My name is Mai Ralph, I am happily married, thank God and have three beautiful children, Ellen age 14, Sean age 11 and Audrey age 4. I work in the Marino Institute of Education, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9, IRELAND within the Centre for Education Services.
The entire campus is surrounded by beautifully developed and maintained grounds under the care of Br. John Bourke and his staff. It is without doubt a beautiful place to work and I mean beautiful in many senses of the word. I feel so fortunate to have been offered my job here eighteen years ago. I was interviewed by Br. Charlie Gallagher (RIP) and went on to develop a great friendship with him. This friendship was strengthened by the many trials and tribulations we experienced together. Marino has cemented many great friendships for me over the years with people like Br. Martin O'Flaherty, Br. Donal Leader, Ger Quinn, Una Collins, Br. Michael Heffernan, Maureen McDonagh, Ger Carberry, Madge Bulger, Niamh McArdle and Luke Monahan to name but a few.
I was overwhelmed by the community spirit I felt from the minute if walked into Marino. There was a great sense of ‘all in this together'. The teacher training college was then staffed mostly by Christian Brothers - Br. Nolan, Br. Cinsealach (RIP) and Br. Colohan. Because of the standard of excellence set by these Brothers Marino students were almost guaranteed teaching jobs throughout the country. These standards are still being met today by staff and students alike.
I was never overly religious and always had to be dragged to Mass on Sundays by my parents. I have over the last 16+ years developed a great sense of God, Christianity and spirituality and this I owe completely to the Christian Brothers. The Christian Brothers are usually associated with one thing in Ireland and that is education. My father was educated by them and he always said that generations of Irish people must be forever indebted to the Christian Brothers as they educated their children when our own government wasn't able to.
My experience with the Christian Brothers goes far beyond my ‘working' experience. I have a great personal bond and sense of gratitude towards them. With the help of my friends mentioned above I would not have gotten through the last 16 years of my life as well as I have. The support, kindness, friendship, love and affection I experienced from my friends in Marino was absolutely what got me through it all.
I learned many things in Marino -I learned all about having values and over the years the value list I share with my husband, Patrick and try to instill in our children is based on 5 pillars - love, honour, integrity, respect and tolerance. I learned to affirm people - something that was completely alien to me before I came to Marino. Br. Donal Leader always started and finished every conversation by saying something friendly and kind. My great friend Ger Quinn became a surrogate mother to me and she helped me through many a crisis. She would always bring my thoughts back to God and how my mother and father were looking down on me and protecting me. I am grateful every day for my health, my husband and my three beautiful and healthy children. I am very grateful that God directed me to the interview in Marino and for giving me the opportunity to develop myself by bringing me into contact with such wonderful people. I know that I am a better wife to my husband, a better mother to my children, a better sister to my siblings and a better friend to my friends and all because of my positive experience from the Christian Brothers.
I became aware of social justice while working with the Christian Brothers by becoming aware of their many projects worldwide helping the disadvantaged. It has made me more aware of social justice in Ireland and how important it is to stand up and be counted for the person who is not as strong or outspoken as I am. If we don't support and mind each other who else will. If only more people could be aware of how kindness matters and how one little act of kindness can affect someone. I have many little acts of kindness extended to me especially from the people I work with on a daily basis including Fiona Gallagher, Aiveen Mullally and Sr. Anna Ryan.
When I think back now to my childhood - how I use to dread walking past the big old grey building on Griffith Avenue that was full of Christian Brothers who were to be feared and how ironic it is now to be working in the big grey building for the Christian Brothers and how lucky I feel and how grateful I am to God for bringing me to this great place. I love working here in Marino under the auspices of the Christian Brothers. If I hadn't got a mortgage to pay and children to feed I would work here voluntarily. I know that my experience of working with the Christian Brothers has also been an uplifting and rewarding experience for many of my friends and colleagues. Little did Blessed Edmund Rice know the day he opened the first school for boys that eventually his reach of kindness and support would reach me and my family. For this I am forever indebted.
Some people come into our lives, and quietly go ...
Others stay awhile, and leave footprints on our hearts ...
And we are never the same ...