Limerick is set to turn a religious tide by attracting a new order to the city in 2016 with the arrival of Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia (a.k.a. Nashville Dominicans) to take over the Priory and breath new life back into St Saviour's Church, Glentworth Street.
Four sisters will arrive in Limerick from the US in August 2016 and begin their work of prayer and community outreach.
The move will take effect less than two years after the Dominican Friars in Ireland announced it had embarked on a process of re-organising its commitments in Ireland in view of falling numbers and would be withdrawing from Limerick.
It will also take place in a special year for the Dominicans worldwide with the 800th anniversary of their foundation by the Spaniard, St Dominic. The Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia itself is a community founded in Nashville in 1860 and flourishing in the United States today.
The remarkable turn of events that has led to the Sisters of St Cecilia coming to Limerick started with an initial speculative contact by Limerick Bishop Brendan Leahy to the Sisters' headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.
"I knew I would be in a long line of bishops making such requests but I decided at least I'd put my name down on the list," he said.
To Bishop Leahy's amazement, he got an immediate reply as the sisters came back to say they were interested in exploring the possibility. Two sisters came last summer and were taken with Limerick, where they were hosted by the Mercy Sisters in Westbourne. Bishop Leahy and Diocesan Secretary Fr Paul Finnerty spent a day showing the sisters around Limerick and soon after they returned to the States the community made the decision they wanted to come to Ireland and Limerick seemed the right place. Commenting on their new move to Limerick Mother Ann Marie, the Prioress General of the Order said, "Our entire community is very excited about being part of the life of the Church in the diocese of Limerick....This is a gift and privilege for us. In our community's early history, we had several sisters who were from Ireland, and a good number of our sisters are of Irish descent. The four sisters who will begin serving in the Diocese of Limerick in August of 2016 are eager to learn more about, and come to know personally, a people who have given so much to the Church".
The timing of the sisters arrival comes almost 800 years since the Order of Preachers (as they are known) came to Limerick in 1227 and established in a number of locations including Kilmallock and Limerick city. They are in Glentworth Street since 1815. The four Dominican sisters will live in the Dominican Priory in Glentworth Street, thereby providing continuity of prayer and the Dominican presence in St Saviour's.
With their distinctive while habits, the Sisters of St Cecilia, whose work is mainly in education, pastoral outreach and youth ministry, will be a significant presence in Limerick.
Bishop Brendan Leahy continued," I think this is a wonderful development. It will be a clear sign of hope for us all in this year when we are having a Synod. I look forward to welcoming the sisters and I know they will get a warm reception from the good-natured Limerick people who appreciate the contribution that Religious sisters have made in Limerick as we saw earlier this year when a civic reception was held to mark that contribution.
In this year dedicated to Consecrated Life, it is like a gift from God to us that we can now look forward to the arrival of new young Dominican Sisters who will surely also be an inspiration to young people".