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Mass of Farewell to the Capuchins celebrated by Bishop Denis

Mass @ 10.30am: Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow, 14.08.2022


The Twentieth Sunday introduces all this stuff about bringing “fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already”[1]. In recent days as we experience our heatwave, we’ve been often warned about how easily a fire can start, even a barbecue carries huge danger in hot weather. Pope Emeritus Benedict sees the fire that Jesus speaks about in the gospel as Christs’ love for us.  

The gospel doesn’t get any easier in the subsequent verses. Jesus tells us he hasn’t come to bring peace, but division. That’s hard to swallow; the Jesus we have grown to know and love always preaches a gospel of love, inclusion, acceptance and today he’s rattling on about three against two and two against three.

It doesn’t seem to add up or does it? Christianity is not for everyone, it has to disturb us, to unnerve us, to set us literally on fire. Fr. Eamonn Bredin, a Kilmore priest wrote a book years ago entitled ‘Disturbing the Peace, the way of disciples’. The Capuchin presence on Dublin Street for 44 years has been living out this call to discipleship. Thousands got great peace from the weekday Eucharists in their small chapel; thousands got comfort from the sacrament of confession in their little sacristy; thousands spent time with the Lord in their hours of Adoration.

And the men were visibly present wearing their Capuchin habits on the streets, in the College, in the Cathedral and Churches of Carlow. And today as town, as parish, as diocese we have come to say thanks – to Des, Philip, Damien and Pat and all who have gone before them. The Capuchin departure, sad that it is, is a reality check for us all, that we are all passing through.

Let’s take a moment as we place ourselves in God’s mercy …


I didn’t know Monsignor Seán Swayne! That’s why my excitement grew during the week when I noticed he had written a reflection for this particular Sunday in the Dominican quarterly publication Scripture in Church. Unfortunately a printing error meant it offered no insights, because they used the scripture readings of last Sunday and not this mornings. Seán, I dare say, would not look kindly on such an aberration! Seán would have interested me, because I hear a lot about his legacy in liturgy, in church building, in sacred worship. He died in 1996, long before I was attuned to all things Kildare & Leighlin! Seán might begin a homily with a particular story: “A visitor to a monastery asked an old monk: ‘What is a monk?’. To which the old man replied: ‘A monk is someone who every day of his life asks, ‘What is a monk?’”[2]

We might reasonably ask today, What is a Capuchin? We might even ask what’s the difference between a Franciscan and a Capuchin! All answers on a postcard please and Fr. Des will give you a prize later in the Parish Centre! We mightn’t know the nuances of the habit; we mightn’t understand the history of the foundation, but we do know the difference these men and those before them have made to the lives of thousands over the past forty-four years.

1978 was the year they came among us. The Irish Catholic Directory of 1978 lists eight Capuchin houses in Ireland and for the first time Carlow is listed, and it was termed a Postulancy, connected to St. Patrick’s College next door. The community then was five: Fr. Christopher Twomey, the first Guardian, Fr. Paul Murphy, the Director of Postulants and the remaining members were Br. Gerard, Fr. John and Fr. Patrick. In 1978 there were fifteen ordinations in St. Patrick’s College, among those ordained were our own Tom Dooley, Dan Dunne and Pat Hennessy. An t-Athair Seán O’Laoghaire was Adm here in the Cathedral. In fact today marks the first anniversary of his death. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a ainm dílis.

In 1978 the Poor Clare’s had a community of 20. St. Leo’s, a community of 62. The Presentation Sisters had a community of 25. Bishop Patrick Lennon was the Bishop and Mgr. Larry Ryan was President of the College. 1978 was the year when Dallas had its debut on CBS. Israel won the Eurovision with A Ba Na Bi, A Ba Ni Ba! It was the year of the three Popes. Argentina won the World Cup. Shergar won the Derby and the State Funeral for former President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh took place in Sneem, County Kerry.

Capuchin Friars have always been called by St. Francis to be pilgrims and strangers in the world, as Br. Seán Kelly reminded us at the Mass here in the Cathedral last January when the news of their departure from Carlow first emerged. Friars were not to abide long in one place so as to ensure the constant rebirth and renewal of the Gospel message. Fr. Des will take up a role as chaplain in St. Francis Hospice in Dublin; Br. Philip will follow in the steps of the infamous Br. Kevin going to Church Street. Fr. Pat will head up to Ards Friary while Fr. Damien will go the very opposite direction to Cork. 

The Opening Collect for today’s Mass speaks of “good things which no eye can see”. Seán Swayne would always insist on seeing the liturgy as an entire unit, every aspect says something. It would be impossible the quantify the good the Capuchins have done among us, be assured we are most grateful. The way of the disciples is often to disturb the peace: “three against two and two against three”[3]. Our faith is not something to be comfortable about, but something that offers others comfort. We read the recent accolades to Br. Kevin where his work transformed the lives of those who availed of the Capuchin services on Church Street from the misery of a broken past to a more hope filled future. We are all passing through, let us pray that like the Capuchins we will make an impact, an impact inspired by the simplicity of the man from Assisi. I started with Seán Swayne and will end with him, their paths would have crossed often in the corridors of the College, the liturgist and the Spiritual Director, each of them critically forming the seminarians of their day. For this and much more to the Capuchins we say míle buíochas go leir.

[1] Lk.12:49

[2] Scripture in Church, Dominican Publications, Vol. 52, I July to 30 September 2022, no. 207.

[3] Lk.12:52