THE CARMELITE ABBEY
LOUGHREA, co. GALWAY. 1645 – 1983
PHELIM MONAHAN, O.D.C.
HISTORY OF THE CARMELITEABBEY
LOUGHREA, CO. GALWAY
1645 – 1983
PHELIM MONAHAN, O.D.C.
The Carmelites came to Loughrea in 1300 A.D. The Old Abbey, dedicated to Our Lady served the people of Loughrea until 1650 or so, when it was ravaged by the Cromwellians who disbanded the friars.
Just before the Cromwellians dissolution the Discalced Carmelties came to Loughrea and were welcomed by the Bishop of Clonfert and by the people of the town at whose request they came.
The history of the Old Abbey has already been chronicled in a previous booklet entitled “The-Old Abbey, Loughrea, 1300 – 1650″.
The pages which follow endeavour to tell in brief outline the story of the Discalced Carmelites at Loughrea since their arrival to the present day.
They are dedicated to all those who have contributed to maintaining a Carmelite presence in Loughrea for almost seven centuries and to all those who shall continue to do so in the years to come.
May the Queen of Carrnel and her Spouse St. Joseph, patron of the present Abbey, bless all who read these pages.
The Seventeenth Century (1645 – 1700)
The Discalced Carmelites came to Ireland in 1625. They established a number of houses within a short time after their arrival and by 1638 they were sufficiently numerous to form an Irish Province. By 1644 they had houses at Dublin, Kilkenny, Athboy, Kinsale, Ardee, Limerick and Galway. In 1645 they took over the ruined Abbey at Loughrea.
In January 1647 the Papal Nuncio, John Baptist Rinuccini issued a Decree in favour of the Loughrea foundation, in response to a request from the people of the town. The bishop of Clonfert, Dr. John Burke, cordially received the new arrivals and in January 1649 the nuncio issued a second decree confirming the friars in possession of the foundation in perpetuity.
In April 1652 the CromwilIian army took over the city of Galway and ransacked all the religious houses there. On January 6th 1653, the CromwelIians issued an edict banishing all priests from Ireland. As a result of prolonged persecution following on this edict most of the Carmelites on the Irish mission were forced to go abroad. A list compiled in Rome at this time by Fr. Isidore gives their places of refuge as Flanders, France, Lombardy, Rome, Malta and Piedmont. Church vestments and sacred vessels were smuggled out of the country and stowed away at Brest for safety.
While in exile, one of the Fathers, Fr. Paul, published in Antwerp, a spiritual classic, entitled ‘The Soul’s Delight’. It was a treatise on prayer and was dedicated to Lady Frances Butler of Kilcash near Carrick-on-Suir. Because the Irish Fathers were widely dispersed there was no Irish delegate at the General Chapter in 1656. Letters survive however from the year 1657 from Fathers Patrick and Paul Simon in exile at Bruges requesting permission to return to Ireland in order to misister to their countrymen now bereft of spiritual help. A year later Fr. Patrick was in London and in a letter to the General at Rome describes how the persecution continues unabated both in England and in Ireland.
By 1659 we find that nine Carmelite priests and one brother were back in Ireland. In 1660 King Charles 11 became King of England and with a monarch no longer hostile to Catholicism many more exiled religious began to make their way home. Fr. Paul writing to the General Chapter of 1661 mentions the toleration which Catholics now enjoy and gives the whereabouts of 10 of his colleagues on the Irish mission.
The Loughrea Friars
A long letter from Fr. Agapitus Plunkett at this time to the General at Rome gives us a good account of the condition of the church throughout the country. In 1664 Fr. Agapitus as Provincial asked Rome for permission to open a noviciate house in Ireland and his request was granted. The following year we find him at the General Chapter at Rome pressing for a house on the continent where Irish aspirants could undergo their student training.
In further correspondence with Rome Fr. Agapitus mentions that the friars have returned to Loughrea and are ministering to a fervent Catholic people there. He mentions in particular Fr. Cyril McHugo who took up residence at Loughrea in 1662 and was to work there until his death.
Loughrea A Noviciate
Ireland was not represented at the General Chapter of 1671 but the Chapter Acts refer to a request from Ireland for a novicate. Next year 1672 Loughrea was formally designated a priory and noviciate. In the same year the Loughrea community complained of being molested by the commander of the town garrison. He took exception to their efforts to build a residence and by informing against Clanrickarde who was favourable to the project he was able to put a stop to any further building.
In 1673 the Lord Lieutenant and Council issued an edict in October banishing all regular clergy from the kingdom by December and decreeing that their monasteries be suppressed. Not all Carmelites obeyed this order for in 1674 we find Fr. Thomas representing the Irish Mission at the General Chapter. The Acts of the Chapter refer to permission granted to the Irish Mission aspirants for the present to Aix-la-Chapelle. A renewed persecution broke out in October 1678 and it would seem that the friars at Loughrea were among the religious referred to by Oliver Plunkett as dispersed and in exile. Oliver himself was soon to die a martyr following his arrest.
King James II
In 1685 King James II, a catholic king ascended and the English throne and a new era of toleration began. The noviciate was reopened at Loughrea and there is mention of three novices, Brothers Anthony, Nicholas and Paul.
In 1687 the Carmelites lost a good friend in the person of William, 7th Earl of Clanrickard. Both his name and that of his family are mentioned as being members of the Confraternity of the Holy Scapular of Our Blessed Lady of Mt. Carmel.
An old confraternity record refers to other members of the Clanrickarde family who were also associated with it. They we Richard 8th Earl; John 9th Earl; the Lady Lettice, daughter of John; the Lady Mary Burke her sister; the Lady Honor Burke daughter of Earl William who married Patrick Sarsfield; the Hon. Ulick Burke; the Hon. Thomas Burke; the Hon. William Burke. In his ‘Clanricharde Memoirs’ published in 1757 the then Marquis Clanrickarde deplored the fact that his illustrious ancestors were then Catholics.
Encounter At Loughrea
Ireland was not represented at the General Chapter of 1689 nor indeed at any General Chapter again until 1872.
On 1st March 1689 Sir Thomas South well marching at the head of a troop of horse from Clare to Sligo was intercepted by Capt. Thomas Burke commander of the army garrison at Loughrea. South well and his men were forced to surrender their horses and arms on condition that no injurious action be taken against them. The terms of the agreement were not put in writing but Capt. Burke acknowledged the truth thereof in the presence of Lord Galway, Friar Dolphin and others at Loughrea. (cfr. The Irish Chieftains by Blake Foster p. 558).
Provincial Chapter At Loughrea
In 1690 there is the record of the death of Br. Joseph at Loughrea. In 1691 the delegates for the Provincial Chapter assembled there and we are fortunate that its published acts have survived. After some deliberation the chapter decided to elect a Prior and Subprior for both the Dublin and Loughrea houses, as well as other officials prescrobed by law.
The members of the chapter are listed as follows; Fr. Henry (Prior, Loughrea); Fr. John Baptist (Subprior and Novice Master); Fr. Felix; Fr. Luke; Fr. Patrick; Fr. Columbanus; Fr. Bernard.
The election results were as follows; Fr. John Baptist (Prior, Loughrea); Fr.Felix (Prior, Dublin); Fr. Bernard (Subprior, Loughrea); Fr. Thomas (Subprior, Dublin). Frs. Henry and Luke were chosen as representatives to the next General Chapter at Rome.
The Acts of the chapter were signed by the seven members present. The title of the Loughrea house is given as the monastery of St. Mary and St. Teresa.
In June 1691 the two newly elected priors sent ajoint letter to Rome telling of the state of the Irish mission and asking that special account be made of their difficult situation.
Reading the 1691 records one is puzzled by the mention of the death of a Belgian brother, Br. Hippolytus, which took place at the Abbey that year.
Battle of Aughrim
On 12th July 1691 the fateful battle of Aughrim took place. The defeated Jacobite army retreated via Loughrea and the remains of the French general, St. Ruth were interred in the Abbey cemetery privately. Tradition has it that five members of the Abbey community were present at the burial.
Fr. Angelus writing to Rome from Loughrea at this time mentions that a number of suitable candidates had presented themselves recently and efforts must be made to provide for them.
General Chapter Of 1692
When this question of providing for Irish aspirants was raised at the General Chapter of 1692 it was decided that because Ireland lacked the required resources provision would have to be made for them abroad.
In 1693 mention is made of the kindness of Dr. Ambrose Madden, Vicar Capitular of the See of Clonfert since 1687. His name is recorded in an old list of members of the Brown Scapular Confraternity.
In 1694 news reached the Abbey of the death in France of Fr. Anthony, a novice professed there in 1687.
