A new book that examines how people find “hope” has been dedicated to Charlie Bird.
Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, or Sr Stan as she is better known, founded the homeless charity Focus Ireland in 1985, almost 30 years after she joined the Religious Sisters of Charity in Co Kilkenny.
Her new book Finding Hope asks the questions: “Where and how do you find hope in your daily life?”
Having campaigned tirelessly for social issues for decades, Sr Stan has rubbed shoulders with well-known figures from at home and overseas.
She called on many of those she worked with for her new book, and 17 contributors –including Michelle O’Neil, Fintan O’Toole, and Micheál Martin to Orla Guerin, the Dalai Lama and Charlie Bird – took part.
Sr Stan said the contributors responded in a “deeply personal way, drawing on their own experience of hope in an insightful and enlightening way”.
“What is clear from all the contributions is that hope, ultimately, is something worth fighting for,” she said.
Sr Stan officially launched the book today, at the Sanctuary – a meditation centre for “social change” – which is located in the heart of Dublin City.
Her good friend Charlie Bird, his wife Claire and their dog Tiger attended the launch.
Sr Stan said the “resilience” that the former RTÉ journalist has shown since his Motor Neurone Disease (MND) diagnosis was the inspiration behind the book.
Mr Bird was diagnosed with the condition in 2021 and one year ago this April, he climbed Croagh Patrick and raised over €3 million for the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association and Pieta House.
"Charlie has written a piece in it, a very special piece in it, about where he finds hope… One of the first people I thought about writing to was Charlie because he does represent hope and courage,” she said.
"He wrote in this book, I’ve dedicated the book to him…. and anyone I talk to about you [Charlie Bird] say, ‘my God, isn’t he marvellous’ and you are.”
Sr Stan recalled how she first met Mr Bird a half century ago when she was “moved out” of a convent in Kilkenny and “sent” to Dublin. Mr Bird investigated the story.
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"Charlie was full of energy, full of hope and he could put you on the spot,” she said.
"I remember Charlie came down on the train [to Kilkenny] to find out the true story and ever since he’s been really so generous to Focus Ireland and to all my activities.”
Speaking with the aid of text-to-speech device, Mr Bird praised Sr Stan for her charity work and dedication and said he will continue to “extend the hand of friendship” to all those who need support.
In the book he wrote: “Sources of hope in my daily life include nature - especially flowers – and smiles - the lights guiding you through the oppressive darkness, into the technicolour of the rainbow and its hope and promise.”
Sr Stan said nowadays there is a lot of “fear” about climate change, the economy and social issues such as the housing crisis.
However, she insisted hope can be found in the world and through other people.
She said she gets her hope from “God and from Charlie”.
"People give me hope. Our young people in particular, with all of their talent, potential and compassion, fill me with optimism,” she added.
The book Finding Hope is available in book shops and online at columbabooks.com. The royalties from the sale of the book will go to the Sanctuary, and in particular towards the development of programmes for those who care for the most vulnerable in society.