It is with great sadness that within the last few days we have learned that both the Dominicans and the Franciscans Friars will end their centuries long presence in the Diocese. This is a huge double blow, not only to the whole Diocese but far beyond. For one of these Orders to leave would have been difficult enough but the news of the departure of both in such a short space of time makes it especially severe. These two Orders have been among us for almost 800 years. The Dominicans’ arrival dates back to before 1235 when the first priory was built. The Franciscans arrived here around the year 1245 and set up a friary in Waterford city and later in Clonmel. From the friary in Clonmel the Franciscans had continued to offer Mass in the city on a daily basis up to now, having left the Waterford friary in 2019.
Over eight centuries these men celebrated the Sacraments, visited the sick and the lonely, fed the poor and brought hope and consolation to many.
Now to our intense sorrow both Orders are leaving. In November the Dominicans will celebrate the final Mass in their beautiful Bridge Street church. In early January next year the Franciscans they will withdraw definitively from Clonmel and from the Diocese. I can appreciate how difficult it was for the Orders to make these decisions but the lack of new vocations and an ageing profile meant that leaving was inevitable.
The sight of the friars in their habits was always welcome and we were reminded that God is with us. Their churches were places of prayer, solace and refuge. It would be impossible to adequately sum up the impact these men had on the lives of countless thousands.
I was fortunate to have gotten to know several of the Franciscans and Dominicans both in the city and in Clonmel – men of welcome, of simple lifestyle and of prayer. I wish them every blessing as they move to other houses and pray in thanksgiving for all they did and achieved.
Let us pray also that new vocations will come and that many will be inspired to follow St. Dominic and St. Francis who taught us how to live simply and to praise God with our lives.