The year 1695 marked the launching of a severe penal code of laws aimed at the extinction of the Catholic population. It was says Dalton in his history, “the most shameful of which there is record. In session after session for nearly fifty years new and more galling fetters were forged until at last the penal code was complete”.
There were only 6 friars left on the Irish mission by 1696 and the outlook for the future was never so bleak. Things became even worse when the Decree of Banishment of 1697 ordered all clergy to quit the country by May 1698. Fr. Joseph Power the regional superior was forced to leave for Rome and in exile he was commissioned to act as agent with the Holy Sea on behalf of the Irish bishops.
There is evidence that the friars were forced to leave Loughrea once more in1698. In the Public Record Office there is a document dated 1698 which says that Thomas Burke of Corbane, Co. Galway undertook the care of a chalice, paten, alb, cope, antependium, surplice and tabernacle cover to the value of ten pounds sterling. (Bundle 73, No. 378, Irish Parliamentary Records). As these documents include some papers seized in raids on the Loughrea friary, it seems certain the items listed belonged to either the friars or the nuns at Loughrea.
Meanwhile in Rome Fr. Joseph was making a last desperate appeal to the authorities to try and save the Irish mission from extinction.
As a result of his efforts Bishop Maurice Donnellan held a visitation at the Abbey in 1697 and reported favourably on the suitability of the house for formation purposes.
But by the end of 1698 it seems certain from the chronicle of Fr. Felix that the Abbey community was in exile.
The Felix Chronicle
Fr. Felix Kennedy, a Munsterman, was professed at Piedmont in 1656. He reached Dublin in 1671 and was a conventual at Loughrea in 1672 and 1678. He left Ireland later but returned in 1691. He died in exile at Paris in 1715. The chronicle which he left was written after 1698 and it throws much light on events of which he had personal experience from 1672 onwards.
The following sequence of events taken from the Felix Chronicle may therefore be taken as trustworthy:
1) In 1662 Fr. Agapitus went to Rome for the General Chapter and was appointed Vicar Provincial. Some 12 fathers and 3 brothers returned to Ireland in view of the toleration enjoyed under King Charles H.
2) In 1665 Fr. Agapitus was present again at the General Chapter and obtained permission to start a noviciate at Trent but the project never materialised. Two novices were sent to Sicily where one died while still a novice. The other Victorinus became a professor in Malta and later Vicar Provincial in the Irish region.
3) In 1671 Fr. Felix and others were asked by the General to return to Ireland and cater for the needs of the province.
4) Fr. Felix reached Ireland soon after and decided that Loughrea was the most suitable place for a novice, since the Earl of Clanricarde , the owner of the town was an excellent Catholic and the townspeople were anxious to have the friars back.
- Soon afterwards Frs. Patrick and Cyril came to joun Fr. Felix. They rented a house near the old church and furnished it to suit their requirements.
- At the provincial elections in 1672 Fr. Bernard was elected as Prior of Loughrea with Fr. Patrick as Novice Master. The Loughrea community also jincluded Frs. James, Cyril, Felix and one brother. Five novices were given the habit on 8th September and two others received the habit later.
- In 1672 the friars began to build a new monastery. A number of benefactors came to their aid and the Earl of Clanrickarde promised to supply the timber. But soon representations were made to the Privy Council and they were forced to stop building.
- The Loughrea community in 1674 elected Fr. James as their representative to the next General Chapter at Rome.
- Because of the Edict of Banishment the Loughrea community was forced to disperse and the novices had to be sent abroad. They set sail from Galway in a French vessel but were captured by a Dutch corsair on the high seas and forced to work as servants. They were put ashore in Spainand given a waarm welcome. They set out on foot for Marseilles and their conferes at Valladolid gave them mounts to complete the journey. When they reached France however they were ordered by the Roman authorities to retrace their steps and go to Malta for theri studies.
- In 1675 the Loughrea community reassembled with Fr. James of St. Dympna as Prior and Fr. Patrick as Novice Master. In 1677 Fr. Patrick set out on foot for Rome as delegate to the General Chapter.
- In 1678 the friars were again disbanded. Frs. Patrick aand Felix took refuge for a while with Clanrickarde at Portumna and then went via Nenagh to Limerick for the continent after putting the sacred vessels and vestments in safe keeping.
- Some of the exiles died on the continent but by 1684 the others were back at Loughrea with Fr. Thomas as superior.
- In 1685, because of the toleration afforded under King James 11 the Loughrea friars adopted a local dwelling house for use and decided to reroof the old church.
- n 1688 Fr. Henry was superior at Loughrea and Fr. John Baptist was Novice Master. The community continued unmolested until 1691 when they were forced to leave once more, some via Limerick and some via Galway. At this time Br. Joseph died at an advanced age. He had never left the Loughrea district since the time of the Cromwellian persecution and had continued to work in secret in the area. Fr. Henry, the Prior, was too old to travel and was given hospitality by a local Protestant family. Three Fathers, Augustine, Luke and Patrick sailed out from Limerick before the Williamite siege and took with them two novices who were professed later at Avignon.
- One of the articles of the Treaty of Limerick granted religious freedom to Catholics but when the friars came back to Loughrea they found an Orange garrison in possession of their house and church. Once more they rented a house and resumed community life.
- At Christmas 1692 an order for the arrest of Catholic clergy was made and in the subsequent round up Fr. John Baptist was taken at Loughrea and brought in custody to Galway, while Fr. Felix was taken in Tipperary and lodged in Clonmel gaol. Soon after however, through the influence of King William of Orange who did not wish to offend his Catholic friends, both were released and returned home.
- In November 1696 Fr. Joseph was Vicar Provincial and Fr. John Baptist was residing at Loughrea. Both were arrested and detained for 15 weeks at Galway.
- Fr. Felix concludes his cronicle with an account of the exodus of the friars following on the Banishment Act of 1698. He pays tribute to the loyalty of his confreres to the faith in spite of continued persecution.
End Of The Century
The Chronicle of Fr. Felix forms a fitting conclusion tothe history of the Irish mission fron 1645-1700. From a himan point of view it would seem that the end of the mission might well have come. But as the Annals of the Four Masters put it after the Battle of Kinsale and the Flight of the Earls, “the end was not yet”.
The Eighteenth Century (1700-1800)
At the opening of the 18th century there were as few as 3 Carmelites left on the Irish mission. During a great part of the coming century the Penal Laws were in full force and this accounts no doubt for the fact that records for the 18th century previous.
There is a tradition that the old bells belonging to the Abbey were buried during Penal times for safe keeping, somewhere in the vicinity, but the exact burial place remains a secret. Rocks where the friars are said to have celebrated Mass in penal times adjoin the present enclosure wall of the Carmelite Convent. Near these rocks it is said that a chalice and candlesticks were found burried in later years.
On 25th November 1701 a proclamaation was issued offering a £100 reward for the capture of a bishop, £30 for a Vicar General or Provincial, and £10 for any religious. It was the begining of a persecution which became still fiercer under what Edmund Burke called the “ferociious acts of Queen Anne” (1702-14).
In April 1703 a proclamation was issued for the arrest of persons who rescued Bishop Maurice Donnellan, titular Popish bishop of Clonfert and lamenting that so great was his power and influence that few or none of the rioters who rescued him could be found.
In two letters written by Bishop Donnellan to Rome he furnishes a vivid picture of what the clergy and religious had to endure on the Irish mission. (Spic. Ossor. 11, p. 374 ff).
The registration of Popish Clergy Act of 1703 obliged each clergyman to appear at the next Quarter Sessions and register full particulars of name and residence. It permitted one diocesan priest to each parish (bishops and religious were already banished) but existing clergy were to have no successors.
The death of Bishop Maurice Donnellan is recorded in the obituary of Meelick Abbey for the year 1706.
Some Friars Still Left
An entry in the Dublin Gazette for 1708 claimed that all religious were banished from the Galway region but we have evidence of five Carmelites still in Ireland and some of them more that likely were at Loughrea.A law of 1709 enacted that all Popish priests ahall take an Oath of Abjuration before March 1710 but the enactment went unheeded.On 11th March 1712, Dr. Ambrose Madden, described as ‘a regular Popish Priest from the parish of Loughrea’ was arrested.A Penal Cross dated 1713 was preserved by the Carmelite nuns until recently, when it was presented to the local Diocesan Museum.
