Carmelites of Newry move on after 90 years of prayer
A congregation of Carmelite nuns in Newry is on the move after nearly 90 years.
Members of the closed religious order, who observe a contemplative life with minimal interaction with the outside world, will join another Carmelite congregation in Waterford.
Just a small number of Carmelites nuns remain in the monastery at Glenvale, Co Down.
And while monasteries are normally associated with males, a Carmelite residence is known as such because of the monastic, closed existence of its residents.
The order is putting its 75 acres of farmland at Glenvale on the market with a guide price of £725,000 in one of the biggest disposals of agricultural land in the area in recent years.
The residence will be taken over by the Sisters of St Clare, who currently occupy a convent in the centre of Newry.
The Glenvale Carmelite nuns said: "We are pleased that our convent will continue as a religious centre under the care of the Sisters of St Clare.
"The land, which is surplus to requirements, will be sold.
"The funds generated by the sale will be used for charitable purposes and to provide for the retired and elderly members of our communities." The Carmelite convent was founded in Newry in 1929 when nuns from Delgany in Co Wicklow decided to establish a new monastery. They also bought a farm building and surrounding lands.
Some years afterwards the sisters built a monastery.
And they added a chapel to the grounds in 1955.
The public can attend Mass in the chapel, where the nuns occupy their own section.
Those who visit can request the special prayers of the Carmelites, who have a devotion to St Theresa of Avila.
Michael Kelly, the Co Tyrone-born editor of The Irish Catholic newspaper, said the nuns would be missed in the area.
"People seek the prayers of Carmelites precisely because they have so much time to pray," he said.
"In other orders, nuns will have work to do in the community such as teaching or nursing, but for Carmelites, their main occupation is to pray and to work in their immediate surroundings."
He said that with vocations to religious life falling, it was likely that the small numbers at Glenvale meant it was no longer sustainable for the order.
"As nuns get older, they inevitably have more complex medical needs, and these can be better taken care of as part of a larger community," he added.
The farmland is being sold by Belfast-based property agents Osborne King, along with WK Nowlan in Dublin.
Surveyor Thomas Osborne said the land was of high quality and likely to attract a lot of interest.
"It can be sold either as one lot or else in three separate lots - and we are expecting farmers to be interested, as well as investors," he said.
"We have seen boom and bust in residential prices but farmland has never really seen a very big rise, so it hasn't seen very steep falls.
"Farmland is just a good, sound investment."
And he added the weakness of sterling at the moment meant that an investor based in the Republic could be attracted to bid.
WK Nowlan has also been instructed to sell the former St Mary's Carmelite seminary on Bloomfield Avenue in Donnybrook, Dublin.