12 December 2017
One of Leonard Cohen’s earliest hit songs opens with the line:
Oh the sisters of mercy, they are not departed or gone.
The Sisters of Mercy left Rathkeale over four years ago, but the convent they built soon after their arrival in Rathkeale in 1850 remains a landmark building on Thomas Street.
Saint Anne’s, the former Convent of Mercy, forms an interesting ecclesiastical and architectural group with the neighbouring Roman Catholic parish church, Saint Mary’s Church.
The form and detailing of the former convent mark out this building on the streetscape of Rathkeale. The gabled bay is characteristic of convent buildings of its time, along with the stone quoins, the cross finial and the lancet recess.
The size and scale of the building give it an imposing appearance that is complemented by the boundary railings. The rubble stone boundary wall behind the convent on the west side has a pointed arch entrance set in a slight projection and once surmounted by a carved and dated cross with raised lettering.
The convent, which predates Saint Mary’s Church, was built around 1850, when the Sisters of Mercy first arrived in Rathkeale.
Saint Anne’s is a detached, seven-bay, two-storey building, with a projecting gabled north bay at the front on Thomas Street or east and the west or rear elevations and a three-bay two-storey hipped-roofed block to the north side.
After more than a century and a half in the town, the Sisters of Mercy left Rathkeale in April 2013. Neighbouring Saint Mary’s Church was thronged for a special Mass before the last three nuns left Saint Anne’s Convent.
Sister Jerome Darcy arrived in Rathkeale in 1958, Sister Joseph Conway was at Saint Anne’s for 25 years and Sister Mary Galvin had been there for nine years. Sister Jerome and Sister Mary moved to their community’s house in Westbourne in Limerick city, while Sister Joseph moved to Mount Saint Vincent on O’Connell Street, Limerick.
The three Sisters were joined for the Mass and celebration by other members of the community who had served in Rathkeale down through the years. The Mass was celebrated by the parish priest of Rathkeale, Father Alphonsus Cullinan, now the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.
Later, at a reception in the Rathkeale House Hotel, presentations were made to each nun who had lived in Rathkeale.
The convent building is now vacant, but it remains diocesan or parochial property. Behind the old convent building, the pointed arch entrance remains, but the carved and dated cross with raised lettering that once stood above the gate have since gone missing.
We are in the second week of Advent.
Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.
USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.
Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.
This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies through ‘a USPG-supported Anglican health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast.
In the Prayer Diary on Sunday, Gloria, told her story and how she had benefitted from this programme.
The USPG Prayer Diary:
Tuesday 12 December 2017:
Give thanks for the success of the Anglican Church’s health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in many parts of Africa (see article).
Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:
The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.
Today, the calendar suggests reading Matthew 21: 23-27.
The reflection for today suggests:
Jesus faced constant opposition. Think how he answered his critics. How do we make his ways our ways?
Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):
Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 96: 1, 10-13; and Matthew 18: 12-14.
The Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent:
Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Advent Collect:
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.