More Friars Return
A document of 1714 referring to efforts made to seize some regular clergy says: “We are credibly informed that a great number of friars have come into this kingdom and settled themselves in places one of which is Loughrea” (Burkes Priests in Penal Times p. 425).In 1715 Fr. Felix Kennedy to whom we are indebted for the Chronicle already quoted, died in exile in Paris. In the same year died the bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Ambrose Madden,In March of this year the Grand Jury of Co.Galway represented to the Lord Justices “that great numbers of Popish priests and friars had lately come into the kingdom and had settled at Kilconnell, Portumna, MeeJick, Headford and Loughrea”.A Carmelite chalice dated 1717 is still in use in the Dublin monastery. There is also reference at this time to novices being smuggled abroad for education on the continent.
One of the friars left in Ireland in 1719 was Fr. James Mahon, for he made a translation of the Carmelite Tertiary Manual in that year and copies of it still survive.
In the year 1720 there were at least 6 friars in Ireland. One of them at Loughrea witnessed the finding of a historic chalice in the ivy-clad Abbey ruin. This chalice dated 1641 is still in daily use for Mass.
Around 1722 there is mention of a Fr. Nicholas McHugo who died at Naples. Two other members of .the McHugo family were conventuals at Loughrea in these years while their sister was a member of the Mt. Carmel community.
In 1726 the General Fr. Ignatius visited Ireland and came to Loughrea to hold a visitation in September. There is also a mention of overseas students who were professed at this time in Naples. They were smuggled out despite the Penal Laws.
A letter from the Irish Provincial Superior in 1729 gives us a clue to the whereabouts of other friars on the continent. He asks the General to send back some of the students as soon as they have completed their courses at LiIIe, Naples and Lombardy. He goes on to enquire where he can send a further 5 aspirants who are now at Loughrea.
Fr. Patrick Provincial
Fr. Patrick Provincial in the course of correspondence mantions that there are 6 nuns and some novices in the Loughrea convent. A letter of the same year (1730) reached Mother Teresa Burke at Mt. Carmel from her cousin, Fr. Burke O.P. at Rome. It tells of events at Rome and inquires about members of the Burke family back home.
In his capacity as Provincial Fr. Patrick visited Mt. Carmel convent in 1731 and his signature on the account book gives the dates of his visit as 24th September.
Raid On The Abbey
A report in the Public Record Officee for the year 1731 runs as follows: “A raid was made at midnight on ye Popish fryary at Loughrea but the only incriminating evidence was an altar list of deceased to be prayed for. They had previous notice and removed everything away”.
It is clear that by 1731 quite a number of overseas friars had succeeded in returning secretely as there were 13 in all in Ireland that year and these included
Frs. Nicholas Coleman, Francis Coleman, Joseph Renatus and a Fr. Coleman atLoughrea.
The total number of friaries listed for Galway for the year 1732 was 10, while the only nunnery listed was at Loughrea.
A document of 1733 in the Public Records Office Dublin states that “the fryers at Loughrea rent their house from one Lynch, brother-in-law of Denis Daly, a Papist”. The report was submitted by Strafford Eyre of Eyrecourt.
It seems the Loughrea community took steps to provide themselves with a proper monastery soon after this for an old entry for 1739 referring to Loughrea states that Fr. Roberston had built a monastery and in 1740 permission was granted to accept aspirants there. Next year there is mention of the profession of Bra. John Hynes which took place on 22nd July.
Fr. Henry Hogan
By 1743 Fr. Henry Hogan was a member of the Loughrea community and his account books and register of members of the Brown Scapular confraternity are of great interest. The register contains a long list of names including both clergy and laity from all over the diocese of Clonfert.
In March 1744 Richard Crossdale sent to Dublin Castle a list of Popish Clergymen in Co. Galway. For the Loughrea Friary he lists: Henry Hogan, James Coleman, Peter Cullenan, John Lennon and two others names Leahy and CoIeman.
Fr. Hogan’s List
Fr. Hogan was born at Loughrea in 1705 and after his studies in France returned there and was Prior in 1755. Around the year 1744 he drew up a list of religious living in Ireland and also a list of those who had died before 1744.
Among those who had died at Loughres he lists: John Lynch, John Dolphin, John Ward, Henry Grady, Nicholas McHugo, Raymond McHugo and John Sheehan.
In 1745 the death is recorded of Peter Callanan who had done his studies in France at Marseilles.
A note in the hand of Fr. Hogan leads us to infer that he was either Prior or Bursar in 1748. He gives us an inventory of all church vestments and makes a reference to a payment made in June of £l.2.2, an instalment on arrears which had mounted to £16.0.0.
He records too that in 1751 Brs. Thomas Nugent and Joseph Barrett were professed at Loughrea and proceeded to Paris to continue their studies.
An old register of burials for 1752 refers to the south chapel in the old Abbey as Slane O’Briens Chapel and another is referred to as Laurences Moores Chapel. The names probably derive from well known graves in these chapels.
An official list of friars dated October 1755 runs as follows: Fr. Henry Hogan, Fr. Anthony Conelan, Fr. Nicholas McHugo, Fr. Michael Creagh, Fr. Albert Casey, Fr. Nicholas McGlennon and Br. Nicholas Hynes.
Irish Novices Abroad
Two Irish novices, John Francis Ward and Eliseus Smyth made their professions at La Scala in Rome in September 1767.
An interesting letter survives also from 1767 from a man in Derrybrien to the Loughrea community. “I Edmund Burke, a man from DeITY Bryan, am devoted to your holy Order and as 1 find it inconvenient to hear and assist at the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass on Sundays and Holidays 1 beg the prayers of the community towards a happy death”.
A former Loughrea novice, James Hickey died at Genoa in 1770. He had been sent to do his studies in Malta and does not seem to have ever returned.
Deaths At Loughrea
Next year 1771 Fr. Anthony Conelan died after a long and fruitful ministry. He was 76 years of age.
Two other Abbey stalwarts passed to their reward in 1772. An inscription that year on a tombstone in the old Abbey is inscribed: “Lord have mercy on the souls of Frs. John Henry Hogan and James McHugo, both Carmelite friars of Loughrea Abbey”.
Br. Nicholas Hynes another long standing member of the community passed to his eternal reward in 1775. One of the most noteworthy friars to die at this period was Fr. Seraphin Power, who died at Bordeaux in 1778. He left behind him a memory for learning and holiness in France where he taught philosophy and theology for 36 years.
Permission From Rome
In 1779 the Congregation of Bishops and Regulars granted all Irish Provincials permission to reopen noviciates and so Loughrea once more became the official noviciate of the Irish region. The first novice mentioned is Simon O’Brien for the year 1781. Fr. Mark was novice master and Fr. Columbanus was Prior for that year. Br. Simon was professed on 4th May 1782 and set out for Holland to do his studies. Fr. Simon, the above mentioned Prior died on 18th September 1783.
In 1784 Bro. John McCann entered the Noviciate and after profession was sent to France for studies. He was compelled to return later at the outbreak of the French Revolution and was ordained at Loughrea.
By 1785 Catholic Relief measures allowed Catholic more freedom. In that year there is mention of “a little fryary and public church at Loughrea” and the resident community is listed as Fr. Thomas O’Hara (Prior). Mark Walsh (Novice Master) and Patrick Hannigan. The first mail coach service from Dublin via Loughrea began in 1790. A French celebrity, Baron de Montbret came by coach that year and recorded a very favourable impression of the town and its people. “Loughrea has some 5000 inhabitants. There the French General St. Ruth is laid to rest. This is a pleasant town where the people engage in a number of manufacturing industries. The people are extremely good humoured. Beside the walks is an Abbey no longer in use but well preserved and its cemetery contains many tombs”. (J.R.S.A. 1931).
Clarendon Street Church
The lease held out by the Dublin friars ran out in 1793 and the community then decided to transfer to Clarendon St. the site of the present church. The community of that year at Loughrea consisted of Frs. Patrick King, Mark Walsh, Patrick Hannigan, Simon O’Brien and John McCann.
Mark Walsh was to die in 1794 while Fr. Hennigan’s death is recorded for 1795. Meanwhile the Dublin community was busy with the building of their new church which opened for Divine worship in May 1797.
In 1797 the Bishop of Clonfert in a report to Rome written in Latin states:
“There is a Carmelite monastery in this diocese with 3 friars and a Carmelite convent with 10 nuns”. He comments too on the good relationship he has with the Carmelite community and the nuns at Loughrea and with the Dominican community at Esker. He is of the opinion that the confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a source of rich spiritual fruit among the people.
Year Of The French
The year 1798 was a year of rebellion. In August of that year when the rebellion had been brought under control Humbert arrived at Killala with a small force. Lord Cornwallis, the Lord Deputy, on his march from Dublin to intercept the French passed through Loughrea and swelled his forces by taking with him the garrison in the Loughrea barracks, now the site of the Temperance Hall.
