Spiritans in Ireland

The Congregation of the Holy Spirit

Spiritan parishes

Spiritans administer five parishes in Ireland. Two of these – Bawnogue and Deansrath – are in Clondalkin in West Dublin. Having first approached the Archdiocese of Dublin a year earlier about the possibility of ministering in a parish in a disadvantaged area on the outskirts of the capital, Spiritans have been in Bawnogue since 1989. 


The current parish administrator Fr Marino Nguekam CSSp, who has been in Bawnogue since 2006, is one of a number of Spiritans from African countries ministering in Ireland. He and the parish pastoral council have been encouraging parishioners to be more involved in the life of the parish community and to take ownership of their church’s life.


A Parish Baptism Team is very active in making the sacrament personal and meaningful for both parents and the community. A recent ‘Mission Week’ involved a range of activities including a very successful fundraising concert while a particular current pre-occupation of the parish community is the poor state of the church roof.

The adjoining parish of St Ronan’s, Deansrath has been administered by the Spiritans for over a decade. The pastoral vision for the parish is one of inclusion, welcome and outreach.

A full church on Sunday December 1, 2013 saw Fr Seán O’Leary CSSp lead the parish’s 25th anniversary celebrations, looking back in gratitude and looking forward with joy and hope to build on the spirit of unity in diversity.

The attendance included Bishop Jim Moriarty, Bishop Raymond Field, Spiritan Provincial Fr Marc Whelan CSSp, a number of former clergy of the parish and a wonderful mix of its current and former residents representing many different cultures and nationalities.  

The dedication of Sisters – FCJ, Presentation and Salesian – who have worked in the parish was especially remembered. 


A home of healing

A Spiritan community has existed in Ardbraccan, near Navan in Co. Meath, since the 1950s when the formation of Spiritan Brothers took place there. 

An Tobar was set up there in 1983 and has since sought to provide a place of healing and reconciliation, welcome and spiritual nurture. An initiative with members of other religious families and lay people, the community facilitates fellow pilgrims to participate according to their own particular calling, inclination and time. 

In an environment that fosters justice, peace and sustainable living, what is currently on offer includes:

A reflective Sunday Eucharist and an opportunity to reflect on oneís faith journey;

Celebrations at key moments during the year;

Spaces for meetings, capacity-building, retreats and contemplation;

Courses in mindfulness, ministry-training, spiritual living, wellness, care of the earth, conflict-resolution and relationship-enrichment.




Kimmage Development Studies Centre

The Spiritans first ran courses in development education in Kimmage Manor in the mid-1970s. Developing out of the fourth-year pastoral theology course for seminarians, the initial focus was a one-year pastoral course for missionaries and development workers. Today the Kimmage Development Studies Centre (KDSC) offers a Master of Arts degree and Postgraduate Diploma in Development Studies while a new Honours Degree in International Development is being delivered at, and in collaboration with, NUI Maynooth.


In the current academic year a total of 38 Irish and international students are enrolled on the MA course at Kimmage Manor. Countries represented in the student body include Burma (Myanmar), Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ireland, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Timor Leste, Uganda and Zambia.

Students include employees of governmental agencies, NGOs, religious congregations and the private sector.

Typically they bring significant levels of prior contact with development issues and / or are pursuing a career in development.

In addition to those on site in Kimmage, a further 17 students are taking single modules of the MA programme by flexible and distance learning (FDL) mode, the second year this expanding option has been offered. A further programme is also offered through a partner-institute in Tanzania where there are currently 45 students taking 2-year Bachelor of Arts degree courses.

New ventures

Other exciting new ventures by KDSC include:

The offering within the MA programme of three new Specialist Pathways: Globalisation and Change; Faith and Development; and Development and Management.  

A distance-learning course on Child Protection in Development through the Kimmage Open and Distance Education programme.


