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Holy Trinity

Although the Capuchins arrived in Cork as early as 1637 it was many years before they settled in the foundation which we now know as Holy Trinity Church and Friary. Their earliest recorded appearance is in the southern side of the city, just outside ‘the South Gate’. The first half of the 17th century saw many years of religious persecution. Capuchins, like other religious and priests, lived a hunted existence drifting around in disguise amongst their flock. As the century wore on they seem to have established a permanent apostolate in the south parish and by 1741 had some sort of a friary in Blackamore Lane, just behind ‘Sullivan’s Quay’. They had a chapel, which became known as ‘The South Friary’ built there by 1771. It was a thickly populated area, a congested district - so that congregations grew under the constant prompting of the friars. Eventually the building could no longer hold them so Father Theobald Matthew, just before the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, decided to build a larger church. At the time the city of Cork, under the power of rapidly developing commerce, had begun to expand in all directions. George’s Quay had been built during the second half of the previous century so as to make the river navigable for shipping and in 1806 Parliament Bridge had replaced an earlier structure connecting both sides of the river. Below this bridge, near the busy shipping centre of the southern channel Father Theobald Matthew selected a site for his church. The foundation stone was laid on the 10 October 1832 but the church was not opened for public service until eighteen years later (10 October 1850). Many reasons caused the delay, shortage of money, faulty foundations, the Total Abstinence Campaign and the Famine. Although the church had been roofed and the exterior finished somewhat in accordance with the original design it was without steeple until later. That was added in 1891 as a result of the centenary celebration of the birth of Father Matthew (1890).

After the opening of Holy Trinity Church, 1850, the Capuchins who had been living in various places in the South Parish got a lease of a house (1855) at No.8 George’s Quay. Here they were able to come together and live a regular life. Later they moved across the river to a house built by Fr. Cherubine - an Italian at the corner of Queens Street and Charlotte Quay, just where the Cork Gas Company at present stands. Finally in the summer of 1884 they came to the present friary, which gave them direct communication with the church. The building of the friary was started by Fr. Simeon and completed by Fr. Seraphin who became the first Provincial of the re-constituted Province.

 

The completion of the church and Friary gave the Capuchins a splendid opportunity to organise their regular life and pursue apostolates suitable to their calling. Since their coming to Ireland they had been living in a mission situation under constant threat of persecution. Now all that was changed and moreover the community, which from the 1860s had been largely Italian, was now almost all Irish. As the congregations attending the Church increased, popular devotions and sodalities were re-organised to meet their demands. Following the consecration of the whole Order to the Sacred Heart on 6 January 1874, the Irish Capuchins at the bequest of very Rev. Fr. Bernard of Andermatt, Mm. General from 1890 onwards renewed annually the Act of Consecration with Exposition of the Most Blessed Sacrament in each of the friaries on the Feast of the Epiphany. At the same time the devotion was spread amongst the people. During the Guardianship of Fr. Joseph (1907-1910) a special shrine was erected in Holy Trinity to St. Anne; devotion to her became so popular that it has continued right down to the present day - every Tuesday evening.

THE SACRAMENT OF Faithful devotion to the confessional, which had been one of the main features of pastoral work in the ‘little Friary’ in Blackamore Lane has continued in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity. Right from the beginning the hearing of confessions, in church or friary, was promoted as one of the most important duties of the friars. Measures were taken so that the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be available at all times so the Church grew in popularity as the ‘refuge of sinners’. Up to the middle of the present century confessions were particularly heavy, even outside the principal liturgical seasons. Every Saturday morning after the 10 o’clock Mass; then again in the evening from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and at night from 7 p.m. until the last person had been heard. During this night session, when every ‘box’ would be occupied, at times the Church would be closed at 9.30 p.m. then no one else would be admitted but all already inside would be heard. Since Vatican II the popularity of regular confession has dramatically declined, still the work of reconciliation continues at Holy Trinity.

