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It’s 1951. Cobh, County Cork. Jo Murray is 18 years old and stands at the railing of a westbound transatlantic ship flanked by four other teenage Irish girls.

But these aren’t just any mid-century Irish immigrants. They’re going to Texas, and they’re going to become nuns.

For the past three years, I have lived on and off in the convent these women immigrated to in San Antonio, Texas with two of my great aunts, Sister Jo Murray and Sister Gabrielle Murray.

Their memories chronicle a century of change in the institutions of the church, race relations, economics and politics. Closer to heart for me, their curious grand niece, is that their conversations reveal the evolution of my international Irish family and the women who built it.

More by Emma Mahon Decker