The Benedictine Nuns of Kylemore Abbey are leading the way toward Catholic renewal in Ireland. While bishops, priests and others are talking about closures, clustering, and downsizing, the nuns have to be admired and congratulated for their vision of the Church that is open for business.
Following the message of Blessed Pope John Paul II “Throw wide open the doors for Christ” the Abbess, Mother Maire Hickey OSB is doing just that. Given that some 250,000 pilgrim tourists come to visit Kylemore every year, the largest tourist attraction in the West of Ireland, Mother
Hickey saw the need for a new chapel whereby the visitor can be easily invited to pray, either privately or with the community when they celebrate holy Mass and the divine office.
The motto of the Benedictines is Ora et Labora, “ prayer and work” thus emphasising the priority of prayer over all other activities, now the tourist can avail of the new facilities before visiting the monastery grounds and gardens.
Kylemore was built as a private residence by Mitchell Henry and was completed in 1871. The castle has some 70 rooms in total covering some 40,000 sq ft. The family are still buried there near the miniature church of Cirencester Cathedral which is located at the eastern end of the 3,000 acre estate. This replica of the cathedral was built for Margaret Henry as a mark of the love both of them had for one another.
It was not until 1920 that the nuns arrived at Kylemore from Ypres in Belgium where their monastery had been bombed by the Germans during the First World War. The Benedictine nuns, true to their vocation and charisma opened up an international school for girls which endured for some 80 years until it was forced to close due to a radical fall in vocations.
Now however under a new Abbess, great plans are being made for the future including a new “fit for purpose” monastery for up to 50 nuns, an educational centre for adult religious education, an oblate centre, and a National Shrine to Saint Benedict, Patron of Europe. The Castle will remain as the centrepiece of beauty in Connemara and it will continue to draw the tourists, while the nuns will offer the spiritual facilities for those who wish to avail of them.
On June 8th, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, the Metropolitan of the Tuam Archdiocese, Archbishop Michael Neary, consecrated the new chapel which is divided up into a public chapel and a cloistered chapel for the nuns. In his homily the Archbishop praised the nuns for their courage in opening up new Catholic facilities and for their encouragement to others.
The chapel was formerly the old school gymnasium, which had to be upgrade and insulated, an un-daunting task but one which was assigned to Buchan, Kane + Foley architects of Dublin who have accomplished the impossible, and with such beauty.
Kylemore Abbey and Gardens are open all year around and extend a warm welcome to everyone, especially to those who wish to join them for chanting of the divine office and for holy Mass . For more information visit www.kylemoreabbey.com.
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