Cúil Aodha is the intended location of the monastery, and an international religious order has already been identified as the likely inhabitants, with talks ongoing with the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, regarding its establishment.
The order is a contemplative one which includes nuns as well as monks, and while it is envisaged much of the initial community would be drawn from overseas, the eventual aim is that Irish would be used as the language of the monastery.
A series of public meetings is being held in Gaeltacht Mhúscraí in order to inform people of the plans and a committee has been formed to drive the project forward.
The idea for the monastery originated from Peadar Ó Riada, son of the late Cúil Aodha composer Seán Ó Riada, both of whom have strong ecclesiastical connections and each having composed Masses.
Seán Ó Riada’s first Mass, ‘Ceol an Aifrinn’, including the offertory ‘Ag Críost an Síol’, is sung worldwide, while his ‘Aifrinn 2’ was originally commissioned by the monks of Glenstal Abbey.
Peadar Ó Riada, who took over as director of Cór Chúil Aodha, the church choir founded by his father, upon Seán’s death in 1971, said the thinking behind the foundation of a monastery was practical as well as spiritual.
“The reason for the monastery is that I believe all societies should be in balance with creation and spirituality,” said Peadar, the composer of a large body of liturgical music including much of Cór Chúil Aodha’s material.
The decline in vocations to the Church also had a bearing on Ó Riada’s thinking.
“A monastery would also be a way of providing a priest for the area if none should be available,” explained Peadar, whose music has brought him into contact with many in the upper echelons of the Church in Ireland.
“Authority figures in the Church are conducting negotiations on our behalf,” he said, confirming that talks regarding the selection of the religious order planned for Cúil Aodha have already taken place in Dublin.
“It’s a contemplative order that uses hermitages and its members are scattered throughout the world.
“It’s not definite whether it will be nuns or priests yet, because this order includes both,” added Ó Riada, whose hope is for Irish to eventually become the language of the monastery.
“That’s the long-term aim, but people will be coming in from Syria, France, or wherever and it will be an international community,” explained Ó Riada.
“We’d like to get back to the old Irish-style spirituality. It’s much easier to pray in the Irish language because it’s more of a heart language, whereas English is a head language.
“Irish is better for expressing emotions so we hope to link back to our older spirituality.”
The idea of a religious settlement is a familiar one in the area, only a few miles from where Saint Gobnait founded her cell in Baile Mhúirne in the 6th century.
The planned monastery is to be named after two local saints — Naomh Gobnait and Naomh Abán.
The next step is to enlist support for the building project a local level.
“We’re hoping to attract people who are interested and then we’ll start the whole process of gathering resources. We’re hoping that people would donate not simply money but time and skills,” he added.
“We’re looking at summer camps where people would volunteer, whether it’s as builders, engineers, or providing food or accommodation. Any skills people have can be utilised.”
Talks are also underway with landowners regarding the site for the monastery, but a location near Cúil Aodha church is understood to be the preferred option.
A series of timber structures is also planned for the nearby mountains, to be used as a place of retreat.
The next meeting is in Cúil Aodha on Monday, December 15, at 8pm and Peadar is working towards a deadline of August 1, 2018, for the blessing of a completed monastery.