The Capuchins in Ireland have announced the closure of two friaries and their withdrawal from residency in a Dublin parish due to the order’s aging profile and declining number of friars.
In a statement, Bro Seán Kelly, Capuchin Provincial, said the decision was made at their most recent chapter following an assessment of the order’s ability to maintain its presence and apostolates in nine communities across the country with only 65 friars with an average age of 78.
“For perspective, when I entered the Order in 2002, we had 114 friars with the average age being 70,” Bro Kelly said.
The closures will affect St Anthony’s Friary in Carlow and St Francis Friary, Rochestown, Cork while the withdrawal from residency relates to St Francis Parish in Priorswood, Dublin. The withdrawal from Rochestown and Carlow will take place after the Provincial Chapter in July 2022.
Rochestown friary was founded in the 1870s and was the first Capuchin friary to return to regular religious life after Penal times. “It is an important place to us and to so many friars” which over the years had become “the cradle of the order in Ireland”, Bro Kelly said.
St Francis College in Rochestown was founded first to encourage vocations and later became a boarding school. The friary has not had a vocation since the late 1980s. The college no longer operates as a boarding school but as a popular secondary school.
Bro Kelly said: “The closure of the friary will in no way affect the running of the college.” The friars will continue as its patrons, sitting on the board of management and providing a “link friar” to offer sacramental and pastoral assistance to the school community.
The Capuchin friary in Carlow was opened in 1978 as a house for postulants. However there have been no postulants in Carlow since the early 1990s.
The order will continue to administer the parish of Priorswood in Dublin but from August this year the friars will be resident in Raheny friary rather than on site in the parish.
“When it comes to the places we are leaving we know that when we go we leave a place that will always be a part of our story … and a place filled with the spirit of St Francis and St Clare,” the Capuchin provincial said.