The woman was clear. “It’s like a big funeral,” she said to a friend as they waited to say farewell to Fr Dan Baragry, Redemptorist provincial superior.
They had just been to the final Mass at the Marianella centre in Rathgar in Dublin yesterday, where words such as ‘sadness’, ‘grief’ and ‘painful’ were repeated over and over at those obsequies without a corpse.
The average age of the 12 men in the Redemptorist community in Rathgar is 74. They will move to Limerick, Belfast, and Griffith Avenue in Dublin. Marianella was sold last summer. The Redemptorists had been there since 1919.
“This building, together with the land on which it stands, those objects remaining in it, I now commend to other purposes. With you gathered here in prayer I declare as of now this chapel is no longer a place of worship,” said Mass celebrant and Redemptorist superior Fr Ciarán O’Callaghan.
Moments earlier Fr Clement MacMánuis led the Tantum Ergo as Fr George Wadding took the blessed sacrament from the tabernacle and followed two candle-bearers down the centre aisle, then outside. “There is actually no ritual for deconsecrating a church,” said Fr O’Callaghan. The brief ceremony was “our attempt to ritualise what is happening to us today”.
It was standing room only at the chapel, which dates from 1974.
“Such a throng,” said Fr O’Callaghan, indicated “that this chapel has meant so much to people down four decades.”
In his homily, Fr Baragry spoke of “a difficult and painful time and day not just for the Redemptorists but for all who worship here regularly and who feel an affinity with the Marianella community, particularly with this beautiful chapel.”
There was “a tangible sense of sadness, of loss and grief around Marianella” he said, adding that it was “the end of an era for us Irish Redemptorists and all associated with us.
“It’s a time to take stock and to wonder what the Lord may be saying to us at this time or where He may be leading us.”
Speaking on behalf of the congregation, Elsa Browne said they had been blessed and privileged to have had the benefit of the Redemptorists’ wisdom and learning for so long.
“And if we’ve been moaning and groaning to you about leaving it is only because we love you all so much we don’t want you to go,” she said.
“It’s for your homilies you will be remembered most . . . you’ve challenged us to think and think again . . . and when things were really difficult for the church, you have stood up here before us every week and that must have been hard but you’ve maintained your dignity and our respect.”