Search For Records
In 1799, Fr. Isodore Long joined the Loughrea community. In that year Fr. Serapion O’Reilly tells us that he had tried in vain to find any further records of the Irish mission for the past century and a half. He contented himself with compiling a useful list of all the friars whose names were associated with the region since 1645. In most cases he seems to draw of the lists compiled by Fr. Hogan in 1744.
End Of The Centuary
The 18th century is, as was stated, remarkably scarce in documentary evidence. The main source of information is the correspondence with the superiors at Rome. It was a century when the numbers on the Irish mission was sometimes as low as three or four and never exceeded twenty.
When one considers the restrictions and disabilities they endured under the Penal Code, it was quite a remarkable achievement that the friars succeeded in maintaining even a tenuous foothold.
With the passing of the relief measures and the prosperity that came to the country under Grattan’s Parliament the future began to look somewhat brighter as the century drew to a close.
The Nineteenth Century (1800-1900)
At the opening of the 19th century there was a total of nine friars in the Irish region. At Loughrea two novices had just completed their noviciate and were ready to leave for studies in Spain. The Carmelite nuns and friars had but two houses each at this time, one in Dublin and one in Loughrea. Both the convents of nuns, at the request of their bishops, were engaged in teaching and ran a local school.
For the next ten or twelve years novices went mainly to Spain for formation, either to Granada or Saragossa.
In 1803 the Loughrea community consisted of Frs. Simon O’Brien, John McCann and Isidore Long. Brs. John Maher, John Roche and Francis L’Estrange were engaged in studies in Spain, while Brs. Eliseus Murray and Angelus Hughes were students at Lisbon. Brs. Maher and Roche returned after ordination in 1806.
In 1807 Br. John Myles Gannon was professed in Saragossa and continued his studies there until ordination.
In 1808 Fr Isodore Long died at the Abbey where he was vicar and Fr. McCann’s health was so poorly that he was practically an invalid.
In 1809 Fr. Raymond O’Hanlon, a Kildareman, was ordained in Dublin by Dr. Murray.
New Arrivals At Loughrea
In 1810 with the death of Fr. Simon O’Brien the Abbey was in grave need of new personnel. Fr. O’Brien died in June and in August three newly ordained priests returned from Spain and were assigned to Loughrea. They were Frs. Edward Hyland, John Myles Gannon and John O’Reilly.
Letters from Frs. O’Reilly and Gannon refer to the state of neglect and disrepair into which the church and dwelling house had fallen. Fr. O’ReillIy took over as superior and with the aid of the Carmelite nuns set about providing new vestments and altar linen. Fr. Serapion O’Reilly, Prior at Dublin, donated a chalice dated 1810 and is still in use. The work of restoring the Abbey fell on the shoulders oif the three young priests as the young WaIter Hughes who had joined the community became quite ill and was permitted to become chaplain to Sir John Burke and his family at Marble Hill, while Fr. McGann became completely invalided.
Fr. Gannon, writing to Dublin in 1813 acknowledges with thanks a donation of £20 sent for the restoration of the sacristy and mentions that it will take £30 more to complete the job.
Fr. Gannon’s account books show that expenses incurred 1813-15 came to £386.14.11. The expenses covered such items as the erection of a church steeple and bells bought from Sheridans of Church St. and from Savage and Co. Thomas St. Dublin.
In 1814 there was widespread controversy regarding the Veto Question.
Meetings were held throughout the country and petitions were signed. Among those who signed the Veto protest in Loughrea were: JohnO’Reilly, Myles Gannon, Edward Hyland and WaIter Hughes.
In May 1815 Fr. Gannon received a letter from the Vicar Provincial appointing him superior at Loughrea for the coming three years. In October a young aspirant entered the noviciate. On his appointment Fr. Gannon spent a considerable sum in repairing the old chapel only to discover that the walls were insecure while the timber in the roof began to show signs of decay.
In 1816 the community came to a decision that a new church would have to be built. They had little options it seems, for during last Mass one Sunday a lump of plaster from the roof crashed on to the floor to the great consternation of the congregation. Luckily Fr. Gannon inherited a large legacy from his brother who had a building business in Dublin and by 25th May 1816 all was ready for the laying of the foundation stone.
The aspirant recently received, Br. Joseph Potter, was professed and later was found to have contracted tuberculosis. He was subsequently ordained in his 25th year and allowed home to Limerick to his family. He died in Limerick and was buried in the family burial ground at the Abbey at Askeaton.
The regional superior, Fr. Leo Oates, reappointed Fr. Gannon Vicar at Loughrea for a further three years in 1818. In the same year Br. James French was professed on 25th July. He was brother of Lord French of Castle French, Ahascragh, Co. Galway.
Meanwhile the building of the new church progressed favourably and Fr. Gannon’s account book gives a detailed account of the day to day expenses. The solemn dedication of the new building took place on 26th July 1820 and was performed by Dr. Coen, Bishop of Clonfert. St. Joseph was chosen as the patron saint of the church and the sermom at the dedication ceremony was given by the Rev. Fr. Stennett of Dublin.
Admission tickets to the ceremony were sold at 5/- each and the proceeds were used to defray the expenses. The principal families of the neighbourhood were present and the newspaper accounts mention the presence of the Dowager Countess of Clanrickarde, the Lady Emily de Burgh and her second daughter the Dowager Lady Burke of Marble Hill, as well as the Raford family.
An organ for the new church was purchased from the Lawless firm in Dublin at a cost of £113.15.0. The entire cost of the new church including organ and bell was £2,156.13.6. The Gannon legacy realised £1,459.5.4 which met about two thirds of the cost.
Census Of 1821
The 1821 census returns gives the address of the Abbey community as No. 69 Abbey Lane. The names of the community given are: Myles Gannon, WaIter Hughes, Edward Hyland, John O’Reilly, Bernard McArdle and John Carter. John Carter was received in 1820 Nand after profession in May 1821 he was sent to France for studies.
In 1822 the community had the cemetery enclosed with a wall and gates.
In 1824 Fr. Leo Oates made a canocial visitation and left a written exhortation to the community to live their way of life with renewed vigour. In this yearBr. Joseph Nicholson was received in the noviciate and his profession in March 1825 was witnessed by Joseph O’Reilly, Vicar and Myles Gannon, Novice Master. Though he was of delicate constitution this novice distinguished himself as a student and in later years he was consecrated Bishop of Corfu.
When the old lease of the Abbey lands expired in 1825 a new lease was effected through the good offices of the Dowager Countess of Clanrickarde who defrayed the legal costs. The new lease was made in trust to Sir John Burke of Marble Hill.
The year 1825 marked the second centenary of the coming of the Discalced Carmelites to Ireland and special celebrations were held at the Abbey.
Fr. Raymond O’Hanlon
In 1826 Fr. Gannon was again in charge. Fr. McGann, the invalid of the community died that year and was assisted on his death bed by Fr. Carter.
In 1827 Fr. Raymond O’Hanlon held a visitation at Loughrea and among the ordinations he made was one which refers to the requirements of law regarding religious making a will in favour of their conferes on the mission. Soon after we find Fr. Raymond present at Loughrea for the profession of Br. Aloysius Fahy, A native of the locality. His sister, Sr. Catherine Fahy, became a member of the Carmelite community at Mt. Carmel the previous November. Another brother was a priest in the Clonfert diocese, while yet another joined the Dominicans and had a distinguished career in the Falkland Islands and later in South America.
Fr. Raymond O’Hanlon
In 1826 Fr. Gannon was again in charge. Fr. McGann, the invalid of the community died that year and was assisted on his death bed by Fr. Carter.
In 1827 Fr. Raymond O‘Hanlon held a visitation at Loughrea and among the ordinations he made was one which refers to the requirements of law regarding religious making a will in favour of their conferes on the mission.
Soon after we find Fr. Raymond present at Loughrea for the profession of Br. Aloysius Fahy, A native of the locality. His sister, Sr. Catherine Fahy, became a member of the Carmelite community at Mt. Carmel the previous November.
Another brother was a priest in the Clonfert diocese, while yet another joined the Dominicans and had a distinguished career in the Falkland Islands and later in South America.
With his reputation as a builder well established Fr Gannon was called on to provide the Carmelite nuns with their present convent. In the years 1828-9 he undertook the building of the present Abbey monastery and by the end of 1829 both the nuns and the friars were in possession of the monasteries they still inhabit. Both buildings stand as an enduring testimony to his apecial talent for building. In his account book we read that the cost of the new friary and gate lodge (demolished in 1952) was £1,356.3.0.
As the community was heavily in debt Fr. Gannon was reappointed to the office of Vicar to deal with the financial problem. The community was joined in 1829 by a Spanish father, Christopher Nogueras, who spent the next two years at the Abbey.
