Tuesday 20 August 2019

Nuns hope to stay in hermitage home despite planning row

Simple life: Sister Anne Marie (left) and Mother Irene Gibson hope they can remain in their home. PHOTO: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Simple life: Sister Anne Marie (left) and Mother Irene Gibson hope they can remain in their home. PHOTO: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Ralph Riegel and Olivia Kelleher

Two Carmelite nuns are hopeful that they will be able stay in their rural Cork hermitage home, despite being taken to court over an alleged planning law breach.

Cork County Council has objected to their dwelling at Corran South, near Leap, West Cork, amid claims that it was "entirely unauthorised".

At a sitting of Skibbereen District Court, Judge James McNulty was told that the local authority had received complaints from the public about the two-storey cladded building. The structure consists of a wooden chapel, a wooden shed and a timber fence, as well as cells.

Mother Irene Gibson, who has spent almost 30 years living as a consecrated hermit, said that they did "regretfully rock the boat" by erecting a two-storey modular building.

"It was not my intention to put that up in that I thought when I was buying it, it was not visible from the road. When I saw that it was very high, I was very unhappy," she said.

The Dublin-born nun said if she and fellow nun Sister Anne Marie had to leave, they would immediately do so. But it is hoped a compromise can be reached.

"I will miss it. Of course I love my own country, but if we have to go to the ends of the world and that is God's will, so be it," she said.

Meanwhile, Sr Anne Marie, formerly Hannah Loeman, who professed her vows of obedience, chastity and poverty on Monday, said joining the order was the realisation of a dream.

"It is all I dreamed of to be at last in this order of Carmel," she said.

Sr Anne Marie (20), from New Zealand, said they live in individual cells, where they spend much of their time. They pray, eat and read and live a simple life.

She decided to join the order because of its devotion to Our Lady and reading about the life of St Teresa.

Solicitor for the nuns Letty Baker told the court that where they live is very basic and the buildings are solely used for religious purposes.

The case has been adjourned until December 10. Judge McNulty has urged other orders in West Cork to offer the nuns a new home.

The nuns are part of the Carmelite Order of the Holy Face of Jesus. Their website says that modern society has an "urgent need for contemplative prayer, for unending praise, adoration and supplication".

Irish Independent

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