End is finally in sight for a 60-year labour of love started in Kenya

by Rachel Darcy

A sewing project that was begun by an Irish woman who emigrated to Kenya nearly 60 years ago has finally been completed in Clontarf.

The handcrafted Stations of The Cross were started by Elizabeth Ryan in the 1960s as a project for her local church in Molo, Kenya.

At the time, Elizabeth was living there with her family, volunteering with the local church before she returned to Ireland, bringing the passion project back home with her to complete.

In the mid-1980s, Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed away before completing the Stations of The Cross.

Her son, Michael, decided to seek out someone in Ireland who would be suitable to complete his mother’s ‘magnum opus’, contacting Mary O’Reilly.

Speaking to Dublin Gazette, Mary said that she was contacted “out of the blue” by Michael about two and a half years ago.

“He called me a bit out of the blue and said that he was looking for somebody to finish what his mother started, and that his parish priest recommended an apostolic group.

“I knew our group might not be able to finish a project like that, but luckily, I’m also a member of the Irish Guild of Embroiderers, and a patchwork group.

“I asked Michael to come to my house with the Stations, and I knew when I saw them that myself and my friends would be able to take it on.”

Mary knew that between her and a group of her friends, who have met every fortnight since 1985 to stitch together in each other’s homes, that they would be able to finish off the project.

She said: “The Stations had been in Elizabeth’s daughter’s house since she died, but not even a moth had touched them – they were in perfect condition.

“She had laid out a basic design of how she wanted specific things done, like a halo completed on one Station to show how she wanted it on the rest of them.

“I showed the girls the Stations the next time they came over, and about 10 friends took on the challenge of the Stations after seeing them.

“We were just enthralled by it, they were delighted! Between us all now, we’ve two left to finish, and they’re just beautiful.”

The Stations of The Cross will be displayed at St Anthony’s Church in Clontarf on May 18 and 19, before hopefully travelling to other parishes across the country.

Mary hopes that if the Stations make a return to Kenya, that she will be able to deliver them back to the church in Molo to be proudly displayed.

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