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THIRD ORDER - SECULAR FRANCISCANS

In the Cork Examiner of 24 September 1866 we read that the Third Order of Holy Trinity took part as a body in the liturgical procession at the laying of the foundation stone for the new Cork Friary. So by 1885 they were well established; it had been introduced by Fr. Edward Tommins in that same year and immediately took root. The Council met weekly and the general body assembled for Mass and Holy Communion once a month. Their observance of the Third Order Rule produced a high standard of Christian living, which gave witness and edification to the Faithful at large. Besides saying the prayers as enjoined by their Rule the Brothers and Sisters visited the sick, buried their dead, made an annual retreat and cultivated the spirit of fraternal charity amongst their members.

Robed in their habits they attended the main liturgical services in the Church and were later well represented at the Eucharistic Processions whether in Rochestown or in Cork. Matters did not always run smoothly; there were ‘ups and downs’. By 1890s the membership had declined. In a visitation dated 3-18 July 1898, Fr. Benevenutus Guy found general apathy and slip-shod manners resulting, perhaps, from lack of enthusiasm. Under his direction interest was revived, abuses rooted out, regular attendance at meetings improved, and ‘zealators’ or animators stimulated more active work in their respective areas.

Third Order Sisters came into existence probably the same time as the Brothers. Their extant Minute book going back to 1877 shows that they were well organised at that time. The number of professed varied but was well over 100; not all attended the monthly meetings, which consisted of Prayer, lecture and Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. The content of the lectures was generally an exposition of some part of the Rule and reminders of the standard expected of them. They certainly practised devotion to the Sacred Heart, Our Lady and St. Francis and provided a genuine source of edification to the congregation in Holy Trinity.

 

It would not be easy to record the full services of these good Third Order Sisters and Brothers down the years; a service willingly given in every difficulty and often at considerable cost to themselves. They formed the back-bone of support in social work like the clothing Guild, the helping of orphans, they always solidly supported the Foreign Missions. For example in 1980 they raised thousands of pounds to build a church in Capetown; and in 1982 they were in the forefront of the work for the restoration of the Church of the Most Holy Trinity.

Vocations to the religious life came from amongst members of the Third Order; cases are recorded of sisters who left to join convents and some Brothers joined the Capuchins. In fact, of the original six young men who became members of the Third Order in 1866, two joined the First Order; Con O’Mahony, who as Br.Joseph, died in 1902 and Thomas Harte, who as Br. Felix, died in 1935. Of our present day Capuchins, Fr. Dominic and Br. Gabriel McGillicudy and Br. Finbarr 0’ Donovan were former members of the Third Order in Holy Trinity.

Historical associations closely connected Holy Trinity with the work of Fr. Theobald Mathew. In 1890 the Nation celebrated his birth and the friars at Holy Trinity, in co-operation with many Temperance supporters in Cork, organised the various functions. Their work did not end here. Some of them took part in the National Crusade which started in 1906 and many individuals, like the namesake Fr. Matthew Flynn, wrote and worked for the cause of temperance. There was a Sacred Thirst Sodality attached to the Church and the Father Mathew Hall with its splendid recreational facilities, provided a meeting place for the members of the Sodality.

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SOCIAL CONCERN

At the turn of the century one of the social problems affecting Cork City was the number of young boys roaming the streets at night. Some of them were practically homeless and almost all were deprived of that care and affection which parents are normally expected to give. At that time there were many institutes in the city catering for the underprivileged and deprived but none of them devoted specifically to the care of such young boys. In 1901 Fr. Bernard of Holy Trinity set about tackling the problem. Aided by a committee consisting of four members of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and three gentlemen nominated by himself, and with the blessing of the Most Rev. Dr. O’Callaghan, Bishop of Cork, he took over a house in Queen Street (now Fr. Mathew Street) with the intention of opening a club. The premises had been previously used by the St. Vincent de Paul for much the same purpose but had not succeeded. Almost immediately it proved too small so they moved to a more spacious building at No.26 Cook Street (November 1901) which had been known as the ‘Old Theatre’. Although the rent was £80.00 a year, it was worth it, because Fr. Bernard was able to accommodate the boys comfortably. The members, whose ages ranged from nine to eighteen years, were organised into an association similar to the Dublin Boys’ Brigade, which was in operation in Church Street. All the members had to take the pledge, abstain from smoking and go to Confession and Holy Communion monthly. As most of them were uneducated they were given regular classes in religion, reading and writing. Later on more advanced subjects, which helped them to get respectable positions; were added. They were well-drilled in physical exercises by competent instructors, and had a full range of indoor games and a suitable library of books and papers. So here in Cork, at the very beginning of the century, long before the emergence of modern youth clubs, was a voluntary organisation designed in the words of a Cork Examiner Editorial of the day,

