‘Soul friends’ celebrate 40th anniversary

March 15, 2024 in Featured News, News

Anamcharadas (‘soul friend’), a lay ministry of listening and accompaniment co-founded by Myles O’Reilly SJ, celebrated its 40th anniversary with the theme of ‘Finding God in all life experience’ in an event that took place in Milltown Park on Saturday, 3 March 2024. Read below and report of the day from Andrea Hayes, former Anamchara, broadcaster, and author who was the host for the day.

(Photo: Left to right: Susan Collins, Stasia Redmond, Monica Shannon, Mary Lennon, Andrea Hayes. Front row seated: Mags Mooney, Fr Myles OReilly SJ.)

‘A Journey of Tears and Laughter

This milestone was marked with a gathering of over 75 former alumni packed into the Arrupe Room in Milltown Park to mark 40 years of the movement. The celebration turned out to be a reunion enjoyed by many who have been associated with Anamacharadas over those four decades.

The day of commemoration was opened by Colette Kane, a Dominican Sister from Cabra and Programme Director of An Tairseach. She began with a reflection on the universe story, uniting science and the humanities in a dramatic exploration of the unfolding of our evolving place in the cosmos, and the boundless possibilities for our future.

The day continued with a thought-provoking presentation by Patrick Boland, author of The Contemplative Leader. Patrick, who is an executive coach, leadership consultant and psychotherapist, spoke about his work with world-renowned leaders, from Richard Rohr (contemplative teacher) to Margaret Wheatley (author of Leadership and the New Science) and Matthew McCarthy (former CEO of Ben & Jerry’s).

Over lunch many memories were shared and stories swapped. The afternoon continued with Dr. Tony Bates (Dr Tony Bates is the Founding Director and CEO of Jigsaw) who explored the place of pain in psychotherapy and spiritual direction. A rich discussion unfolded as Tony explored why ”To heal we have to feel.” The clinical psychologist and best-selling author of Breaking the Heart Open, spoke about his own intimate and lived experience of completing the Anamcharadas course with his wife Ursula almost 40 years ago.

The day continued with music from internationally acclaimed John Feeley, one of Ireland’s leading classical guitarists. Former Anamchara and renowned songstress Róisín O’Reilly shared music from her forthcoming album Listening to the Heart. She sang the title track which was co-written by Brendan Graham and on the day she was accompanied by leading Irish pianist Gillian Sanders. The day concluded with Mass – a fitting conclusion to a wonderful day of celebration.

Since 1984, Anamacharadas has trained many people with a programme that is both theoretical and practical, based on the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.

Anamchardas co-founder Myles O’Reilly SJ explained how 40 years ago Anamacharadas was set up in response to the need for a new spiritual movement among young people leaving Tabor House, a young adult Jesuit outreach. He said that over the past 40 years anamchairde, “were doing the hidden work of witnessing and affirming the unique encounter with God of each companionee and how God’s dream for the world manifests differently in each person.” He quoted St John of the Cross as summing up what the work of each anamchara actually is: “When You gazed upon me, your eyes imprinted in me Your loving gaze and thus my eyes learnt to also love what You see in me… let us go forth together to see ourselves ( and others) in your beauty.”

Co-Director of Anamcharadas Margaret Mooney also paid tribute to many people who have made the work of Anamcharadas possible: “On the occasion of our 40th Anniversary, I would like to acknowledge and express our sincere appreciation to all who support our work. I want to recognise and thank our team past and present and the many anam chara here today.”

Former students also shared their experiences: “I am left feeling very grateful after the two-year course on Spiritual Accompaniment with the Anamcharadas training. I am thankful for the wonderful team that guided the group on our journey and grateful for the kindred spirits with whom I shared the journey. It was a journey of tears and laughter.” (Catherine). While another reflected that, “My Anamcharadas training was a truly special experience. It was everything I hoped for and more. It was a challenging, encouraging, life-giving blessed journey. For me it was a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and share openly and honestly.” (Noreen)

The next intake for training is underway for 2024-2025. If you would like to find out more or to apply click here »