Statement from Bishop Noel Treanor on the Closure of the Poor Clare Monastery
I pay tribute today to the Poor Clare Sisters who take leave of their monastery after 88 years of dedicated service to the local community, the city of Belfast and the Church. The Sisters leave behind an invaluable legacy of prayerful support and a sense of the closeness of God, especially in turbulent times. Their presence and spiritual guidance were both sought and received well across the communities. They will be sadly missed. Their departure is a profound loss to Sacred Heart parishioners, to the Diocese and to all who have come to know and love the Sisters over the years. From within the enclosure of their monastery they have constantly reached out in support of those who came to visit them.
The Sisters have modelled a spiritual joy and sense of peace which are the fruits of a life of contemplative dedication. I join with all those who visited their monastery over the years, the parishioners of Sacred Heart and beyond, priests and religious, as I wish them every blessing for the future and as they transfer to other monasteries in the Philippines and in Ireland.
Following the recent decision of the Poor Clare Sisters to close their monastery, the Diocese gave extensive consideration to the future use of the building and how it may continue to best serve the pastoral and spiritual needs of the diocese. Due to the impending refurbishment and necessary work required to the present fabric of the current diocesan seminary, situated within the grounds of St Malachy’s College, it has been decided to relocate the seminary to the Poor Clare monastery.
Indeed, in keeping with the recommendations of the recent Apostolic Visitation to Ireland, this new location will provide an area of peace and reflection within which seminarians can discern their vocation to the priesthood, while allowing them to engage in a formation programme that will prepare them for service in the local Church.
I also pay tribute to the Franciscan Friar, and in particular to Fr Aidan McGrath ofm, and to the Vincentian Fathers, under Fr Perry Gildea, who ministered to the Sisters throughout several decades in providing Chaplaincy services to them and to the people who attended morning Mass with the Sisters. Together with the Sisters I thank all those, who over the years, have supported them in numerous ways and especially in more recent weeks. I would like to publically thank them for their care, kindness and practical help to the Sisters.
To facilitate the imminent transfer of the seminary it is necessary to undertake some works in the monastery building and the monastery chapel will now no longer be accessible to the general public for daily mass. However, in response to an appeal for the continuation of a morning Mass at 8am, with the agreement of both the Vincentians and the Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Parish, I am happy that this provision will transfer from the monastery on Monday 24th September, initially to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Deanby Gardens, and thereafter, permanently to the Church of the Sacred Heart upon completion of renovation works at that site.
I would finally like to thank Mr David Lambon, the Principal, and the staff of St Malachy’s College for their ongoing contribution to the life of the Seminary and to the formation of priests. I wish also to assure them of the Diocese’s continued commitment to St Malachy's College as assured by Fr Michael Spence, Rector of the seminary, who is a member of the teaching staff.