One of the provisions of the Catholic Emancipation Act was that all regular clergy register themselves under pain of heavy fine. The published register for Loughrea has the following names: Myles Gannon (44), Edward Hyland (41), John O’Reilly (52), Waiter Hughes (60), John Carter (30), Peter O’Reilly (29) .:
In 1830 the first non-cleric novice for many years, Br. Michael Walsh, was received and began his noviciate.
Fr. Francis L’Estrange
In 1831 the regional superior was Fr. Francis L’Estrange, The friend and confidant of Daniel O’Connell. In a letter of that year he informes the General that he hopes to go to Loughrea after the feast of St. Theresa. He is glad that the nuns are now in residence in their new convent as their old lease on the High Street had expired. He is happy to inform the General that three aspirants, Henry Maguire, William Kinsella and Daniel McVeigh are now ready to start their formation in Spain. He is very pleased with the progress made by Fr. Gannon in clearing the Abbey debt.
The official list for Loughrea forwarded to Rome is as follows: Angelus Hughes, John Myles Gannon, Edward Hyland, Joseph O‘Reilly, lames Nicholas French, John Peter O‘Reilly. Mention is also made of Br. Aloysius now completing his studies in Spain.
That year the Abbey mourned the death of Fr. O‘Reilly its former Vicar and Novice Master. Since his return in 1810 he had been held in high esteem by the people. The Vicar Provincial Fr. John Francis Whelan sent Fr. Carter to replace him.
In 1833 one of the Irish novices, Br. William Kinsella made his profession at Granada. At Loughrea the non-cleric novice Br. Michael Walsh made his profession while in reply to a request from Fr. Gannon, the Vicar Provincial designated the newly ordained Fr. Aloysius Fahy a member of the Loughrea community.
In October of this year, the Vicar Provincial made a canonical visitation of both the Abbey and Mt. Carmel.
In 1834 the Dublin Penny Journal published a wood cut of the Abbey CV. 2, 217).
A letter of 1834 from the Vicar Provincial, Fr. Whelan, informs the General that he has reappointed Fr. Gannon whom he regards as very suitable for the work at Loughrea.
Fr. Gannon records with obvious pleasure an unexpected windfall that came to the Abbey in 1836 when the Dowager Countess of Clanrickarde presented him with two two acre fields adjoining the Abbey, rent free.
Irish Catholic Directory
It becomes easier from now to identify the personnel at the Abbey with the annual publication of the Irish Catholic Directory. In 1838 we find Fr. Gannon named among those enthusiastic helpers who were promoting the Total Abstinence of FT. Matthew. He was awarded a silver medal for his zeal.
In 1835 occured the death of Fr. John Carter, a native of Castlerea. He studied in France and returned to Loughrea in 1825. He was only 45 years old, and the census returns gave the cause of his death as consumption.
FT. Gannon’s new buildings survived unscathed the Night of the Big Wind, January 5th, 1839. Loughrea suffered heavy losses with 87 houses destroyed and 600 people left homeless.
In 1840 Fr. Raymond O’Hanlon arrived at the Abbey accompanied by Mother Catherine McCauley and some Mercy sisters on their way to make a foundation in Galway. The sisters stayed overnight at Mt. Carmel and Mother McCauley wrote a pleasant poem to say how much she enjoyed the experience of sleeping in a Carmelite bed.
This year Fr. Nicholas French passed to his eternal reward.
The Census of 1841
The census returns of 1841 gives the list of Abbey friars for that year: Frs. Myles Gannon, Edward Hyland, James Finnegan, Aloysius Fahy, Peter O’Reilly.
In 1842 Fr. Hyland was transferred to Dublin after 32 years of sterling service to the people of Loughrea.
Fr. Gannon’s talent for building was yet in evidence this year when he built what the annals describe as a respectable house, on a patch of waste ground in Abbey Lane”. It is still standing at the entrance to the Abbey.
In 1843 two aspirants were received and sent to Belgium to begin their formation.
In 1844 a new sacristy attached to the church was completed and the building of a portico in front of the church was begun. A bazaar to defray the cost realised £81.00.
In 1845 Fr. Angelus Hughes died. He was born in Ballinakill in 1770 and professed at Loughrea in 1799. He did his studies in Portugal and returned after his ordination there in 1801.
In 1843 Sir John Burke of Marble Hill requested the Loughrea community to consider establishing a residence on the site of the ruined Franciscan friary at Kinalahan on his property. The project never materialised for want of personnel.
At the begining of the triennium 1846-9 Fr. Aloysius Fahy was appointed Vicar at Loughrea.
Fr. Gannon records that arrears of rent 1793-1840 had mounted to £50. A remission granted by the commissioners and the residue which amounted to £5.1 0.0 was paid with a promise of punctual annual payments in future.
In 1847 the year of the Famine there were 4 friars at the Abbey, viz. Frs. Aloysius Fahy, Myles Gannon, Theodore O’LoughJin and Joseph 0‘ Reilly. Fr. O’Reilly in a short letter to the Tablet in 1847 mentions the urgent need “to secure the tenant farmer from expulsio, which has been and will be carried out extensively this year”. He refers also to the fact that “the Sisters of Mt. Carmel in this town have established a soup shop for the poor girls attending the nunnery school”.
The Bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Coen, died this year aged 84 and was burried in the old Abbey ruin.
Fr. O’Reilly Dies
In 1849 the Abbey lost the services of Fr. O’Reilly at the early age of 46. Professed at Loughrea in 1829 he returned from studies in Spain in 1835. Thecause of his death is given as cancer.
In May 1849 Fr. Gannon resumed office as Vicar and Fr. Joseph Mahon, a young man, joined the community.In his account book of 1850 Fr. Gannon recorded that he bought 4 stone of potatoes at the market for 2s 4d. They were probably the first since the famine.
Death of Fr. Fahy
In May 1853 Fr. Fahy, who had spent most of his years at the Abbey since his return in 1833, died in Dublin. He was in his 43rd year of his age and the 25th of his religious profession. Br. Michael Walsh, another long serving member at the Abbey died in the same year. Fr. Gannon was reappointed for the triennium 1853-6 and was joined in 1854 by Frs. Columbanus Kelly and Gregory Verdon.
From this time until 1870 all the aspirants went to Belgium where they did their studies at either Ypres, Ghent or Brussels.
Fr. Joseph Mahon took over from Fr. Gannon from May 1856. On assuming office he called a meeting of the community and the minutes record that those present passed a resolution to observe their rules and constitutions fully for the future.
In that year three young men, Brs. Columbanus O’Brien, Laurence Murphy and Edward Holland made their professions at Ypres.
The year 1857 saw the begining of the Loughrea Journal as an illustrated monthly. It went on to publish an unbroken run for the next 28 years: January,1857 to December, 1884; with a total of336 issues.
In the year 1857, a request was sent to Rome from the Vicar Provincial that Loughrea be once more recognised as a regional noviciate. In 1862 Joseph Mahon was nominated vicar. Brs. Elias Nolan and Livinus Nevin two students who were to figure prominently at a later date began their studies in Ghent. The newly ordained Fr. Laurence Murphy joined the Abbey community and Fr. Gregory Verdon was transferred to Dublin.
Death of Fr. Gannon
In 1864 the region lost two very prominent members. Fr. Raymond O’Hanlon died in Dublin aged 75. He had been associated with Mother McCauley in the work of founding the Sisters of Mercy and as mentioned earlier came with them to Loughrea in 1840.
On 22nd April Fr. Myles Gannon died at the Abbey at the age of 81. Born at Ahascragh in 1783 he was sent to Saragossa in Spain in 1806. Ordained at Figueras in 1810 he returned to Ireland to spend the rest of his life at the Abbey. The Requiem Mass was sung by Fr. Mahon and Or. Derry, Bishop of Clonfert preached an inspiring panegyric.
In 1865 Fr. Laurence Murphy became Vicar and when the General came on visitation he appointed Fr. Edward Holland as Bursar. Meanwhile Frs. Elias Nolan and Livinus Nevin were ordained at Ghent. In 1866 the community consisted of Frs. Laurence Murphy, Joseph Mahon and Edward Holland. That year three young aspirants entered, viz. Brs. Malachy Timothy, Alban Furlong, and Benignus Briscoe.
In 1867 Brs. Augustine McEvoy and Patrick Kelly returned to Loughrea before completing their studies and were ordained at the Abbey by the Bishop of Clonfert. Later four of the other students in Belgium were forced to return prematurely viz. Brs. Boniface Nevin, Malachy Timothy, Alban Furlong, and Benignus Briscoe, and the Loughrea community made provision for them. A letter from Fr. Laurence Murphy in 1868 states that Fr. Edward Holland had taken over as student master and teacher of Dogma while he himself had undertaken to teach moral theology. Before the end of the year accommodation was found for the four students at Bagneres.
