Landmark Limerick church returning to serve as place of traditional worship


MASS IN Latin will soon be heard again at a historic Limerick church that has been sold to a community of priests for one-sixth of its open-market asking price.

The Sacred Heart Church, located at the Crescent in Limerick city centre, which was on the market for more than €4 million, has been sold for €700,000 to a community of priests called the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

Also known as the Jesuit church after the order that built it and occupied it for many years, the Sacred Heart has been vacant for the last six years following its sale to the late John O’Dolan, a developer from Galway.

Mr O’Dolan, who died in 2009, had planned to convert the building into a leisure centre and bar.

But now the church, which was in danger of falling into disrepair, is to return to its original function following its sale to the religious community led in Limerick by 38-year-old French man Canon Wulfran Lebocq, the institute’s choirmaster, who has lived in Ballingarry since 2010.

He said the group was able to acquire the church “with the help of numerous friends from Ireland, the United States and continental Europe”.

“These were not rich people, just people who loved the church and wanted to see it restored to its original use,” he said.

“With God’s help we will repay all the loans we received. Many repairs need to be done in the residence but we hope to move in there soon. We will be meeting with the local parish priest and the diocese but we hope to be able to offer our Latin Mass there to the public soon,” he added.

The Institute of Christ the King has had a residence in Limerick since 2009.

Four members of the community in Limerick offer Mass in Latin every Sunday at St Patrick’s Church on the Dublin road, and they also work in neighbouring dioceses.

Founded in 1990, the institute belongs to the Roman Catholic tradition and says its mission is “to spread the reign of Christ in all spheres of human life”. It operates in 12 countries at more than 50 locations. It takes its motto from St Paul: “Live the truth in charity.”

The organisation puts particular emphasis on harmony between faith and culture, and has acquired a reputation for promoting the arts, especially sacred music and architecture.

The institute has a seminary in Gricigliano, in the Italian diocese of Florence, where 80 seminarians are training for the priesthood.

The Sacred Heart premises in Limerick has a floor area of 25,000sq ft and comprises the church, Georgian living quarters and an enclosed garden.

Canon Lebocq said he hopes the “architectural jewel” could work as a centre everyone can use.

“We truly desire to reopen this church for the benefit of all, in close collaboration with the local civil and ecclesiastical authorities. In this way, yet another sign of a brighter future will come alive in Limerick,” he said.

Pat Kearney, managing director of selling agent Rooney Auctioneers, said the sale will “breathe new life” into the area.

The church will open to the public on Saturday between 10am and 6pm.