Last Friday evening (23 September), Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and the Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, officially launched Ministry Advocacy and Compassion a unique audio visual exhibition chronicling the role of the Church in the events of 1916.
For the first time, previously unseen historical documents from the
Dublin Diocesan Archive will be on display alongside material from many
other religious orders who were at the centre of events in Easter week.
The orders include the Capuchins, Dominicans, Franciscans, Irish
Sisters of Charity, Jesuits, the Loreto Sisters and the Sisters of
Among the artefacts which the public will now be able to view are the
memoirs of Capuchin priest, Fr Columbus Murphy OSFC, entitled, ‘My
experience in the 1916 Rising dated 29 July 1916.’
Because of their proximity to the centre of the fighting at Easter
1916, Fr Columbus and other Capuchins were asked to attend to the
leaders of the Rising before they were executed.
They wrote moving testimonies of the bravery of the men and how they received the sacraments of reconciliation and communion.
“Fr Columbus in his account and also Fr Aloysius [Travers] would have
attested that the men received communion with all devotion” comments Fr
Bryan Shortall, Guardian of the Capuchin Friary Dublin.
Also recorded in the memoirs is Pearse’s reaction to the news that his brother in arms, James Connolly had also seen a priest.
“When Padraic Pearse heard that James Connolly had been seen by Fr
Aloysius he said ‘That’s what I was hoping for, Thank God!’” says Fr
“The narrative of all these friars who were administering to rebel
leaders changed the perception of people and their attitude towards the
rebel leaders,” says Brian Kirby, provincial archivist for the Capuchin
Franciscan Province of Ireland.
Other documents that the Capuchins have contributed to the display
from their archives are the ‘In Memoriam’ cards for some of the Rising
leaders like Con Colbert, Michael O’Hanrahan and Edward Daly.
“This is an initiative of the archbishop of Dublin who was keen to
see that the Church’s role in the Rising was told properly,” Mr Kirby
The exhibition promises to “take people into the heart of the
fighting during the Easter Rising, where Catholic Priests risked their
lives to minister the Sacraments to the wounded and dying.”
“It examines the crucial acts of the nuns and clergy, as they
responded to the immediate needs of the hungry and displaced by
providing them with much-needed food and shelter and includes eyewitness
accounts of those who ministered to the condemned leaders.”
The free exhibition which will run until the end of the year,
includes the correspondence between Archbishop William Walsh and the
authorities during and after the Rising and letters received from Joseph
Mary Plunkett, Patrick Pearse, Fr Laurence Stafford and many others.