Holy Ghost order behind fee-paying schools to close nursing home for priests

Spiritans, founders of Blackrock College and Rockwell, to shut Marian House in Dublin

The religious congregation that founded some of Ireland’s best-known fee-paying schools is closing its Dublin nursing home due to costs, forcing elderly and infirm members, including former teachers, to relocate.

The Holy Ghost or Spiritan congregation, the order responsible for Blackrock College in Dublin, St Michael's College on Merrion Road and Rockwell College in Co Tipperary, is shutting the 27-bed Marian House in Kimmage on the south side of Dublin because it is no longer financially sustainable.

The Spiritans also founded St Mary's College in Rathmines and Templeogue College in Dublin.

The Catholic congregation is being given access to 30 beds in Nazareth House, the nursing home run by the Sisters of Nazareth on the Malahide Road in Clontarf on the north side of the city, for the residents.


Initially, 15 “confrères” will move to a new wing of Nazareth House, followed by a second group when the facility is ready before Marian House, which is located next to the congregation’s headquarters, Kimmage Manor, closes.


Some of the elderly residents, many of whom worked as missionaries in Africa, are said to be upset at the move given that they have devoted their lives to the order, many spending years living in difficult tropical conditions, and some are suffering poor health as a result of their work.

All options were considered, including having a much larger nursing home built in Kimmage by an external provider of nursing home care

A spokesman for the Irish Spiritans said the organisation’s leadership was “very cognisant of the contribution made over their lifetime, often in extremely difficult conditions, by those missionaries who are now, or will in the future be, in need of nursing home care and does not underestimate how upsetting a change of this nature can be.”

Marian House’s small capacity was a major reason for it being unsustainable, the order said, and the Spiritans were following similar moves by other religious congregations who have stopped providing nursing home care to their own elderly or infirm members.

“All options were considered, including having a much larger nursing home built in Kimmage by an external provider of nursing home care for the shared use of Spiritans and others,” the spokesman said. “However, lack of funding meant that this option could not proceed. Sale of assets would only have delayed the inevitable.”

The first Holy Ghost Fathers came to Ireland from France in 1859. Their missionaries serve in countries stretching from Brazil to Kenya and Pakistan to West Africa.

Well-known Spiritans

Prominent Irish Spiritans include John Charles McQuaid, the Catholic Primate of Ireland and Archbishop of Dublin from 1940 to 1972 who wielded significant influence over successive governments, and Fr Jack Finucane, the Limerick-born priest who played a leading role for decades in aid agency Concern.

The last Irish Spiritan to be ordained was in 2001; 36 were ordained in 1955. The first ordination since then will take place later this month.

The residents of Marian House were notified in a communiqué from Fr Marc Whelan, the provincial of the Spiritans in Ireland, and the provincial leadership team last Friday.

They acknowledged in the circular that “this very difficult but necessary change for the future wellbeing of the province and its members may come as a surprise and shock to many confrères, their families and staff at Kimmage, particularly staff involved in healthcare provision.

“Words fail us in expressing our profound gratitude on behalf of the province for the great loyalty shown to us by staff over their many years of service,” the communiqué said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent