Colleen Wilcox | October 6, 2018
It was a New Year’s Eve celebration that Mary McGraw '17 will never forget. Instead of loud music and dazzling décor, McGraw was surrounded by classical music and votive candles. There were no shimmering streamers or confetti balloons at this party.
There wasn’t even a countdown, because bedtime was at 8 p.m. McGraw was ringing in the new year with eight Benedictine nuns at Kylemore Abbey in Galway, Ireland.
This intimate moment isn’t something that most study abroad students get to experience while in Ireland. In fact, most people will never know what it’s like to see these nuns behind closed doors. It took several months in Kylemore for McGraw to develop trust with the nuns and, ultimately, a relationship that allowed her to gain a unique perspective into their everyday lives.
A studio art major with a photography concentration, McGraw was able to pull back the curtains and capture even more intimate moments through her camera lens — a project that led to her senior thesis.
“This was truly a magical experience and I’m beyond grateful that the Benedictine community allowed me to share their lives with the world,” she said.
Growing up in a traditional Irish and Catholic family, the California native was always fascinated by Ireland. During her sophomore year at Notre Dame, she applied to the Inside Track program, spending time at both the Dublin Global Gateway and Kylemore Abbey Global Centre. As an artist, she was drawn to the landscape and the story behind the Kylemore castle.
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