The Franciscans came to Killiney, first in 1945, after the second World War. During the war, items of historical value had to be removed from Dublin, by government order, in case the war developed in our direction and there was a danger of our capital city being bombed. Such items included the valuable Irish manuscripts housed in the Library of the friars on Merchants’ Quay. They were sent to the friary in Multyfarnham, Co. Westmeath for the Emergency, as the war years were called. After the war, it was decided not to put them back in Dublin, where the library on Merchants’ Quay was not spacious enough, as well as being upstairs in a friary and therefore inaccessible to female researchers.
Archbishop John McQuaid kindly informed the Minister Provincial of the Franciscans, Fr. John Evangelist McBride (later a missionary bishop in South Africa), that the present Dún Mhuire (formerly named Inveruisk) on Seafield Road, Killiney, was up for sale. The friars acquired it for the House of Studies, manned by their own Celtic scholars. In the 1950’s a new wing was added especially for a new library, which became the official Franciscan library for historical material, the Irish manuscripts and many in other languages, as well as for rare books collected from all the friaries throughout Ireland. Fr. Benignus Millett was the librarian there for many years. There, specially trained Franciscan scholars engaged in editing and publishing some of the very rare Irish manuscripts housed in the archives. As well as that, they in time had to take care of historically valuable documents deposited in the library by President Eamon de Valera and General Seán Mac Eoin, and also collections of books donated by others.
From the beginning, the scholars engaged also in pastoral work, being called upon by the Archbishop and the local priests to celebrate Mass and preach in various churches and chapels. In the days before they had any other means of transport than on Shank’s mare, they walked to the churches in Ballybrack and Shankill to celebrate Mass and preach. And they were often asked to supply for the chaplains in the various nearby convents, including the Sisters of Marie Auxiliatrice at Aughnacloy beside Dún Mhuire, the Congregation of Our Lady of the Cenacle on Military Road, and the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus on the same road where one of the friars eventually became a full-time chaplain. They also celebrated Mass often for the Sisters at St. Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown. They were asked too to give historical lectures and spiritual retreats in places outside the parish; and they acted as temporary chaplains to Irish schools in Carrigaholt, Co. Clare, Rann na Feirsde, Co. Donegal, Brú na Midhe and in Gorey, Co. Wexford. Two of the friars have served as chaplains in Scoil Lorcáin, Monkstown, for the past thirty years and continue that ministry today.
Fr. Ignatius Fennessey O.F.M.
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