‘to capture the young fellow left vagrant on the streets, to teach him and to train him to mould his character and instruct him in the duties and responsibilities of citizenship and that no less was the undertaking to which the Catholic Boy’s Brigade of Fr. Bernard was devoted’.

That good man is well remembered because in 1907, during the Guardianship of Fr. Joseph an extension to the Church was completed and formally opened as a memorial to him.

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TRADE UNION DISPUTES

In his centennial oration delivered on the centenary of the birth of Father Theobald Mathew, 10 October 1890, Sir John Pope Hennessy referred to the part that Fr. Mathew had played in the improvement of conditions for the working population of Cork. That tradition lives on amongst the Capuchins. In 1901, Fr. Leonard Brophy was mainly instrumental in negotiating a settlement in connection with a wage dispute involving the workers at the Crosse & Blackwell factory on Morrisson’s Quay, and then later in the year played an important part in averting a threatened strike at the Cork Gas company

Many years later Fr. Thomas Dowling made quite a name for himself in a similar capacity. During the Great War 1914-1918 the cost of ordinary commodities rose considerably in Cork City. As a result the interplay between rising costs and wages began to affect the economy. Wages could not match prices so strikes were called.

In the circumstances Fr. Thomas, who had studied social reform, threw himself wholeheartedly into the work of mediation and arbitration between employers and trade unions.

He became chairman of the Cork Conciliation Board and in that capacity presided over the negotiations between the Tramway workers and the Company in a crucial wage dispute. The minutes of the Board, taken on 27 October 1919, record the satisfactory manner in which the proceedings were conducted with the happy result that a proposal acceptable to both sides was agreed upon. In grateful recognition for his general services the Cork Trade Unions donated a beautiful stain glass window, which was placed in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, to his memory. In addition as a measure of his civic and national service the Freedom of the City was granted to him by the Cork Corporation and the National University conferred on him an honorary LL.D. degree.

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CLOTHING GUILD

In December 1968 a Clothing Guild was started from the Friary by Fr. Dominic Atkinson. Both he and the then Guardian Fr. Colga O’Riordan were interested in the welfare of the poor and felt that a regular supply of free clothes and other household necessities would be of practical benefit to deserving classes. They were not far out. Very soon Fr. Dominic discovered that many people all over the city were in need. There was a lot of work to be done; supplies had to be gathered, a suitable depot set up and reliable system of distribution established. With the immediate aid of his two brothers, Sean and Paudie Atkinson he organised a band of helpers from the Third Order who refitted the front of the old Assembly Rooms as a suitable work-centre to cater for those who may come for clothing. And come they did, from every part of the city. When the service got fully under way it was estimated that about 100 sacks of good clothing were distributed each week; that was over 5,000 sacks per year! A colossal task for a voluntary organisation. And these garments were good, well inspected clothing suitable for all kinds and for all occasions. The burden of sorting, making ready and arranging suitable packs rested on the shoulders of a magnificent ladies committee, most of whom are members of the Third Order. They willingly give their time and energy. Although the service is called a ‘Clothing Guild’, a variety of items find their way into the centre; furniture, toys at Christmas, food etc. In 1984 over 300 families got special help at Christmas.

