According to local traditions, St. Darerca was a holy woman who had her own role in evangelizing Ireland.
While St. Patrick is often credited as single-handedly converting the entire nation of Ireland, he actually received some help from his own relatives. In addition to his nephew, Patrick was also accompanied by his sisters, who did what they could to help establish Christianity on the island.
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Local traditions identify one of St. Patrick’s holy sisters as “Darerca,” who may have been among those kidnapped and taken into slavery earlier on in the siblings’ life. It is said that Darerca became the mother of many children (some traditions say 17 children total); most of them were boys.
These boys eventually became influential in establishing the Church in Ireland as they became bishops throughout the country. Furthermore, many of these bishops are regarded as saints, such as Saint Mel of Ardagh, Saint Rioc of Inisboffin, Saint Muinis of Forgney, and Saint Maelchu.
The Catholic Encyclopedia also states “St. Darerca had two daughters, St. Eiche of Kilglass and St. Lalloc of Senlis. Her first husband was Restitutus the Lombard, after whose death she married Chonas the Briton.”
According to these traditions, the evangelization of Ireland was a “family affair” and the great Apostle of Ireland received much help from his own relatives.
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However, little is definitely known about his sisters (there is also a St. Lupita who is recorded as his sister), and many traditions diverge as to the exact details of who they were and what they did. Whatever the truth may be, the Irish people passed down to each generation stories of St. Patrick’s sisters and regarded them as holy women. They made a lasting impact on the island, one that endures to this day.
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