences as well and academic, we got some basic listening and spiritual skills also. My dissertation enabled me to process my journey even deeper as I researched about spirituality during a time of war which registered with my own experiences, and what really carries you during this war time and how some people may come back with PTSD and others do not. I loved doing it, I didn’t see it as an academic exercise more as a personal process.

Q. How do you feel about graduating today?

A. I feel on top of the world, it’s lovely to be graduating from Waterford, it is a lovely feeling and a great achievement and I must say I am grateful to our lecturers who were always there and supportive whenever we needed anything. The group was almost like a close knit community.

Interviewed at Conferring 2019 by Áine Byrne

Related Courses

Master of Arts in  Applied Spirituality

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