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Buying Back the Farm: the TLM in Limerick

12 December, 2014 0 Comments

By Lyle Dunne

Traditionalists in Limerick must be beginning to think of the GFC as an ill wind that has certainly blown them good.

When I was in Ireland a few years ago, I was thrilled to discover the interior of the Church in the town of my ancestors had been preserved from modernisers – pulpit, altar rails and all! But it was not through the actions of parishioners motivated by a respect for beauty or tradition, but the secular authorities – specifically the government guardians of architectural heritage. The pulpit, it seemed, was of particular historical significance because of a relief portrait on the front of the priest who raised the funds to erect the Church! (One tends to forget how recent most Catholic churches in Ireland are: neither of the two ancient cathedrals of Dublin is now in the hands of the Catholic Church.)

A narrow squeak, I thought. You can never go back, they say. It’s no use bemoaning the past. In the words of the Irish song The Town I Loved So Well:

For what’s done is done and what’s won is won
and what’s lost is lost and gone forever
I can only pray for a bright, brand new day
in the town I loved so well

Well, not always forever.

In 2006 the Jesuits had sold off the historic Sacred Heart Church in Limerick: according to The Eponymous Flower blog

The Jesuits sold everything with the sale of the church, including all the equipment, liturgical objects, confessionals and pews but also the altar, the Stations of the Cross, and even the tabernacle.

– and who was the buyer?

A construction company that wanted to convert the church into a swimming pool and wellness center.

Sacred Heart Church, Limerick (photo:

The project, however, like many of the extravagant construction projects commenced in Ireland at the time, was stalled due to the Global Financial Crisis.

Meanwhile, as reported on their website and The Eponymous Flower blog,  The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest had outgrown their seminary in Gricigliano in Tuscany Italy, and were looking to acquire another property.

The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right who say the Traditional Latin Mass. It’s worth quoting from their Mission Statement:

The mission of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is to spread the reign of Christ in all spheres of human life by drawing from the millennial treasury of the Roman Catholic Church, particularly her liturgical tradition, the unbroken line of spiritual thought and practice of her saints, and her cultural patrimony in music, art and architecture.

(As Fr Zuhlsdorf might say, “Do I hear an ‘Amen’?”)

In 2012 they attempted to purchase a former papal seminary in Sardinia (disused for decades), but the local Bishops had got wind of the purchase and vetoed it. (The property is now used as a kind of interreligious welcome centre for immigrants, it seems.)

Stymied in Sardinia, they turned instead to Limerick, and began negotiating to buy the Sacred Heart Church, which had lain disused for six years. Apparently they were able to talk the sellers down from an original four million Euro asking price to “around €700,000”!

Traditionalists in Limerick must be beginning to think of the GFC as an ill wind that has certainly blown them good.

The Institute moved in last year, and this year celebrated the Easter vigil in the church for the first time in eight years.

According to Canon Lebocq, Prior of the Sacred Heart Church:

When we moved here last year it was raining both in the church and residence [note “in”!], the heating was broken and everything was empty. All statues, Stations of the Cross and benches had been sold or removed, including the main altar and tabernacle.

The vocation of our community is to give praise to God through a beautiful liturgy, by the celebration of Holy Mass according to the traditional rite in Latin, to adore Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, to sing Divine Office; but also to preach and teach the Catholic Faith in its integrity.

That is why both liturgical items [the marble pulpit and flanking angels] are linked and necessary for this church: we must first pray and adore Jesus like angels but the divine truth must also be explained and understood by the sermons.”

On 27 June, Canon Lebocq blessed and tested the (glorious) newly-installed pulpit – you can see pictures here (it doesn’t appear to bear his portrait, which may or may not be a good thing…)

And the angels here.

Oh, and you can see here the pictures of four of the eight(8) priests of the order ordained by Cardinal Burke – four in July in Florence, and these four in August in St Louis.


I leave readers to draw their own conclusions about orders, their prospects and their missions.

I wonder what it would cost to buy a cathedral in Dublin? Fortunately neither belongs to the Catholic Church…

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