In 2018 Cairde an Disirt was formed,
Background to Cáirde an Disirt
At the early meetings of the Board of An Diseart following the death of Monsignor Padraig O’Fiannachta, deep appreciation, was expressed, on the wonderful legacy he had bequeathed to the people of Ireland and especially to muintir Chorca Dhuibhne. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. His translation of the Bible, An Biobla Naofa, into the Irish language from the original Hebrew and Greek texts; his poetry and many scholarly publications in the Irish language, as well as, his valuable collection of manuscripts and books now housed in the Dingle Library; none, however, surpassing An Diseart, the jewel on the crown of his achievements.
The question was then asked and discussed; how can we, the Board, custodians of An Diseart on behalf of the people of Chorca Dhuibhne, ensure that the work and vision of Monsignor Padraig is not only kept alive but is nurtured, developed and built upon to form An Diseart as a lively community giving expression to and promoting Celtic Culture and Spirituality as an integral part of our local heritage.
As the development and viability of An Diseart had been dependant on Monsignor Padraig’s generosity over the years and as some major repairs to the building were due we talked about possible ways that might help in securing the future of An Diseart. With the help of Pat O’Leary of Malachy Walsh and Partners, Consulting Engineers, we applied for a special grant being offered by Kerry County Council for the repairs that were needed to an area of Dry Rot discovered in the Southern corner of the building. Thankfully out of the fifteen applications we were among the three chosen and work has already begun there, for which we are deeply grateful.
However, on commencing the work the builder discovered that the Dry Rot was more extensive than originally thought and, as a result, extra funds would be needed to complete the work, which, at the moment is being negotiated.
Another area of An Diseart’s life that up to this has ensured its viability and sustainability has been the seven staff members, employed under Fás/ Solas and Udaras schemes. The staff has been doing a wonderful job in the day to day management of An Diseart and in keeping the building and the gardens in such excellent order. One member of staff retired some time ago and Solas have not been able to find a replacement; another is due to finish shortly and again Solas are fearful that they will be unable replace that member. With this, extra demands are being made on members of the Board of Management who already give freely and generously of their time and energies to An Diseart. This, once again, brings us back to our discussions about the future of An Diseart referred above on how the work and vision of Monsignor Padraig can be nurtured, developed and built upon to form An Diseart into a lively community giving expression to and promoting our Irish, Celtic Culture and Spirituality, as an integral part of who we are as a community in the 21st century.
One suggestion, which was greeted with enthusiasm, was that we should form a “Friends of An Diseart” “Cáirde An Diseart,” as an important step in working towards that vision. Certainly it could be an important means of raising the necessary funds for the care and maintenance of the building and grounds, which over the last two centuries or so, have housed the Community of the Presentation Sisters, who, as a Teaching Order, have played a significant and central role in preserving, promoting and witnessing to the values of our Christian, Catholic cultural and spiritual heritage. This was during a time of political and social unrest and a time that experienced periods of intense poverty and trauma, such as the Great Famine 1845 to 1852; the struggle for Independence in the early 20th Century and then the difficult transition from what might be called the “Old” to the “New” or Modern Ireland.
All this is an essential and integral part of the mix when referring to our Cultural and Spiritual heritage which is, in fact, ingrained in the DNA that finds expression in the customs and traditions, in the characters and characteristics of the local community. For that reason Monsignor Padraig saw the involvement of the local community as a necessary counter balance to what An Diseart as an Academic Institute hoped to offer. There is no doubt that what is on offer here in the Dingle Penninsula is unique; the area is special because of the natural, unspoilt beauty of its physical landscape, but more importantly because of its rich cultural and spiritual heritage; still an important factor in the outlook, attitudes the lifestyle of its people that needs to be preserved, nurtured and further developed. This, no doubt, is what has attracted the Sacred Heart University and other American Universities to establish a base here and a partnership with the Diseart
Certainly over the past 50 years or so, individuals and families from all over Ireland, Europe and indeed from different parts of the world have felt attracted to and drawn by the beauty, the rich cultural and spiritual heritage and the atmosphere and ambience that these have created. Many have become part of the local community adopting Chorca Duibhne as their home, bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience, expertise and skills that have in many ways injected new energy and life into the local communities; thus further enriching what is unique and special about the Peninsula. At the moment An Diseart, is hosting a variety of activities representing all aspects of the cultural and spiritual life of the local community; and there are regular classes as Gaeilge for those wishing to learn or improve their Irish.
As the home of the Presentation Sisters in Dingle the building itself has a wonderful story to tell; unfortunately we haven’t the space to elaborate on that except to mention the wall paintings and Fresco of the Last Supper by artist Eleanor Yates; the beautiful Gothic style Chapel with the treasured Harry Clarke stained glass windows, all of which attracts thousands of visitors in the course of the year and the nominal charge of €3 is a vital source of income for the maintenance of the building. In addition there are the spacious gardens that offer members of the local community and visitors a quiet and colourful place to stroll or to sit and relax. The middle garden has been developed into a “prayer garden” which may also be a retreat space for reflection, prayer and meditation inspired and nourished by the fruits of our Celtic Spiritual heritage.
To finish we believe that An Diseart has the history and background, as well as, great potential to offer the community here in Chorca Dhuibhne a forum as well as the facilities to not only preserve but to renew, develop and bring our Cultural and Spiritual heritage into the 21st Century.
We fell that establishing FRIENDS OF THE DISEART is the first step in initiating and in enabling this process to unfold. A meeting was held and Cairde was formed, at the meeting Sr. Dorothy gave a talk on the history of the convent and their decision to lease it to An Diseart, part of which is available at this link.