As many of you know, the Council of the Carmelites in Ireland have informed the parish of their intention to return the care of the parish to the Archdiocese of Dublin from the 30th January 2022.
Below is the letter from Fr Michael Troy, Carmelite Provincial, which was read at all masses on the 19th/20th June, together with the response from the Parish Pastoral Council. If you prefer the full letter can be downloaded here.
In light of the depth of feelings generated throughout the parish as a consequence of this decision, the Parish Pastoral Council has decided to petition the Council of the Carmelites, requesting that they reverse their decision and continue to maintain their presence in the parish.
The details of the petition are set out below and we encourage as many of you as possible to sign it. If you prefer the petition will also be available for signature in the church and the Parish office or can be downloaded here. and returned to us.
The online petition has closed. Thank you to all who have signed.
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I am writing to you today to communicate a decision of the Provincial Council of the Carmelite Order. After serious consideration over the last two years, it has been decided to return the pastoral care of the parish of St Colmcille’s to the Archdiocese of Dublin. I wish to assure you that this is not a decision we have made lightly. Indeed, it is one we make with heavy hearts.
As you are no doubt aware, the Carmelites have been present here in Knocklyon since the foundation of the parish. Over the years, the Carmelites, in collaboration with you the people, built up this parish. There has always been a great sense of community here in Knocklyon, and I know that the many Carmelites who have lived and worked in this parish have formed strong and lasting friendships. This is a difficult day for us all and the news that I share with you will be greeted some surprise and with much sadness. However, I believe that this is just the end of one chapter in the story of St Colmcille’s. Your commitment to your parish and strong spirit of co-responsibility has helped form wonderful structures, teams and groups which will sustain the parish and help it continue to grow, develop and serve the people well into the future.
As Carmelites, we have faced many difficulties over the last number of years, key among them is the absence of vocations to our way of life. This fact has led to the serious issue in our ability to maintain all our communities and ministries in Ireland. We have made difficult and painful decisions. Over the last ten years, we have returned the care of the parish of Beaumont to the Archdiocese of Dublin, closed our community in Knocktopher, Co. Kilkenny, and entrusted the care of our friary church in Kildare Town to our Carmelite brothers from India.
However, even with these decisions, we face ongoing issues maintaining an effective presence in our remaining communities. To put this in context, there are currently 39 Carmelites living in Ireland, 27 of whom are over 70 years of age, and some of those are in poor health. The decision to return the parish to the Archdiocese is in no way a reflection on the parish. Rather, the decision is based upon our personnel resources and on the needs and abilities of our members at this time.
Some may see the timing of this announcement as unfortunate, as we are emerging from the restrictions and difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, within the context of the Archdiocese of Dublin, this can be viewed as a hopeful time. In his homily on Holy Thursday of this year, Archbishop Dermot Farrell announced the establishment of a Taskforce to assess the needs of the people of the Archdiocese and “to prepare an approach to a pastoral strategy that supports parish communities of faith to undertake a radical renewal, looking to the future with creativity.” As we emerge from the pandemic, we cannot simply return to the way things were before. We must work to establish a new way of being community and being parish. It is my hope that this pastoral strategy in the Archdiocese will inspire a new and exciting chapter in the life of the Diocese and especially in the parish of St Colmcille’s.
Over the last number of months, we have been in dialogue with the Archdiocese and it will be the role of the Archbishop to appoint the pastor who will succeed the Carmelites here in St Colmcille’s. We will work together with the Parish Pastoral Council and the Archdiocese to ensure a smooth transition, as your parish returns to diocesan administration on Sunday 30th January 2022.
The message of today’s Gospel is very clear: Christ is with us at all times and in every situation. Just as Jesus was present with his disciples in the midst of the storm on the lake, he is present with us on the ups and downs of our journey of life, helping us come through them.
To conclude, I would like to thank the local Carmelite community, Fr Fintan Burke, Fr Martin Parokaaran, Fr Joe Mothersill and Fr Michael Morrissey, for their commitment and work in the parish over the last number of years. This will be a particularly difficult time for them as they carry the burden of our decision. I thank the Parish Pastoral Council for their support and collaboration, as we begin to transition to a new administration. I thank Archbishop Farrell for his understanding and support in this time of change and challenge. Finally, I would like to thank you all. As I mentioned, there has always been a strong sense of community here in Knocklyon. We are greatly appreciative of the support and encouragement you have shown towards the Order both in Ireland and in Zimbabwe over the last 47 years. I believe that the bonds which have been built between the Carmelites and the people of Knocklyon has enriched us all and will continue to be a cherished source of pride and strength for many years to come.
As we work together over the coming months, I pray that God’s Spirit of understanding and courage be with us all as we build a hope-filled future for our Church and Order. In the midst of our anxieties and fears, we are invited to call on Jesus, for he is always there with us, and he hears our cry. May God continue to bless each one of us in our lives and ministries.
Michael Troy, Prior Provincial
Upon continutation is the responce from the Parish Pastrol Council to Fr Michael Troy. You can also download a copy of the response here.
Without doubt, this is a very sad day for all of us in Knocklyon Parish. Fr Michael’s announcement will be a great shock to many people and we will all have very mixed emotions and, understandably some concern for the future of our parish. It is actually hard to imagine life in our parish without the Carmelite presence, a presence that has seen us through many changes and challenges since the parish was constituted in 1974.
Fr Michael has articulated the difficulties facing the Carmelites, which has resulted in this decision and while we can all fully identify with the reasons, it does not alter the sorrow and sense of loss we all feel at the ending of a relationship which has been so important in developing a sense of community here in the parish. As he mentions, the bonds between the Carmelites and the people here in Knocklyon have enriched us all.
So, while we may be surprised and regret the situation we find ourselves in, we must also acknowledge with gratitude the work of so many Carmelite friars since the foundation of the parish. Without them, we would not have the vibrant parish community we have today. From the formation of the parish, so many Carmelites have left their mark , from the early halcyon days with the late Fr Paddy Staunton to the current team of Fr Martin, Fr Joe, Fr Fintan and Fr Michael, every one of the Carmelites ministering in Knocklyon has provided their own unique contribution and all have added to the creation of a sense of community that is rare in the world in which we live today. The work undertaken in this community, led by our Carmelite friars has seen Knocklyon become a beacon of Christian endeavour. The building of our Church, of our Primary schools, our Community School, the creation of our Community Centre, the building of the Iona Pastoral Centre and the development of so many parish groups have all aided and enabled parishioners and created a sense of caring for one another.
This caring attitude has been evident more than ever throughout the pandemic when our Carmelite priests kept our faith alive through keeping our Church open and available for prayer and through our online masses. Though it has been difficult and at times traumatic as a community we have pulled through and please God, we will be able to get back to a fully functioning parish in the near future.
So, what does the future hold ?
From the beginning of February next year the parish will revert to the direct control of the Archdiocese. In due course, the Archbishop will decide on who will minister here and in what circumstances. In the meantime, we will continue to have a Carmelite presence and we hope to use the time between now and then to try and complete as much of our missed sacramental preparation as possible.
Let us all pray that the Lord will guide us through the coming period with strength and compassion. Let us pray too for Fr Martin, Fr Joe, Fr Fintan as they face change in their ministry. Let us look with hope to the future and in the words of St Paul,
“ May the God of hope fill you all with joy and peace as you
Trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power
Of the Holy Spirit “
Romans 15 : 13
Thank you all for your attention – let us pray for one another in the uncertain days ahead.