In October 1882 the friars at Loughrea celebrated the Tercentenary of the death of SI. Teresa of Avila. The Loughrea Journal reported that a solemn Novena commenced on 6th October and the church sanctuary was festooned with flowers. The preacher for the occasion was the Rev. Fr. Sampson from Limerick who ‘preached with eloquence and easy grace to a large congregation‘.
On the evening of the 15th the Abbey Fathers ‘entertained the public to a splendid display of fireworks in the Abbey grounds. Pyrotechnists were stationed in the tower of the Old Abbey and other parts of the premises who discharged fireworks in a manner that elicited the admiration of hundreds of onlookers. The local brass band was in attendance and added much to the attraction of the entertainment by its admirable music’. (Loughrea Journal, November 1882).
The town and district of Loughrea was a centre of acute political disturbance during 1882. When the town band played selections of Irish airs one evening in the Abbey Grounds the Prior, Fr. Aloysius thanked them from the window of his room on the second floor of the monastery. Days later, a London newspaper reported that he had delivered a fiery and provocative speech at midnight to a wild band of rebels.
On 29th June Lord Clanrickarde‘s agent, Mr. Blake, was ambushed and shot dead as he journeyed by coach to Loughrea. Fr. Albert walking in the back garden heard the fatal shots and saw the assailants run towards the town along the railway line.
In 1883 the Abbey witnessed its first profession in 50 years with the profession of Br. Bemard Hoare, on 4th February. On 3rd May three novices,
Brs. Augustine Phillips, Stanislaus Forde and Patrick Rushe received the habit. Br. Joseph Coen was ordained Sub-deacon by Dr. Duggan and left for Ghent to complete his studies.
New stations of the Cross were donated by Capt. Smyth of Masonbrook and erected by Fr. Benedict Lisundia. The community was given permission to borrow £2,500 for the modification and restoration of the cemetery.
In 1884 Brs. Gerard Garvey and Martin Dully were professed. Meanwhile the newly acquired house at Morehampton Road, Dublin, was being equipped as a house of studies and at the end of their noviciate Brs. Augustine, Stanislaus, and Patrick went thereto begin their studies. The Irish region was now once again in the happy position of having its own houses of formation.
In 1886 Fr. Holland was elected Prior and Fr. Aloysi us Corbett became Novice Master. The novices for the year were Brs. Garbiel Purcell and Vincent Finnerty.
The two Spanish Fathers, Julian Aquirre and Francis Uritza were recalled to Spain and were replaced by Frs. Jerome O‘Connell and Elias Nolan. In 1887 another young priest, Fr. Joachim Russell joined the community.
In 1889 the Abbey Cemetery was overhauled and greatly improved. A committee from the town was formed to raise funds for the project.
This year too, it was proposed to build an apse at the East gable of the church and so it became necessary to transfer the remains of the members of the community buried behind the high altar, to the Lady Chapel in the old Abbey.
The names of all those transferred are recorded there on a stone slab. When the apse was completed the high altar and steps were pushed back into it. The floor of the sanctuary continued to be a boarded one until 1936.
St. Patrick’s Hall
In 1890 Sir Thomas Henry Grattan Esmonde, M.P. gave a stimulating lecture in St. Patrick’s Hall on the role of the politican and on the importance of lofty national aspirations. The proceeds of the lecture were devoted to the fund for the improvement of the cemetery.
Few people today realise that the long building beside the present car-park was for several decades the only hall in Loughrea. Concerts and functions were held there well into the present century when the Temperance Hall was built.
Bro. Joseph O‘Shea
At the triennial elections in 1891 Fr. Edward Holland was elected Prior and Fr. Benedict Lisundia Novice Master. In March of that year His Lordship, Dr. John Healy, Co-adjutor bishop of Clonfert designated the Abbey high altar as a privileged altar in pepetuity.
In May the Abbey lost a saintly Brother and noted bee-keeper in the person of Br. Joseph O’Shea. A native of Glengariff he was professed in London in 1867. He came to Loughrea in 1870 and taught himself the art of bee-keeping. With Fr. Edward Holland he was a founder member of the Irish Beekeepers Association in 1880 and was given the medal of merit which is still at the Abbey. In 1882 and for some years afterwards he demonstrated the art at the R.D.S. and indeed was tireless in his efforts to promote bee-keeping all over the country. Being of a mechanical turn of mend he made his own timber hives and fitted them with deep bar frames. Because of the short honey season in Ireland he introduced the Ligurian or Italian bees to Ireland and found that they were the most highly productive. To protect the hives from mice he mounted them on pillars 2 feet high. The writer Seam us 0′ Kelly composed a poem in his memory entitied ‘in Memoriam’ and an article in the Weekly Freeman, 11th August, 1894, gives a full account of his life and work.
Fr. Albert Callanan
The death took place in 1893 of Fr. Albert Callanan, a native of Craughwell, Co. Galway. Though he died in Dublin he requested that he be buried at the Abbey. In September, 1893, Fr. Cyril Ryan and Fr. Malachy Donohue came to Loughrea as conventuals.
In 1894, four young aspirants, Brs. Clement Looney, Bernard German, Francis Barry and Thomas Reynolds went to Venice for their studies. They were ordained there by the Patriarch of Venice, Cardinal Sarto, later Pope St. Pius X.
In 1895 the Irish regioin now with 3 houses was restored as a Province. Fr. Michael Ryan became Prior at Loughrea and Fr. Aloysius Coghlan Master of Novices. The novices for this year were Brs. Albert Keane and Anthony Cagney. In 1896 occurred the death of Fr.Columbanus O’Brien, a native of Lettekenny. After making profession in Belgium and being ordained there he came back to Ireland in 1861. In 1897 Fr. Benedict Lisundia was Prior and Fr. Joseph Coen Novice Master. From now on there was a steady flow of novices each year and a list of their names can be found in the appendices. In this year Fr. Patrick Rushe, one of the first novices in the restored new novicate published a history of the Irish region which was entitled ‘Carmel in Ireland’.
The Abbey records show that in 1897 the community was given permission to borrow money for building and maintenance. The church was completely overhauled, with new ceiling, chance], aisles and transepts. Two small rose windows, one portraying the birth of Christ, the other the piercing of the heart of St. Teresa were erected over the side altars. Two new altars, one in honour of the Sacred Heart, the other in honour of St. Joseph were erected at a cost of £200. Two new bells were purchased and new oak benches installed. Four new confessionals then installed are still in use. So great were the alterations that only portions of Fr. Gannons church remained intact.
The painting and decorative work forthis project were done by Messars Earley the Dublin firm. Later the caps of the columns were carved by Michael Shortall who did similar work in the Cathedral at Loughrea. The stone figure of St. Joseph and the Divine Child originally in the church facade and now at the side entrance is also the work of Mr. Shortall.
The entire project cost in the region of £4,000.
Hitherto the Abbey water supply came from a well on the grounds. This year water was piped to the house for the first time from the public reservoir. To help defray the expenses incurred in the recent building project the Association of the Perpetual Lamp in honour of the Sacred Heart was begun with special Mass offered for all subscribers. Loughrea’s novice master of 1882 died this year at the Abbey at the early age of 5 1. Fr. Alban Furlong was a native of the parish of Kilnadeema.
In 1899 the community numbered among its members Frs. Ignatius McGrath, Thomas Reynolds, Alphonsus Kelly (brother of Seamus 0′ Kelly the writer), and Clement Looney still remembered locally as a ‘miracle worker’.
To mark the centenary of the 1798 rebellion a bell tower of cut stone was begun at this time and completed at a cost of £300. A new organ was installed in the newchoir gallery at a cost of £335. Another century was drawing to a close and next year the Abbey prepared to celebrate the 6th centenary of the coming of the Carmelites to the town. The 19th century had been a century of progress and consolidation and the restored province was poised for further expansion.
The Twentieth Century (1900-1983)
In January 1900 there was a solemn celebration at the Abbey to mark the sixth centenary of the arrival of the Carmelites. The sermon for the occasion was preached by the Rt. Rev. Mgr. Fahy.
Fr. Benedict Lisundia was Prior and Fr. Aloysius Coghlan was Novice Master at the beginning of the century. In an effort to clear the large outstanding debt of £2,500 the community appealed to Rome and were granted some financial concessions which helped considerably.
This year a marble altar rail was erected and two marble angels on pedestals were placed at each side of the high altar.
St. Patrick’s Hall was still flourishing and underwent some repairs in 190l.
