Today we learned Carlow Town is to lose the presence of it’s beloved Capuchin Community as the Friary on Dublin Street is set to close next summer.
Below you can read the statement of both Br Sean Kelly, Provincial Minister for the Capuchins of the Province of Ireland and Bishop Denis which were read during the 1pm Mass in The Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow today (Monday 17.01.2022).
Statement of Br Sean Kelly, Provincial Minister for the Capuchins of the Province of Ireland
Dear brothers and sisters,
May the Lord give you His peace!
My name is Br. Seán Kelly and I am the Provincial Minister for the Capuchins of the Province of Ireland. I’m here today to speak to you about some changes we will be making in the near future in order to ensure the ongoing ministry of the friars in Ireland.
Every three years the friars gather in what we call Chapter to elect our leadership and to pray and discern as to how best we may follow our call to be Capuchins and better serve the Church, the people of God.
At our last Chapter we took some time to really examine our ability to maintain our presence and apostolates in nine communities across the country with now only 70 brothers, the average age of whom is 76. We decided therefore to enter into a period of discernment tasked with ensuring a more realistic distribution of the brothers and making closures where necessary.
This period of discernment has now come to an end and amongst a number of changes it is my sad task today to inform you that our time in Carlow is drawing to a close.
When the friary was opened in 1978 it was created with the express purpose of being a house for Postulants to our way of life working in collaboration with the nearby Seminary of St. Patrick’s College. Many of you will remember the many young men who passed through the friary testing their vocation with the friars, and the many brothers who gave stalwart service to the friary, to the college and indeed to the people of Carlow over those years.
However with the closure of the Seminary and the falling numbers of those seeking to discern a religious vocation, (there have been no postulants in Carlow since the early 90’s) to say nothing of our own falling numbers and aging profile the moment has come when we can no longer sustain the friary community here and for the sake of the better life of the friars and so as to ensure our overall future we will be withdrawing from Carlow after our Provincial Chapter in July of 2022.
We all know that times are changing, and the face of the Church in Ireland is changing too, but we friars have always been called by St. Francis to be pilgrims and strangers in the world, abiding not long in one place so as to ensure the constant rebirth and renewal of the Gospel. Please pray for us that these difficult but necessary changes may bring renewal to the Capuchins in Ireland, and please pray for an increase of vocations to priesthood and religious life. Above all else, please continue to support the friary community here. I would like to thank Br. Des the current Guardian and Br’s Philip, Pat and Damien for their constant witness to our way of life, their generous service of the people through these most difficult years and for their willingness to hear in the discernment of the brothers the call of the Holy Spirit to renew our way of life once again.
We know that this is a sad day for many of you, just as it is for us.
No Provincial wants to be the bearer of such news and no community wants to live through such a closure. In the midst of our sadness today we hope that you will also join us in gratitude for the many years we have lived and served amongst you all and for the many people; the staff, volunteers and benefactors who have made our way of life possible.
We know that when we go we leave a place that will always be a part of our story and your story and a place filled with the spirit of St. Francis and Clare. We are so grateful for the collaboration and support over our years here from our Poor Clare sisters and the SFO, (the Third Order). We hope to continue that collaboration from our friary in Kilkenny if possible.
We want to thank especially the Bishop and his predecessors and the clergy and staff of the Diocese for their enthusiastic welcome when we first mooted coming here and for their constant support over the years and their gracious understanding when I informed them of these changes.
Finally, brothers and sisters let me share with you an old proverb that comes from one of the most difficult times in Irish religious history, “Cuimhnion an Tir na Manaigh”, The land remembers the monks. That’s how our ancestors felt when they saw monasteries being closed. They knew that even with the monks in exile and the churches closed nothing could expunge the spirit and heritage of prayer and peace created by the life of those dedicated to faith. We hope and pray that such a spirit will be our lasting gift to the people of Carlow and we promise you our continued remembrance of you and of your families in our prayer wherever the years may take us.
Thank you for your attention.
May the Lord bless you all +
Statement of Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin
The Capuchins opened their friary in Carlow in 1978. The Order was looking for a new foundation to provide accommodation and a suitable training centre for new aspirants who would study at St. Patrick’s College. They were welcomed by Bishop Patrick Lennon. Work in earnest began converting what had been the Bank of Ireland building on Dublin Street into a place of prayer. Bishop Lennon blessed and opened the new oratory dedicated to St. Anthony in May 1978.
Today, the Feast of St. Anthony, the father of monasticism, is a very sad day for the people of Carlow. The friary on Dublin Street has for the past forty-four years been an oasis of prayer in the middle of a busy town. The Capuchins who have served here and the present community have all been ‘Ministers of Mercy’. I thank you publicly for that ministry today. Over the years the Capuchins were Spiritual Directors to the seminarians in St. Patrick’s; for that important role on behalf of the college alumni, I say many thanks. The Secular Franciscan Order (Third Order) has strong roots in many people across Carlow town and beyond and that membership has brought blessings on many. The assistance the community offer local priests and parishes is deeply appreciated. For many, including myself, the quiet moments of Eucharistic Adoration just in off the busy street is deeply treasured.
These are changing times for religious communities and for congregations. While the history of the Capuchin foundation in Carlow and in the diocese is relatively short, for us the people, it seems as if they have always been part of the fabric of the town for a long time. Today’s announcement that their friary will close next summer will be greeted across the town with great sadness. The Capuchins have been close to the heartbeat of Carlow for 44 years. Carlow town will be the poorer for their going, but much the richer for their having been here.