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A Tully Cross Homecoming: Celebrating 40 Years of AQ in Ireland

It may have been wild, wet, and windy in Tully Cross, Ireland last October (blessed by hurricane-like storms shaking the Atlantic), but the welcome was as warm and wonderful as ever for those of us AQ Yanks returning to the village.

We were gathering for a homecoming of the best sort - to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the AQ Ireland program. In fact, we were THE Gathering - an official event of the Failte Ireland tourism campaign for Co. Galway. And the folks of Tully Cross and Connemara West had bedecked the town with flags and pennants, unfurled the welcome banners, and hosted a flurry of events for the 50 or so Aquinas Ireland alum and their families who had traveled across the pond for a weekend reunion, October 23-27, 2013.

Thanks to our Tully Cross hosts, we were treated to a community feast at the Renvyle House Hotel followed by a rousing performance of traditional Irish music and dancing. We explored the area’s rich and ancient archeological history with a windy walking tour. We visited old friends and familiar haunts - climbing mountains and braving torrential rains. We gathered in pubs to swap stories, catch up with the locals, and enjoy more music. Some of us watched a play about the life of Yeats - performed where once stood the town’s grocery store. There even was an official grand opening with a speech from Sister Alice Wittenbach and a parade in Letterfrack - and to close the weekend, a special Mass and homily from Sister Rosemary O’Donnell honoring the long and productive friendship between Ireland and Aquinas. Sister Catherine Williams led the choir in prayer and song.

For many of us, it had been many years since we were able to get back to the people, sweeping views, and cozy thatched cottages of Connemara. I had the privilege of meeting AQ Ireland alum from the most recent years and those from decades before me - and I am so happy to have made many new friends with them! Sharing memories over pints in Coyne’s or Salmon’s, we compared notes and reminisced about how things had changed or stayed the same - and how some things never change. We told stories of our professors and our travels - oh, the wild Irish adventures some of us had!

For me, it was a double reunion as I was also celebrating 15 years since my time in Tully Cross, and this time I brought my husband and two little ones. I wanted them to fall in love with Ireland like I had and understand firsthand the stories I have long told. And together, we reveled in Irish-ness and become fellow Cottage #9-ers all over again.

We came home with new memories, new friends, and new resolve to return once again someday…soon. As my friend and fellow alum Jeff Coon said best: “For former students, Tully Cross is more than a place we have visited; it is a part of who we are.”