In 1903 Fr. Clement Looney went to Mt. Carmel monastery in the Holy Land and remained there for some years. While he was there he was instrumental in having the Irish version of the Our Father put up on the wall of the Pater Noster Church alongside the other language translations. Fr. Clement was an enthusiastic scholar and his writings in Irish in Manuscript form are still preserved at the Abbey.
Fr. Elias Nolan
In September 1904 another noted Gaelic scholar, Fr. Elias Nolan died at the Abbey. He was professed in Belgium in 1861 and ordained there in 1865. He was one of the forerunners of the Gaelic League and published a number of works in Irish both devotional and linguistic. Copies of the following still survive: “An Casan go Flaitheamnhnas” (1882); An Paidrin Pairteach; Irish Grammar Rules (1877); Lessons in Gaelic 1 and 11 (1880, 1881); some devotional booklets on the Infant of Prague, the Scapular, the Rosary, plus articles in the Gaelic Journal.
A Second Thebaid
In March 1905 Fr. Patrick Rushe published a book entitled “A Second Thebaid”, which was highly eo mm ended by the Cardinal Primate in a letter to the Freemans Journal. It gives an historical outline of the houses founded in Ireland by the various religious orders down to the time of their suppression in the 16th century. It includes a chapter on the Irish Carmelites and a photo of the ivy covered ruin of the old Abbey.
In the 1906 elections Fr. Columba Burke became Prior. He had been ordained for the Australian mission and had spent some years there at Sate before returning to join the Irish Province.
In 1907 Gas Lighting was introduced and the records refer to the” Acetylene Gas Light” newly installed in the Church. The following year the records refer
to the installation of a furnace for central heating in the church.
In 1909 occurred the death of Br. John Flanagan a native of the Loughrea district. He was in the 71st year of his age and the 33rd of his religious profession.
In this year too, news reached the Abbey of the death in Spain of Fr. Julian Aquirre already referred to as Novice Master in 1882. In the 1912 elections Fr. Joseph Coen returned to the Abbey as Prior with Fr. Dominic Mangan as Novice Master. Fr. Clement Looney who had spent some years in the Holy Land returned and he figures prominently in the life of the Abbey for some years to come, as does Fr. Francis Baity.
World War 1
The outbreak of World War 1 in 1914 forced a large number of Belgian Carmelites to seek refuge in Ireland. A number of students came to Dublin, while 5 novices and one priest took up residence in Loughrea until the end of the war. This year the Loughrea Electric Light Society began operations and there is a record of money being invested in the company. One of the casualties of World War 1 was Fr. Michael R yan a former Prior of Loughrea. While serving as chaplain to the army in India he contracted cholera at Kirkee and died within a few days.
In 1918 Fr. Benedict Lisudia who had spent some years in Wincanton Priory returned to Loughrea as Prior and was joined by Fr. Andrew Kenny as NoviceMaster.
This year the death took place of Fr. Edward Holland who for some 50 years had been an outstanding figure in the region.
Old Abbey Restored
In 1920 a concentrated effort was made to repair and restore the Old Abbey. The ivy was removed, the walls repaired and pointed and barges put on. Bra. Joachim Whelan, along serving member of the community and a native of Tynagh died this year aged 61. In the 1921 elections Fr. Andrew Kenny became Prior and Fr. Columba Burke began a nine year period as Novice Master. Fr. Patrick Rushe one of the first novices in the new noviciate in 1883 and well known for his historical writings died in August 1922.
In 1923 St. Theresa of Lisieux was beatified and among the publications for the occasion were two by An tAth. Benedict Langton concerning her life and message. They were entitled “Beatha na Siurach Beannaithe Treasa” and “Teachtaireacht on tSiur Beannaithe Treasa”, An tAth. Benedict went on to translate into Irish St. Thereses autobiography and his Leabhar Aifrinn is a translation of the Missal.
In 1924 Fr. Vincent Finnerty designed and built a new verandah at a cost of £150. Around the same time a new glass house was erected at the front of thehouse as can be seen from old Abbey photographs.
The lease of the Abbey praperty ran out this year and was purchased from Lord Lascelles at a cost of £406, and His Lordship subsequently gave a donationof £100 to the community.
Only two days separated the deaths of two long serving Abbey friars in the year 1925. Fr. Clement O’Looney died on 9th January and Fr. Benedict Lisundia died on l l th. Both are still remembered and their names recalled by older visitors to the Abbey.
The Abbey property was extended this year with the acquisition of some fields at Monearrnore, previously the property of the Farrell family.
Fr. Columba Burke
In 1926 Fr. Columba translated and had published by the Kelly Printing Co. Loughrea a classic work on novice formation entitled “The Instruction of Novices”. The records of 1929 mention an investment of £50 in the Loughrea Town Hall, an investment which still pays handsome dividends. By 1931 Electric Light had come to Loughrea and was installed in the church. A furnace run on oil was also purchased to heat both the monastery and church. It says much for the fervour of the friars of those days that they spent £75 in the construction of a hermitage for solitary prayer in the back garden. In 1933 a considerable sum of money was spent on further restoration work on the old Abbey.
The opening of a newJuniorate in Castlemartyr, Co. Cork in 1930 resulted in a considerable increase in aspirants coming to the Abbey. As the noviciate building of 1882 was no longer able to cater-for the numbers a third story was added to the noviciate building on the eastern side.
In addition a large new wing was built which provided a chapter room, a noviciate recreation room and a noviciate oratory. A new community choir overlooking the church sanctuary was also part of this building scheme.
Fr. Gannon’s monastery was also extended with the addition of extra rooms, a new kitchen, refectory, and spacious library overhead.
In 1936 a new marble sanctuary was put down and a block floor laid in the church.
In 1937 a new handball court was built at a cost of £145 while in 1938 the verandah was extended to its present size.
In the 1940‘s a considerable amount of tree planting took place and the trees planted then, now form excellent shelter belts.
The present high concrete wall surrounding the monastery garden was built in 1941 at a cost of £500. One of the church bells was refurbished by a Dublin firm at this time. A number of small·houses, still in use, were handed over to the St. Vincent de Paul Society and allocated to suitable tenants in Dolphin St.
By 1947 the church could no longer cater for the large congregations attending Sunday Masses and so a large extension to the church was planned.
This extension costing £16,000, was completed in 1948 and the present cut stone facade dates from that year. The present timber work in the sacristy dates also from this time and was done by local craftsmen.
New Rose windows executed by the Harry Clarke studios were erected at a cost of £180.
In 1949 the present large rose window in the organ loft, depicting Our Lady of Mt. Carmel surrounded by a galaxy of Carmelites was supplied by the Harry Clarke Studios at a cost of £560.
A sum of £600 was paid for 30 new church seats supplied by Messers Hearne, the Waterford firm. Haydens plumbing firm of Dublin installed heating in the new church extension at a cost of £366.
In 1950 a site for St. Brigid’s Vocational School was sold and the new building was officially opened by Mr. Lynch the then Minister for Education
and later Taoiseach.
The Organ was extended by the firm of Rooney and Coffey at a cost of £1,875. Two extra confessionals costing £157 each were supplied by D. Bull and Co. of Dublin.
In 1951 stained glass windows in honour of St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross were presented by local donors. This year too the sounds of a new telephone resounded along the cloistered corridors of the Abbey for the first time.
In 1952 there were joyous celebrations to commemorate the seventh centenary of the giving of the Scapular to St. Simon Stock. The stain glass window depicting Our Lady and St. Therese was donated this year by the members of the Brown Scapular Confraternity. The window depciting Our Lady of Fatima is inscribed as being erected by Br. Joachim in memory of his parents. Two more stain glass windows given by local donors date from this time as does the lightening conductor on the facade of the church.
The front of the Abbey underwent a complete transformation at this time.
New walks were laid around the church and monastery at a cost of £350. The old gate lodge was demolished and the Lourdes Grotto of 1890 was transferred to the Old Abbey. The present entrance pillars and gates, purchased from Lord Pollock’s demesne in Laurencetown were erected and form an impressiveentrance to the grounds.
In 1955 the present shrine to Our Lady of Carmel was erected by Messers. Earley Dublin. The statue of Our Lady was a gift of Miss O’Connor, London. The present glass house dates from 1958 and was erected at a cost of £425. In 1965 the church was painted and modified to the specifications of J. R. Boyd Barrett, Architect. In 1966 the church was rewired and the entrance pillars and statues on the grounds were provided with electric lighting. The stain glass windows were provided with leading and glazing.
In accordance with the new liturgical Decrees of Vatican 11 the sanctuary was remodelled in 1967 to the design of J. R. Boyd Barrett, Architect. The old altar was removed and replaced by a free standing marble altar and there was a new ambo, president’s chair and suspended crucifix.
