FOLLOWING the news that the Dominican provincial chapter will be withdrawing from the Dominican Friary on Bridge Street at the end of this year, Father John Harris, Prior Provincial of the Irish Dominicans, gave an important update in a sermon at St Saviour’s Church, Ballybeg, on Sunday last, September 18.
Preaching to the congregation, Fr Harris said that the church “will not be closing when we Dominicans leave”.
“We will be handing over the property to the bishop and the diocese, and the pastoral care for this church will be looked after,” Fr Harris said. “At present the bishop is in negotiations with another religious congregation to take on the pastoral care of this church. We Dominicans will be leaving Waterford by the end of November.”
Last year, the Dominican provincial chapter petitioned the Master of the Order for permission to withdraw the community from St Saviour’s, Bridge Street, Waterford. The document to suppress St Saviour’s Priory was signed in Rome and will take effect on 31 December 2022. The decision ends an association with Waterford that has lasted almost 800 years.
“We understand the sadness this withdrawal will cause for the many faithful people who look to St Saviour’s as their regular place of worship and prayer,” Fr Harris said. “These decisions arise from the plain fact that declining numbers mean that Dominicans have to re-group in a smaller number of centres: with fewer than 50 members under the age of 65, we physically cannot continue to staff all our existing 19 centres. Dominicans work as communities: the Order’s Constitutions require that they be normally of no fewer than six brothers.”
Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan said that after 800 years they could “never leave the Friary close”.
“It’s such a beautiful church, which has become a sanctuary for so many people,” Bishop Cullinan said. “Any time I visit the church I always see someone praying.”
The Bishop said that the College of Consultors, which is a diocesan body of priests, chosen by Bishop Cullinan from among the members of the diocesan council of priests, were “unanimous” in agreeing that they should accept the “generous offer” of the Irish Dominicans to take over pastoral control of the church
“We are actively negotiating with a religious order at present and we hope that they will be able to take over the Friary the next day after the Dominicans leave,” Bishop Cullinan said. “That way, the church will not have to close.”