Spiritan asylum-services

The Spiritansí asylum-services initiative in Ireland (SPIRASI) was set up in 1999. It came as a response to the increasing need for a range of services for people who had fled their homeland as victims of torture and who were newly resident in Ireland.

Eager for the organisation to be synonymous with a warm welcome for people who had sought refuge in Ireland, its first Assistant Director, the late Fr Michael Murray CSSp, said that ìcoming to SPIRASI should be like falling into cotton woolî.


SPIRASI has provided a range of services including education and training to torture-survivors from a vast range of countries. Its specialist Medical Legal Reports, which are part-funded by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, are available to service-users whose applications to be recognised as refugees in Ireland are being assessed.

Speaking in 2012 on the occasion of the United Nationsí Day in Support of Victims of Torture, President Michael D. Higgins remarked:

ìSince its establishment in 1999, SPIRASI has provided rehabilitative supports to over 3,200 survivors of torture from over one hundred different countries.î

He added that ìSPIRASI gives enormous practical support to those damaged and helpless people who arrive on our shores in a desperate search for safety. Those supports include medical assessment, psychotherapy, outreach support, assistance to integrate into their new-found home and, of course, that all important listening and believing ear,î  he said.



Spiritan Safeguarding Office

The Spiritans are fully committed to ensuring that young people with whom they interact do so in an environment that is both hospitable and safe.

While carrying the shame of past failings, and aware of the hurt and damage caused to people to whom the congregation had a duty of care, constant vigilance in regard to the safeguarding of children is imperative.

In encouraging young people, among others, to be involved in Church activities that invite an exploration of what it is to live a Christian life in the 21st Century, past experience reinforces the need to do everything possible to minimise the risk to children. 

In October 2012, a newly established safeguarding service took over the functions previously carried out by members of the congregation. Two professional lay people now co-ordinate the safeguarding work; Ms Jane Ferguson is the Support Person for Survivors and their Families, and Mr Liam Lally is the Designated Liaison Person.


Conscious of the need to keep abreast of developments in the area of safeguarding, Jane and Liam are accredited to deliver training approved by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSCCCI). A programme of training for all Spiritans in ministry in Ireland, and their co-workers, is under way and seeks to ensure that all are appropriately knowledgeable on both the preventive and reactive aspects of safeguarding.

An Advisory Panel, a Safeguarding Committee and a Monitoring Panel, comprising members from a wide range of backgrounds, volunteer their expertise and experience to advise the Provincial Leadership Team on all aspects of safeguarding.

Civil regulations

Abiding by all civil regulations in regard to the safeguarding of children and also by the Standards and Guidance Document for the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Spiritans work closely and collaboratively with the statutory authorities and appreciate the guidance and support of the relevant personnel in the HSE and An Garda Síochána as well as in the National Office of the NBSCCCI.

The Spiritan Safeguarding Office can be contacted at  jane.ferguson@spiritan.ie  (087 – 7405 936) or liam.lally@spiritan.ie (087 6709 461).



Spiritan Youth Day

Spiritan Youth Day (SYD) is now a fixture in the calendar for fifth-year students of Spiritan post-primary schools in Ireland: Holy Family Community School, Rathcoole where the Spiritans are joint patrons; Rockwell College, Tipperary, and Blackrock College, St Mary’s College, St Michael’s College and Templeogue College, all in Dublin.


Preparation begins a year in advance. Facilitated by their art teachers, students work to enter the SYD logo competition and the winning student has the pleasure of seeing their design on the T-shirts worn by all students present on the day. A set of lesson plans facilitated by the Religious Education teachers seeks to encourage and support all by exploring key concepts such as mission, solidarity and advocacy.

On the day, theme-related songs are performed by students from each school, ably coordinated by the music teachers who also rehearse for the liturgies during the day. The Faith-Development Officer liaises with CAST Ministries to create a contemporary audio-visual experience and engage with social media exploring all portals for adolescent spirituality. Students tweet questions onto the screen for speakers and a live feed creates a buzz as those attending see themselves on camera.