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ST. FRANCIS TRAINING CENTRE

Begun by Fr. Rock Bennet in the early 1980s the aim of the Training Centre is to help those who are losing out - boys rejected or dismissed from the normal educational establishments. An old building near the Friary was renovated and extended to cater for the needs of the boys. It contains class-rooms, work-shops, recreational facilities, a well-equipped kitchen and a dining hall in which up to one hundred lunches are served each day. Boys are welcomed not only with acceptance and tolerance but educated and trained in woodwork, engineering, catering etc. Special attention is paid to their religious formation. An example of the standards achieved is the fact that catering trainees were able to prepare, under direction, a five course dinner which they were allowed to put on in the Imperial Hotel for special guests one Sunday night before Christmas (1984). Many boys are, at the end of their course, placed in suitable employment.

St. Francis Training Centre was built to cater for the offenders - the disadvantaged Youth of our City. When we say disadvantaged we mean it in the real sense of the word. Not a young person from a comfortable home, who has studied hard for the Leaving Certificate and cannot find work, or a college student who has spent years studying and is now unemployed. Although we do sympathise with these people, they are not what we would call disadvantaged. The Youth we cater for are boys, who have been cast out from our "society’’ all their lives. They have known failure, disappointment, neglect, and an extreme detachment from material goods, security and comfort. Their way of hitting back at society for the injustice they suffered was through crime. They knew no better. For this they were condemned, but it was their first link with recognition, although not accepted by society, they were a focus of attention. They find it hard to accept the fact that they were born into a life of hardship, resentment, and insecurity. They steal from others because they do not understand why they do not have the luxuries, sometimes necessities, which others take for granted.

When these boys come to St. Francis Training Centre, they do not have to impress us, or sell themselves as many of us have to at interviews, they are accepted as they are. This in itself is the beginning of an improvement, as, for the first time they can be themselves, and are accepted as they are. Some come to us of their own freewill, others are referred to us by Probation and School Attendance Officers, however nobody regrets coming. Here, as well as being themselves, they meet many others like them, and this verifies the fact that they are not alone in the world.

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SODALITIES

Amongst the sodalities at Holy Trinity, which have lost pace in modern times are the Sacred Thirst Sodality and the Happy Death Society. The object of this letter, which was promoted very successfully by Fr. Finbar O’Callaghan, was to pray and prepare for a happy death - surely a practical objective in the Christian life. Nowadays, however, the place of the confraternities has been taken by different forms of devotional activity. Prayer groups, led by Frs. Adrian, Roderick, Angelus meet regularly in the friary; Christian concern for the old and lonely finds practical expression amongst bodies such as Hope, and Spes, which use the Friary as their base. Fr. Roderick Heffernan has organised a Folk Group which participates in liturgical services and helps to make them meaningful for the young.

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RECONSTRUCTION

During his term of office as Guardian, (1978-1981), Fr. Eustace McSweeney conceived the idea of bringing the interior of the church more into line with modern liturgical requirements and at the same time carrying out some needed repairs. When the architects, however, examined the building they found that serious structural defects had developed with the result that a major work of reconstruction had to be undertaken. The task, which involved a considerable sum of money, was completed within a year. Not every one is satisfied with the reconstructed interior; they miss the old historic Trinity but the Church is now fully suitable for the celebration of liturgical services and for the active participation by the laity.

Often spectacular events hit the headlines but it should never be forgotten that it is from the ordinary daily life of the friary that all pastoral activity arise. The deeper that life the more fruitful the service. People expressed gratitude for these services, each one treasuring memories particular to themselves. For some it may have been the intensely devotional experience of the Quarant Ore; for others the singing of compline on the first Sunday night of each month; but for all the Lenten Missions became a time of renewal which few missed. Many remembered the packed congregations and the scene outside the church on the final night when preachers and community mingled with people and local bands played stirring hymns.

The friary door always remains open to welcome the stream of faithful who come for various needs. This great service of sympathetic response to personal problems is in the tradition of Capuchin convents all over the world, and remains as one of their greatest contributions to the people among whom they live.

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PHOTO CALL

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Altar and Window

 

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Altar in more detail

 

 

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Ambo

 

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Window above the main altar

 

 

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Crucifix

 

 

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Main Entrance

 

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Friary

 

 

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Church and Friary

 

 

 

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Holy Trinity Church

 

 

 

 

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Training Centre