Saturday 26 May 2018

Setback for 'silent' monks in bid to save monastery

Brother Elijah, Brother Finian and Brother Mark Kirby with their dog Hilda in Silverstream Priory, Stamullen, Co Meath
Brother Elijah, Brother Finian and Brother Mark Kirby with their dog Hilda in Silverstream Priory, Stamullen, Co Meath
At prayer Brother Elijah, Brother Finian and on right Brother Mark Kirby at the Church in Silverstream Priory Stamullen, County Meath thats in need of refurbished. Photo:Mark Condren
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

A burst water pipe on Good Friday has added to the woes of a group of monks who are desperately trying to raise funds to save their beloved monastery.

The four Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration have renewed their appeal for donations in order to secure their home and save their Victorian-era monastery in Co Meath from falling into further decay.

But they suffered a major setback when, shortly after midnight on Holy Thursday, a hot water pipe burst in its converted stables. They had been renovated just a fortnight before as guest lodging. Extensive damage was caused to the newly-laid floors, walls and ceilings.

"That came as a terrible shock. The whole place filled with hot steam," said Prior Dom Fr Mark Daniel Kirby.

The monastery – known as Silverstream Priory, and built around 1845 – is set on 15 idyllic acres of countryside near Stamullen, Co Meath, and has been owned by the Visitation Order of nuns since 1955.

But many of the nuns died over the past few years and are buried in the adjacent cemetery, or are old and infirm and need to sell the property in order to pay for nursing home care.

The price tag for the property is €750,000, including a chapel that is crumbling and in bad need of repair.

But the order, which is completely self-funded, has no source of income beyond its own stone walls and took the unusual step of issuing a public appeal for help on St Patrick's Day.

An anonymous donor from the Netherlands came through with an incredible €100,000 – and individual donors have given €30,000 – but they still have a long way to go.

"Everything here is old and decrepit. The more we look around, the more work needs to be done," Dom Kirby told the Irish Independent.

The chapel, which was built in 1952, could be a set for a horror movie were it not consecrated ground. It is literally falling down with damp and paint is peeling from the walls.

The monks would like to put in new floors, walls and a ceiling and open it up to the public once again.

"A monastery without a church is like a body without a heart," he said.

But they cannot begin renovations until they own the property and they took the unusual step of appealing to the public for funds because they have no other options.

"It's like we're in limbo," he said.

While they rarely venture beyond the confines of the monastery except on rare occasions to get the post or go to the doctor, Fr Mark said they are not totally cut off from the world despite being an 'enclosed cloister'. Even their 'vow of silence' is misleading, he said. They do speak and even crack the occasional joke.

"People think we're mute, but it's not mutism," he explained, but rather a devotion to silence and quietness in order to reflect on God. "Monastic silence is listening to God. It's not an oppressive silence."

And while the enclosed monks have no TVs or radios. their home is open to anyone who wishes to pray.

"For us, it's the same way of life here since the sixth century. Prior to the Restoration, Ireland was blanketed by monasteries. They were always centres of learning and creativity," he added. "We want to keep the torch burning in this corner of Co Meath."

There is also growing interest among young men considering a life in the monastery, he said. But they must secure the monastery first.


Irish Independent

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