Research on returned Irish Missionaries.

Irish Missionaries have been involved for over 150 years in Sierra Leone. Many religious have devoted all or part of their lives in helping the people. Recently researchers in NUI Galway have been working to meet and interview as many returned Missionaries as possible in order that their story may be told. The researchers Prof. Ricca Edmondson and Dr. Carmel Gallagher have conducted 11 interviews to date with two more to be scheduled. They have interviewed a good mix of males and females from a variety of Orders but would like to talk to more. The interviews are carried out by Zoom and so far have been successful in recording the story of these dedicated people. The following letter gives more information:

Letter of invitation to AMRI members

Research study: Intercultural Dilemmas: Voices of Retired Missionaries

This is an invitation to people who have worked as missionaries to take part in a qualitative research study underway on the work and experiences of Irish missionaries, chiefly those who have returned to live in Ireland. Ethical approval for this study has been received from the Research Ethics Committee in NUI, Galway.

The main focus of the research is to allow missionaries to tell their individual stories of their missionary work and lives. Missionaries possess unique insights and often we do not hear the voices of missionaries themselves – what they have learned, the kind of people they are, how they have changed and adapted, and the challenges of living in the societies from which they set out.

Returned missionaries have, we believe, several vantage points from which to communicate their understandings, having worked across cultures and over a time period when significant changes have occurred in the Catholic Church, Irish society and in mission work itself.

The research centres on open-ended conversational interviews, mostly with returned or retired missionary priests, nuns and brothers, but also former clerics and lay people who have worked as missionaries, or others with various forms of relevant experience. These conversations will initially be conducted via zoom or skype and, when the Covid situation allows, in face-to face meetings.

The first invitation to participate in this research, issued last December, resulted in considerable interest, and interviews have already been conducted with men and women from different Orders and with diverse missionary experiences. These interviews were all conducted via zoom and were extremely insightful and, we believe, a positive experience for the participants. We now seek further participants for this research study.

Participation in the research is, of course, entirely voluntary and people are encouraged to request further information before deciding to take part. Unless they prefer to be identified, interviewees will remain anonymous in the final report. If details of a person’s work might reveal who they are, the authors will consult with respondents to remove selected details from the final report. The interviews will be recorded, and transcripts of interviews will be sent to the interviewees to enable them to respond to the transcripts or to clarify any points they may have made.

It is expected that each interview will last at least an hour. There are no fixed, predetermined questions and no right answers. Rather, each interviewee will determine the direction of the interview and each interview will be unique to that person. The interviewer will introduce certain topics and themes but will mostly listen and encourage reflective conversation. Topics will typically include interviewees’ early years, their work and experiences, events and people that influenced them, challenges and changes over their life course, what they have learned, opportunities to share their experiences, and their perspectives on changes and ethical decision-making in Irish society.

The researchers who will themselves conduct the interviews are both retired academics who have a particular interest in the topics and questions of this study. They are active researchers on topics related to ageing and values, community and participation, as well as wisdom and interculturality. Their hope is to capture the voices and views of returned and retired missionaries within the framework of an academic study.

It is anticipated that the study participants will centrally comprise a varied group of returned missionaries from a number of different orders, societies and institutions, both large and small in terms of missionary focus. It is also intended to include people with diverse experiences in different continents and countries. We are also interested in speaking to people who have continued to live in the country in which they worked as a missionary.

Further information and details of the study will be sent to anyone who expresses interest. We would be delighted to hear from you.

If you are interested in taking part in this research, please contact Professor Ricca Edmondson or Dr Carmel Gallagher by email at the contact details below: Carmel.gallagher@tudublin.i

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