Later that year a new tennis court was built by Roadstone and a new car park was laid out adjacent to St. Patrick’s Hall. The whole front of the Abbey was landscaped by Powers of Waterford, at a cost of £71 O.
The whole monastery and noviciate were newly wired and new electrical fittings were installed. The present stations of the Cross were erected, the artist being Fr. Urban Flanagan O.P. He was also the artist who executed the Emmaus Bronze work for the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, now St. Joseph’s altar.
In 1969 the present reredos of St. Joseph’s altar was erected.
The present railings along Mt. Carmel Road were supplied and erected by Ferguson’s of Sligo in 1969.
This year too, the Loughrea Cooperative Mart bought a portion of land to provide a roadway through the Abbey property to facilitate farmers taking livestock to their premises adjacent to the old railway terminal.
In 1972 the community accepted a chaplaincy to the De La Salle Order of Brothers who had built a new monastery and noviciate at Loughrea.
In 1973 the chapter room built in 1934 was converted into the community choir and adapted to suit the community liturgy.
The entire Abbey was painted in 1974 to a colour scheme submitted by professional artists.
The Abbey bade goodbye to its horse in 1975 and invested in a secondhand Ford tractor.
In 1978 the old cottages along Mt. Carmel Road were disposed of. The old community recreation room was fitted with metal shelving and converted into. a reading room and reference library.
The main library was extended and newly catalogued by the novices.
A new and efficient amplification system was installed in the church, at a cost of £1,600.
In 1980 the sanctuary was modernised under the supervision of Bowman and Quaid Architects. The marble work consisting of a new ambo, altar, president’s chair and tabernacle rest was the work of John Cullen and Son, Dublin. The present marble seats were made from the centre portion of the marble railings which were removed. The whole sanctuary was enlarged to give more space for concelebration required by the present liturgy and the entire sanctuary was covered with a carpet of bedouin bronze colour.
The year 1982 marked the centenary of the building and opening of the new noviciate in 1882. It was also the 4th centenary of the death of St. Teresa of Avila, the reformer of the Carmelite Order. Liturgical functions were held to commemorate both centenaries and were well attended.
Br. Joseph O’Shea
As a tribute to the memory of Br. Joseph O’Shea who was champion bee-keeper a century earlier it was decided to revive the art of bee-keeping. The present bee-keeper has begun with five new hives of good quality.
As a permanent memorial to this historic year it was decided to remove the Lourdes Grotto from the old Abbey and erect a new one on the grounds. The design submitted by Bowman and Quald, Architects, was accepted and work began in Autumn 1982. The people responded with characteristic generosity in terms of financial aid and voluntary labour. The new Grotto retaining the statue and holy water font of the old Grotto of 1890 was officially blessed and opened by His Lordship Dr. Joseph Cassidy, Bishop of Clonfert on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes 1983.
Looking back over the centuries it is evident that both the old and the new Abbey weathered many severe storms. Between them they witness to a
Carmelite presence in Loughrea of almost 7 centuries.
A glance at the lists furnished in the appendices points to the large number of young aspirants who have begun their Carmelite formation here at the Abbey over the past three and a half centuries. And these lists are a reminder to us too of the debt of gratitude we owe to all those who lived and worked at the Abbey and catered for the needs of the people in good times and bad.
Today, alumni of the Abbey can be found working not only in Ireland and England but also in Rome, California, Arizona, Australia and the Philippine Islands.
In the past it was due, under God, to the loyalty and support of the local people that the Abbey survived. Today, the Abbey is well served by an equally loyal and generous people. They not only provide for its material support but since Vatican 11 they are becoming increasingly involved in its liturgical life as well. Those who today assist the community in the role of ushers, collectors, acolytes, readers, singers and musicians are answering the call of the Council for greater and more active lay involvement.
The future of the Abbey like the past is in God’s hands. We pray that God may continue to send it many fervent young aspirants who will commit their lives to Him and to the spreading of His Kingdom upon earth as Carmelite religious. May Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Joseph its patron and protector take it under their watchful care and protection in the years that lie ahead.
1645 Discalced Carmelite come to Loughrea
1653 Cromwellian Banishment
1660 Restoration under King Charles 11
1664 Noviciate opened at Loughrea
1673 Edict of Banishment
1685 Noviciate reopened under King James 11
1691 Provincial Chapter held at Loughrea
1698 Friars banished to the continent
1701 Penal Laws outlaw all religious
1714 Friars in hiding at Loughrea
1720 Historic chalice found in the old Abbey
1726 Fr. General from Rome visits the Abbey
1731 Midnight raid made on the Friary
1740 A monastery built
1744 The Diary of Fr. Henry Hogan
1751 Novices Professed at the Abbey
1767 Letter ofEdmund Burke to the friars
1772 Deaths of Fr. Henry Hogan and Fr. J ames McHugo
1779 Permission from Rome for Noviciate
1785 Little Fryary and public church built
1790 Account of Baron de Montbret
1797 Report to Rome of the Bishop of Clonfert
1798 Lord Cornwallis at Loughrea
1810 Arrival of Frs. Myies Gannon, Edward Hyland, John O’Reilly
1820 New Church built by Fr. Gannon
1829 New Monastery built by Fr. Gannon
1836 Grant of land to the community
1840 Mother McCauley visits Loughrea
1856 Full observance restored to the Abbey
1864 Death ofFr. Myies Gannon
1869 Irish houses amalgated with London foundation
1872 Ireland represented at the General Chapter
1882 New Noviciate built and opened
1889 Building of apse at the Eastern Gable
1895 Irish Province restored
1897 Church remodelled and extended
1898 Erection of Bell Tower
1900 6th Centenary of the Old Abbey
1907 Introduction of Gas Lighting
1920 Restoration of the Old Abbey
1924 Lease of the property bought
1934 Noviciate extended and new monastery wing
1947 Church extended to its present size
1952 Scapular Centenary Celebrations
1967 Post Vatican Sanctuary alterations
1978 New Amplification system installed
1980 Sanctuary enlarged and modernised
1982 4th Centenary of death of St. Teresa
1982 1st Centenary of the Noviciate
1983 New Lourdes Grotto opened
ODE TO LOUGHREA ABBEY
(Lines suggested to the mind of the writer while spending a delightful and edifying afternoon among the ruins and grounds of this venerable edifice, in the society of a Rev. gentleman, to whose wide intelligence, dignified culture, exceptional intellectual acquirements and congenial companionship he owes a vast debt of gratitude.)
Hail noble tower, proud old historic shrine,
Thou witness to a ruptured nation’s fall,
What many strange vicissitudes were thine,
And what sad tales, couldst thou recount them all,
Since first within this venerable hall
The flame of love and truth did brightly shine,
When many answered the great founder’s call
And fled the cold world for a life divine-
Heaven’s chosen sons of faith – Mount Carmel’s ancient line
The well worn spiral stairway leadeth still
Aloft to pure refreshing realms of air,
And from that summit look where e’er you will,
You see all round a country bright and fair.
And think what thousand changes have been there,
Since first this bell beneath your feet did thrill
A thousand hearts who flew from everywhere
To that sweet peal responding, thronged to fill
Its saintly aisles to pray, and pain and woe to kill.
These halls of prayer, fit harbours of repose,
In floor and crypt doth generations claim
A space to sleep; and many a marble shows
The silent home of many an heir to fame -
Bishop, doctor, warrior, virtuous dame.
Passed from a boisterous world of friends and foes,
Mindful no longer of banishment or blame
Their ashes now these crumbling tombs enclose
And records their change to dust from which they came.
This solemn nook with gloomy portal low,
Enter with gentle footsteps and survey
Where rest the reverend brotherhood and throw
These flowers upon their simple, modest clay;
Think of the good they’ve done and while you may
With tender touch adjust these ferns below.
Turn your thought to heaven and inward pray
That it may live; the love ’twas theirs to sow
And reign those noble fruits of faith their lives so well did show.
Who rested here beneath this ivied wall?
Where is the column raised to mark the brave?
Is it a gallant leader’s fate to fall
And not a cross above the hero’s grave?
St. Ruth! a renegade James thou tried’st to save-
And braver soldier trump did never call,
Nor gentler blood the veins of man could lave,
And country, home and friends, you left them all
On Aughrim’ s plain to die – reft by an English cannon ball!
What charms thou hast for me no tongue can tell
Thou ancient pile! I love to linger here,
And mid thy ruins in contemplation dwell
And often shed a sympathetic tear,
.As some green mound recalls a rnerri’ry dear,
And modest epitaphs ambition quell,
And sacred shades bring heaven itself more near,
And bright congenial feelings ever swell
Within the heart of hearts and make the soul feel well.