Monday, September 08, 2008

Passionists to close Northern Ireland monastery

The Passionist order has announced that it is closing one of its Northern Ireland houses, the Tobar Mhuire Monastery in Crossgar, County Down, as part of a rationalisation programme,

Superior Fr Dermot Gallagher said the order was “greatly saddened” at having to make the decision to close the 60-year old monastery at their recent chapter meeting.

The monastery – previously known as Crossgar House - was bought by the Passionists from Colonel Lwellan Palmer in 1950.

It has been a popular retreat and prayer centre ever since.

Fr Gallagher said he understood that many people in the local community were angry and disappointed at the closure announcement.

“But unfortunately we do not have the manpower to keep the place running as fewer people are now taking up vocations and the priests we do have are getting old” he explained.

“There are a lot of people involved in the day to day running of the monastery and it is with much regret that six staff members will have to look for other employment”, Fr Gallagher added

“Most of the staff have been here all their working lives and it will be really hard for them” he acknowledged.

He said the monastery was “well used”, with morning Masses “packed every morning” and Confessions were also well attended.

“We are still hanging on to a thread of hope that it may remain open - it’s a very sad time” he remarked.

There are currently five Passionist priests in Tobar Mhuire who will be transferred to other Passionist houses over the coming weeks. One will go to Dublin, two more to a new Passionist house in Galway and Fr Gallagher himself is going to Glasgow.

Commenting on the closure of the monastery, local SDLP politician Terry Andrews said it was a big loss to the people of Crossgar and the community at large. “The monastery has been part and parcel of local community life for almost 60 years and have done so much work for the neighbouring parishes and are very much appreciated by everyone” he observed.

“It is a pity it couldn’t remain open as it still provides such a valuable service for retreats and other functions.”

The local diocesan priest - Fr McMullan of St Joseph’s Church in Crossgar – also said the Passionists would be sadly missed. ”They have a great presence in the area and their absence will leave a big hole in the community” he said.

After they bought Tobar Mhuire in 1950, the Passionists moved their ‘juniorate’ - a second level school for boys interested in the religious life – to Crossgar from Belfast.

This school flourished for nearly thirty years and at its peak, was educating more than fifty students.

In 1976 Tobar Mhuire became the order’s noviciate, but has also hosted a variety of retreats, prayer gatherings and faith development programmes.
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(Source: CIN)

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