The Girls Friendly Society in Ireland Report on the World Council Conference

The 20th triennial World Council meeting was held at The King’s Hospital, Palmerstown, Co. Dublin, from 24th June –4th July 2011,attended by 250 members. The venue proved excellent, with helpful staff, good food and facilities. It has been exactly 30 years, since Ireland last hosted this International event, so it gave us great joy to extend a welcome to delegates and observers from fourteen countries. In these countries the Society is active with its specialised ministry, supporting young girls and women in their personal journey of faith, providing recreation and encouraging those who work alongside them to play a valuable role in guiding and helping them face the daily challenges that are along life’s path.

There were so many memorable events, activities and workshops during the conference which I would love to share, but unfortunately space would not permit- I do hope you will grasp from this report, a glimpse of the wonderful experiences and the fellowship that was shared with our world-wide members. How blessed we are to be part of such an organisation. The G.F.S. is alive and vibrant!

The G.F.S. World President Mrs Emila Corrigan chaired the meetings. In her opening address, she welcomed all present and thanked all those who had helped with the planning and preparations over the past three years, especially the members of the G.F.S. World Executive Committee.The business sessions were well time-tabled; all delegates were encouraged to participate in the discussions, thus providing a bigger picture of the work carried out by the Society in many countries around the world.

On Saturday morning 25th June, a fleet of buses were waiting to transport us to the opening service in St.Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. What a welcome we received on our arrival! The branches from the diocese of Armagh hosted wonderful receptions at four different venues, a large number of young members were present to entertain us with singing and drama. The service in St Patrick’s Cathedral was a most inspiring and memorable event. The parade of banners was truly magnificent and, to add to the colour display, each country wore their G.F.S. uniform or traditional costume. The singing was greatly enhanced by a specially formed choir of G.F.S. members. The special preacher was the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Most Revd Alan Harper.Following the service; we were entertained to a beautiful banquet in the Armagh City Hotel.

On Sunday morning, we had a choice of attending morning worship in the city of Dublin, at a church of our choice.

I choose St Patrick’s Cathedral; others joined the congregations at St Bartholomew’s, St George & St Thomas and C.O.R.E. (St Catherine)

The week commenced with a varied programme, providing wonderful opportunities for participants both to talk and listen to one another. Morning & evening worship; keynote speakers, guest speakers and so much more!

The theme for the conference “ Challenges and Change- A Time for New Thinking “ In her address our keynote speaker, Mrs Rosemary Kingston M.U. used the theme to remind us of the words in Romans 12:v2 “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Rosemary urged us to think positively –success will always depend on what you think- what you tell yourself. Other guest speakers included; Right Rev Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel & Ossary, Scott Evans, Diocesan Youth Officer from Cashel & Ossary & representatives from the Girls & Boys Brigade.

We were privileged to have in attendance Mrs Rosemary Kempsell, World-wide President of the Mother’s Union, & Mrs Ruth Mercer, All Ireland President of Mothers Union.

These two Christian organisations hold so much in common!

An application to join GFS World Council was received from G.F.S. in the Solomon Islands.It is very encouraging to hear of the spread of the work of the Society. In relation to their admission, it was agreed that the G.F.S. World Project 2011-2013 would give financial aid and prayerful support to their project, which is to equip women and girls with the necessary skills to carry out activities in leadership for community development.

Ample leisure time away from business matters was allocated.

A visit to the ancient monastic site at Glendalough and the beautiful gardens at Powerscourt was thoroughly enjoyable. Our outing was greatly enhanced by the hospitality of Dublin & Glendalough G.F.S. members, the Rector and Parishioners of Donoughmore Parish, and to add to their hospitality, the children from the nearby primary school came and entertained us to song and traditional dancing.  Our next outing was sight seeing around the city of Dublin from an open top bus.

Our visitors were introduced to many areas of Irish culture, Irish dancing demonstration, and a traditional ceili. The workshops and handcraft sessions provided opportunities to be creative. The demonstrators had planned and prepared well in advance, hence the sessions were pleasurable and enjoyable.

The highlight for the branch members was on Saturday 2nd July- International Day. In the region of 1000 girls attended. This was their day! They had an opportunity to visit the country stalls which were set out with displays of photos and cultural goods, sample some craft ideas from around the world and partake in a variety of entertainment activities. The proceedings drew to a close at 4-30p.m.as the girls boarded their buses for the long journey home. Later that evening, it was time for “skits night ” good old fashioned-light hearted entertainment performed by each member country.

The closing service and commissioning of the new G.F.S. World President in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on Sunday 3rd July was a memorable occasion. The cathedral was full to capacity, the music and singing was beautiful, and the parade of banners and the national costumes brought a spectrum of colour to this site of unique heritage. Most Revd Michael Jackson, Archbishop of Dublin, conducted the service. Right Revd Kay Goldsworthy, Assistant Bishop of Perth Diocese, Australia gave the address. During the service, the new G.F.S. World President Mrs Glenys Payne from Wales was commissioned by Right Revd Michael Mayes.Following the service; the M.U. very kindly organised and served refreshments in the Cathedral crypt.

The closing banquet was held at Springfield Hotel, Leixlip.This was a delightful occasion.

In concluding, I thank all those who contributed so much of their time and work in making the event so enjoyable and memorable.

Florence Higgins

G.F.S. Central President

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