Three friars from the Dominican Order are on a 57km walk from Drogheda to the residence of the Prior Provincial in Tallaght in a bid to retain their church.
Along with supporters, they set out on the road to the Order’s priory in Dublin at 7am today.
The walk is part of a campaign to maintain an 800-year tradition of having a Dominican church and priory in Drogheda.
Last year, the order announced a withdrawal from a number of centres due to the fall in the number of friars.
Fr Bernard Tracey, spokesperson for the order said yesterday the decision to withdraw from Drogheda had not changed and consultation with stakeholders was continuing.
Sacristan Declan Hanratty who last year went on hunger strike in an effort to have the decision reversed.
“Thirty years ago, we had 400 friars in 16 centres; now we have 150 in 19 centres and we cannot continue to serve in all centres,” said Fr Tracey.
“Our numbers are stark but how we implement the decision is open to consultation.
“Consultations are taking place concerning each house where the decision was made to withdraw. Members of the provincial council have been appointed to convene and chair the consultations in each area. The consultations involve representatives of people attending each church as well as representatives of the parish and of the diocese.”
Dominican Church in Drogheda which has been in the town for 800 years.
However, Rita Hanratty, spokesperson for the Save the Dominican Church campaign in Drogheda, said there are alternatives.
“We have made a number of proposals to the Dominicans including one that other priests who want to minister here are allowed to do that.
“We also proposed that the house (priory) be turned into a semi-retirement home for the priests.”
She said this could be done without any cost to the order. “Next year, six priests are being ordained into the Dominican order and four of them are due to be sent on for further studies. I think that is ridiculous and we would ask that instead they are allocated to churches including Drogheda.”
Declan Hanratty who last year went on hunger strike
Her husband Declan Hanratty is the sacristan at the church. He went on hunger strike last year in an effort to have the decision reversed.
Between 20 and 30 people were expected to take part in the start of the walk while buses will bring supporters to the Tallaght house for 5pm for the handing over of 22,000 signatures gathered in support of keeping the order in Drogheda.
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