Finding sanctuary in the middle of the city

Fr Sean Donohoe pictured at the Friary last Thursday. Photo: Pat Moore.
For hundreds of years the priest and brothers at the Friary have been quietly offering support and solace to the people of the city.

For hundreds of years the priest and brothers at the Friary have been quietly offering support and solace to the people of the city.

They do so in a quiet and unassuming way and the door of the Friary is always open for those who want to visit.

Father Sean Donohoe is the guardian of the Friary and returned to Kilkenny last August.

Since then there has been an assessment of sorts in the running order of things at the Friary to accommodate the needs of the community.

“There is an ongoing process of renewal at the Friary in both the spiritual and social sense,” he said.

Mass times have changed to facilitate people in a better way and now there is an daily evening Mass in the city. There are also plans to start distributing food parcels to those in need in the city starting in early Summer.

Father Sean explained that the initiative of handing out food parcels was both ‘responding to a need and to the generosity of the people’.

“People are always calling in. Some people come in looking for prayers or some people to talk. I have heard it said that the Friary is the centre of spirituality in the city - it is not our Friary but the people’s Friary.

“We reach out to people and offer a listening and non judgemental ear. I suppose we act as a sort of spiritual guide, but we are not counsellors.

“The world is so busy and so quick and people find it hard for someone to just sit with them. You don’t have to be a believer or religious to call in. It is non stop - there is always people coming in. The Friary is never empty, it is a place for the people,” said Father Sean.

The affable priest is clearly content with the path he has chosen in life.

“The people take care of us very well with their prayers, friendship and financial support. I get much more than I give. From the moment I arrived in Kilkenny I was made feel very welcome,” he said.

At present there are six priests and one brother based at the Friary but the Franciscans are always open to new vocations.

“We are always looking for vocations. Pope Francis has brought about great change and this is positive. Kilkenny has being chosen by the Order as one of the houses that will be developed as a hub to show the authentic Capuchin life and the simple Franciscan way of dealing with things.” For more see page 37