I often ask the question, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” For me, it was last week when I was invited by the Poor Clare Sisters in Ennis to conduct their annual retreat.
By Fr Tom Ryan
This was a new experience for me, leading an enclosed order of nuns in reflection and prayer for eight days. These ladies, who are totally dedicated to a life of prayer, some for over 60 years, are an inspiration and tonic for any person to encounter. With their vow of enclosure, it is rare to see the sisters in public but following my experience, I can honestly say that they are among the ten happiest women living in Ennis.
In the year 1212, a light was kindled in a little monastery outside the walls of Assisi in Italy. Clare, whose name means clear light, had begun a new way of life under the guidance of her friend, Francis of Assisi. From then onwards, a new light shone in the church and throughout the centuries countless women have responded to the call of Clare, lighting their lives from her light.
Over 800 years later that light continues to burn in the Monastery in Ennis and in the five other monasteries of the Poor Clares in Galway, Cork, Carlow, Dublin and Drumshanbo. One morning in 1930, a young Co. Clare priest, Fr. Joseph Rodgers celebrated Mass in the Poor Clare Monastery, College Road, Cork. At breakfast afterwards, a Nun spoke to him from behind the curtained grille. She remarked that someday, with his help, the Poor Clares would come to the Diocese of Killaloe.
It turned out to be a prophecy. In 1947, Fr. Rodgers was appointed Co-Adjutor Bishop of Killaloe. The same year, Mother M. Columba, Abbess of the Poor Clares in Cork, applied to the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr Fogarty, for permission to make a foundation there. Although the reply was negative, Dr Rodgers, who communicated it to Mother Columba, stated that if he were ever in a position to admit the Poor Clares into the Diocese, he would gladly do so.
In 1955 Dr Rodgers became Bishop of Killaloe on the death of Bishop Fogarty. When the Poor Clare Abbess, Mother Mary Agnes Power, sought admission to the Diocese in 1956, the project was welcomed as the establishment of “of a power-house of prayer”. The “Friary Field” attached to the Franciscan Friary on Francis Street, was kindly donated by Fr. Hubert Quinn, Provincial of the Franciscans, himself a Clare man, as the site for the Monastery.
On Tuesday 17th September 1957, the Feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis, the ceremony of the blessing and laying of the foundation stone was performed by Bishop Rodgers with a great gathering of Friars, Clergy, Religious of the Diocese, Mr Rupert Boyd-Barrett Architect, Mr. Ignatius Houlihan, who had been appointed by Bishop Rodgers as advisor to Mother Agnes, Messrs. Doran, the builders, and many friends and supporters of the new foundation.
In little over a year, the Monastery was ready. Tuesday 7th October 1958, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, was chosen as the day to make the Foundation in Ennis. At 8.30 am Bishop of Cork, Cornelius Lucy, celebrated Mass in the Monastery Chapel, which was filled to capacity with neighbours and friends gathered to bid farewell to the Sisters destined for Ennis: Mother Agnes Power, Sr. Ann Dolorosa Carroll, Sr. Angela Whelan (sister of Anne Burke Corrib Drive) and Sr. Bernadette Coughlan, a Novice who is still a member of the community.
In Limerick Friary, the Guardian, Fr. Andrew OFM and the Friars warmly welcomed and entertained the Sisters after which they headed for Ennis. Arriving at the Mercy Convent, they were again given another warm welcome by Mother Lelia McKenna and the Sisters. That evening, the Friary Church was filled to capacity when Bishop Rodgers imparted Solemn Benediction and expressed “his joy at the arrival of the Poor Clares in this Centenary year of Our Lady’s Apparitions at Lourdes.” Once again he thanked all who had helped in making this Foundation possible. Finally, at the intonation of the Te Deum, the little group of Sisters walked down the aisle. Their families, the Friars and a huge crowd of Ennis people, made their way along Francis Street to see the sisters safely into their new Monastery.
Today there are ten members in the community and each day they pray for people like you and me in the Powerhouse of prayer, the late Bishop Rodgers, referred to on their arrival in our Diocese. People call to the Monastery and many write to tell the sisters their stories and ask them to pray for them. Whilst, prior to the Retreat I was apprehensive and anxious, by the end of the week I was very happy and blessed to have spent time with such holy women.
World Meeting of Families
On Saturday 23rd September the Diocese of Killaloe will hold a conference in the Oakwood Hotel from 9.30am to 1 pm on the World Meeting of Families which will be held in Dublin next August with Pope Francis attending. Speakers include Marie Stein from the Iona Institute. The conference is free but booking is essential. Fr. Arnold is our local contact.
Youth Faith Fest Day
The Diocese of Killaloe is organising a Your Faith Fest Day for young people in the senior cycle of secondary school. The day, which is free of charge and includes lunch, will take place on Saturday 30th September from 9.30am to 4.30pm in St. Flannan’s College, Ennis. Any young person interested in going can contact their School Chaplain or their local priest for full details. A day well worth exploring!
Matt Talbot Novena
Tuesday 3rd October will see the 25th year of the Matt Talbot Novena begin in Shannon. Each Tuesday, during October and November, people are invited to gather in Ss. John & Paul Church at 7.00pm to pray for all suffering or sharing in the life of addictions. Live streaming on shannonparish.ie.