“Heartbreaking” and “ devastating” were the words used this week by Cllr Frankie Keena to describe the permanent closure of the Friary in Athlone.
It was confirmed last week that the Franciscans will depart Athlone in January 2023 due to an ageing and reduced membership.
As the news continues to emit shock within the community, Cllr Keena, stated this week that it is his intention to seek an Address of Recognition for the Franciscan Friars to acknowledge their contribution to the fabric of Athlone.
“When one thinks about it, it is just mind boggling to learn that the Franciscan order set up a base in Athlone approximately 800 years ago, a similar era to when the Normans invaded Ireland.
“It is just heartbreaking and devastating to know that the Franciscans will depart Athlone in January 2023. There was a sense pf numbness, total silence and shock when the congregation was informed of this news at the weekly Novena.
“Personally, I am just devastated with this news. I would like to sincerely thank the Franciscan Friars for their 800 years of service to the people of Athlone and indeed the present Friars and their excellent staff. The Novena Mass to St Anthony is extremely popular on a Tuesday morning where numerous people love to attend to light a candle and say a special prayer.
“Unfortunately, there are only 78 Franciscan Friars left in the country with a large number of them over 75 years old. This makes their future in Athlone untenable.
“The future of the Friary church itself now lies with the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise but due to the fact that we have no Bishop at the moment this decision will be delayed.
“It is my intention to raise a motion at our next District meeting to look for an Address of Recognition to be bestowed on the Franciscan Friars to thank them for all their work in Athlone over the centuries,” Cllr Keena asserted.