Oil Dedicated to St Ita
The St Ita is dedicated to Ita, the patroness of Munster often called ‘foster-mother of the saints of Ireland’ and a natural organizer.
Summary of St Ita, Virgin. Ita was born in County Waterford of noble parents. Early on she set her mind on serving Christ in religious life. Ita founded a monastery in Killeedy, County Limerick, which attracted a variety of young people. Also, she was given the title ‘foster-mother of the saints of Ireland’. St Ita died in 570.
Ita, also known as Deirdre and Mida is the patroness of Munster. Next to Brigid, she is the foremost woman saint in Ireland. Although of the royal family of the Déise, Ita is associated with the parish of Killeedy. Ita (originally called Deirdre) belonged to the royal family of the Déise (present-day Co Waterford). Her father was not a Christian and made an arranged marriage for her with a young nobleman.
However, from an early age, she wanted to consecrate herself to God and serve him in another location. In her youth, Ita dreams that an angel gives her three precious stones. So struck is she by the significance of this, she awakens to puzzle over the symbolism. Thankfully, inspiration is at hand in the form of another celestial visitor who explains in a vision, that throughout her earthly life, Ita will experience dreams and visitations. The stones in the dream signify the gifts of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to whom she dedicated her life.
Ita was a natural organiser
Ita seems to have been a natural organizer: she travelled about the district, taking part in the affairs of her clan. Also, she bred horses. Her community became skilled in herbal medicine and visited the sick
A school for boys
As well as educating those who joined her community as nuns, Ita also set up a school for boys. She taught them: “faith in God with the purity of heart; the simplicity of life with religion; generosity with love”
Some of these later became famous, among them St Brendan – whether Brendan the Navigator or Brendan of Birr is not clear. In a poem of Alcuin Ita is called “the foster mother of the saints of Ireland”.
Death and influence
Ita died around the year 570. Many church dedications and place-names recall her, even in her place of origin. Oengus calls her ‘the white sun of the women of Munster’.
Locally, her feast on 15th January is regarded as the last day of Christmas and is traditionally a day of a family reunion. Girl children in the area round her foundations are still proud to bear her name.