The sun was shining and the two-hour bus journey gave the visiting partners a chance to take in the scenery and landscape of the Irish countryside and small towns and villages while getting a chance to have a chat and get to know each other.
On our arrival to Myross Wood House we were warmly greeted at the door by Fr John Fitzgerald, the Deputy Provincial of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in Ireland. Today Myross Wood is a Retreat and Spirituality Centre run by the brothers of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Fr John guided us through the main entrance of the house to give us a tour inside. Our guide brought us on a tour throughout the entire building while also telling us the story of the building’s history and it’s development as a spiritual centre for the community.
The house was built in the 1800’s by the Townshend family and was purchased by the Irish Missionaries Society in 1946 when it was first repurposed as a study house for the young religious. The south wing of the house was totally rebuilt in 1959 and the interior has been adapted over the years to suit the needs of the community and the brotherhood. In 1970 the house began to serve as a retreat centre and in 1987 the west wing was reconstructed and refurbished.
Fr John guided us through the ground floor which winds through the different periods of the house and how it was adapted over time. The ground floor hosted large living spaces, a chapel, kitchens and various utility rooms as well as the boiler room situated on a lower floor under the west wing of the House. Fr John highlighted the expense in heating the house and how the heating system was proving inefficient and expensive. He also explained that there were now only a small number of the brothers fully residing in the dormitories on the upper floor.
We further explored the upper floor of the building which housed offices, sleeping quarters, shower rooms and bathrooms, an intimate chapel and utility rooms. Fr John also pointed out various artefacts that were displayed around the building and collected by the Missionaries from countries all over the world. The guided tour by Fr John gave us all an insight into the life of the brotherhood and the community it has served over the years. When Fr John finished the tour of the house, we all gathered in a large living room which is often used for spiritual retreats or meetings with the community. We sat in a circle where we could ask Fr John some more questions about the current use of the building, how it serves the local community and how the Missionary of the Sacred Heart envisions the future of Myross Wood House. Fr John discussed the difficulties regarding the expense of maintaining the house and how the house is ideal as a Centre for Spirituality and Retreat and how it is surrounded by the beautiful landscape and nature of Myross Wood.
Fr John suggested we then take a walk through Myross Wood and experience the surrounding nature on the grounds. The gardens entering the wood were well kept and boasted a variety of different species and an array of colours. As we entered further into the wood we saw a lot of damage caused by the storm the year before, dubbed ‘Beast from the East’, by the Irish media. Many trees had been uprooted and some of the pathways were obstructed by fallen debris and tree trunks. This still did not detract from the wild beauty of the wood and it being a precious amenity for the Missionaries and the community.
We all left Myross Wood that day feeling a sense of tranquillity and peace before hitting the traffic queuing up to get into Cork city. We all felt a little more familiar with one another after our shared experience and concluded the visit with a meal at The Bodega in the city centre, where we sat together, ate together and even broke into song before saying goodbye.