Counselling as a sister of Sion

by Sr Therese Fitzgerald

My counselling practice is based in Dublin, with some appointments online.

My approach lends itself to working with people who experience a wide range of concerns, such as emotional distress, health, relationships, career, spirituality, sexuality and attachment trauma. Some clients avail of short-term counselling through employment assistance programmes, while others have heard about my counselling practice through word of mouth.

The majority of my clients are from Ireland and the others are mainly from other parts of Europe, Brazil and the United States. I love working with this range of cultural diversity.

The desire to contribute in some way to “a world of justice, peace and love”

How were you led to this kind of work?

It could be said that I became involved in counselling by accident. When I started counselling training I was a secondary school teacher and I had just completed an MPhil in Peace Studies. I decided that completing the first year of a counselling course might help me “come to grips with my shyness”, which is how I would have described it then. Now I wonder why I decided that that was the “solution”! During that year, I grew to value the counselling process and the difference it could make in people’s lives, including my own. So I remained and completed the full four years of training, and have being enthusiastically continuing with professional development in this area ever since.

What do you bring to it as a sister of Sion?

At the core of my counselling ministry, as a sister of Sion, is the desire to contribute in some way to “a world of justice, peace and love” (NDS Constitution no. 13). My ministry is part of my response to our founder Father Theodore’s invitation to “have hearts as big as the world” which I understand as an invitation to continually grow in openness, respect and kindness towards others.

This informs my accompaniment of clients as they become more aware of aspects of their lives where they may feel more vulnerable and fragile and as they connect with and develop their own innate healing resources. Through this integrative process, they discover the strengths within apparent limitations, grow in inner freedom and become more choiceful. Although I do not have an agenda for any client, I am aware that it is a process that potentially provides a space wherein hearts can become more open and more loving of self, others, God and the environment.

To widen our heart space as we see the richness that lies within diversity

What does your counselling work bring to you?

My counselling ministry has enriched my life for over 20 years now. It supports me in growing more and more into my vocation as a sister of Sion, becoming more sensitive to hearing invitations to grow and develop myself. It has continually called me beyond my own prejudices and limitations to new edges of awareness.

Are there any personal observations you can make about your work in counselling?

I am constantly amazed at how the counselling process is both supportive enough and flexible enough to be able to nourish our diversities and complexities as human beings. As counselling facilitates us in journeying deeper into our own experience, it also invites us beneath surface differences that can potentially create stumbling blocks in how we relate to others. Counselling serves to invite us to widen our heart space as we see the richness that lies within diversity, whether we meet it in our own inner landscapes or in our relationships with other people.

It’s the presence of God’s spirit that graces this work

What insights has it given you?

Over the years as a counsellor, I’ve gradually learned and increasingly appreciated how our own inner woundedness can support us in increasing our capacity to see and hear others, to enter into conversations that are underpinned by the values and qualities of dialogue, such as respect, openness and listening. These conversations hold the potential to meet the other in our shared vulnerability and fragility, in our shared humanity.

It is my hope, my desire, my prayer, that this ministry contribute in some way to Fr Theodore’s wish that we might have “hearts as big as the world”. Ultimately, I’m aware it’s the presence of God’s spirit that graces this work and provides healing that guides our inner world towards wholeness. This gift of inner healing then becomes what we can offer to others in how we relate. “It is the Spirit which enables us to welcome each one in her uniqueness, with her gifts and limitations and to persevere in that love which grows and deepens through the concrete actions of daily life” (NDS Constitution no. 47).