Prayers of the faithful: Franciscan church in Limerick closes to the public
ONE OF the religious orders longest-established in Limerick has celebrated its final Mass in the city after more than 700 years of serving the local community.
The Franciscan church on Henry Street held its final Mass last night and hundreds of people gathered for the occasion. It is the second church to close its doors in Limerick in recent years – in 2006 the Jesuits’ church in the Crescent was closed.
The decision by the Franciscans to leave, described by the order as “painful”, was taken as a result of “a steep decline in numbers and a consequent age imbalance”.
“However we are greatly comforted in the knowledge that a Franciscan presence will remain in the area in the form of the members of the Secular Franciscan Order, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the newly-arrived Friars of the Renewal in Moyross,” said Fr Joe McMahon.
The Franciscan Order has handed over its church and friary in Limerick to a specially established Church trust which will be at the service of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Mary Immaculate College.
According to a statement issued yesterday, the Bonaventure Trust is consulting widely “on how best the intentions of the Franciscan community can be fulfilled” and is currently awaiting a statement on the planning situation in relation to the building.
Speaking at last night’s farewell Mass, the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray, said the Franciscans’ generous gift of the church to the trust meant the order would continue to serve the faith community in Limerick long after their physical presence there had ceased.
“The property will be held by the Bonaventure Trust which has been named after the saint who was perhaps the greatest of the Franciscan theologians,” explained Bishop Murray.
“In a world of such rapid change and new challenges, this gift will serve a vital purpose,” he added.
Bishop Murray added that the 21st century so far was not proving to be an easy time for the Church, with falling Mass attendance, declining vocations, less visible presence of religious ideas and events in daily life.