Lantern prayer-walk

The 2013 event held in October began with a Lantern prayer-walk to a stirring rendition by two students of I Giorni by Ludovico Einaudi. Preceding the opening prayer, this set the pace for the sense of community and collaboration that permeated the day.

The key addresses, which in the past were given by such contributors as Baroness Nuala O’Loan and Senator Rónán Mullen, were given this year by Fr Peter McVerry SJ and Dr Tony Bates. Over the years substantial inputs have been given by Spiritans and by past pupils who are successful in various areas such as sport, charitable work or their professions.

Seeking asylum

A presentation by one staff-member of SPIRASI (the Spiritans’ asylum-seeker initiative), and by one of the many migrants who have availed of its services led the audience out of their comfort zone to reflect deeply on the realities of seeking asylum in Ireland and to imagine being forced to flee to seek refuge in a strange and distant country.

As in previous years this year’s Spiritan Youth Day closed with a prayerful blessing and a rousing rendition of the Spiritan Missionary hymn Go Ye Afar.



Spiritan Mission Services

The Office of Spiritan Mission Services places lay people in Spiritan mission. 

Three mission volunteers are currently on overseas assignment: Dubliner Amy OíLeary, Dermot Donaghy from Kilrea, Co. Derry, and Michael Harrington from Cork City.  All three were trained and placed in collaboration with Viatores Christi Lay Missionary Association.

Amy OíLeary has been working with the Spiritans in Kumasi, Ghana, since January 2012.  

As Programme Officer for the Spiritan Development Office, Amyís main responsibilities have included meeting with community members and parish priests to discuss ideas for local development projects, meeting other stakeholders, communicating with donors, preparing proposals and reports, and monitoring the various projects that are being undertaken. 

Irish Aid funding

The Spiritan Development Office in Ghana has been successful in sourcing Irish Aid funding through Misean Cara, which supports the development work of missionaries around the world including Spiritans in a number of countries. In Ghana the aid has been used to increase the number and quality of classrooms available in various mission areas; with 20 girls among the 45 students enrolled last year at Libermann Senior High School in central Ghana, a policy of advocating gender parity in enrolment is already yielding some results in a country where far fewer girls than boys traditionally stay on in school.

Fish ponds

In response to a need brought to the attention of Spiritan Mission Services by Fr John Mahon CSSp, who first went to East Africa in the late 1960s, mission volunteer Dermot Donaghy has been working with the Kwakakulu Integrated Development Project in Machakos District, Kenya, since September 2012.

Since he is from a business background, Dermot is concentrating on helping increase the profitability of the communityís many agricultural projects, including greenhouse gardening, bees and hive management, brick and tile making, fish ponds, tree propagation and charcoal briquette production. These projects support the needs of local children who have been orphaned by AIDS.

Computer skills

When Dermot first arrived in Kwakakulu, the local Springhill Polytechnic had a small number of computers on which more time had to be spent dealing with breakdowns than teaching computer skills. After revamping the polytechnicís computer suite to meet required standards in terms of protection from potential damage by power surges, dust and heat, Dermot purchased 25 computers at a discounted rate from Camara, an international agency which uses technology to improve livelihood skills.

This has greatly enhanced the quantity and reliability of the equipment used by the polytechnicís 65 students. 

New mission

Michael Harrington is the newest volunteer with Spiritan Mission Services.  He will be based in Sultan Hamud, Kenya, about 20km from Kwakakulu, joining Fr John Wambu CSSp, in pastoral and youth ministry at a parish where Bishop Martin Kivuva has asked the Spiritans to assume responsibility for a new mission. Michaelís previous overseas experience includes assignments in Cameroon and Tanzania.

Suitably qualified candidates who share the Spiritan faith perspective and who wish to offer their skills and commitment to mission service for a minimum of one year are invited to contact   missionservices@spiritan.ie