In order that there may be some record of the Limerick branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I have compiled the following brief record insofar as my memory of the same exists.
Circa the early 1960s the missionaries arrived in Limerick to proselyte. After a short time, they were re-assigned away from Limerick to other areas to continue their work. We have no record of any conversions that may have resulted from that period.
In the late 1960s the missionaries returned and had some very limited success. One of my friends was ordained a priest in 1968 and he is still quite warm towards the church, though not active in the generally accepted sense. He nevertheless appreciates the teachings and welcomes visitors from the church. Once again the missionaries were removed from the city as there was some hostility towards them and the church.
We now come to the early 70s during which time the missionaries returned to Limerick and we have had continued growth since that time and prospered in the city in all respects. While we had a presiding Elder for a time, around 1974 we had our first branch president called, a man by the name of Paul Ellis.
Paul and his wife June had arrived in Ireland from England within the previous year or so and settled in Limerick. In 1974 the meetings were held in their rented home with a small attendance of sometimes 10 or more which included the missionaries. After this short period, the church rented a facility in Thomas street which was titled ‘An Cistin’ which is a Gaelic word, translated into English it means ‘the kitchen’.
Photograph: The first building we rented in 1974. Ironically it is now used by another religious group as per the notice. The name on the building is ‘Conrabh Na Gaeilge’ which translated means ‘The Gaelic League,’ a cultural organisation that promotes the Irish language in Ireland and abroad.
‘An Cistin’ was in the basement. We, on occasion, used the main hall, up the steps, for larger gatherings such as Christmas parties for which we paid a fee each time. This was number 19 Thomas street. And this is where I first entered a church ‘meetinghouse’ in April 1975. This comprised one room plus a toilet and that was it. There were about 18 people in the meeting of which eight were missionaries.
We toiled there for some time but in 1976 we rented a premises a few doors up the street at number 23 Thomas street, where we were to settle for the next 5 years. Our attendances, while there, went from the aforementioned 20 or so to an average of about 60 plus. We first had the ground floor and subsequently we in turn rented the first floor then the 2nd floor.
Our Sunday programme at that time consisted of the following:
- Priesthood meeting held at 9AM to 10.30.
- Sunday school was either 12 noon or 1PM for an hour
- Sacrament meeting was 5PM to 6.30
- Institute class took place from 7PM to 8.30.
We could not find the time to commit transgressions on the Sabbath. It was, as I recall early 1977 when the branch president announced we were going to establish a building fund in the branch, to save the 20 percent required to buy land and build our own chapel in Limerick. He interviewed each brother and sister, giving us each a figure for us to donate commensurate with our means, as he perceived them to be at that time.
The result was as follows. By 1980 we had sufficient funds to purchase one acre of land in the Dooradoyle area, and work began on our chapel in 1981 and we moved into our new building in May 1982, to much fanfare and extensive coverage in the local newspapers.
The Limerick Citizen reported:
HISTORIC DAY AS CHAPEL OPENS IN LIMERICK CITY
On Thursday October 28 a historic ceremony will take place in the city.
For that is the day that Elder Derek A. Cuthbert, of the World Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, will perform the dedication of the church’s new local chapel at Dooradoyle.
The building, which cost in the region of £340,000, is of timber frame construction with brick cladding and plaster board interior. It is just under 4,000 square feet in area and comprises a chapel area which seats 300 people, a multi-purpose area incorporating a cultural hall and stage, a baptismal font (for baptism by immersion), a fully fitted kitchen and library, and office and other features. A leading feature of the design is the toilet area which will facilitate disabled people.
This is the third Mormon chapel in the country. There are 110 members in the Limerick Branch of the church and in the Republic there are over 1,300 members.
Mr Shaun Elder, Limerick Branch President of the Church commented: “It is with great pride and thanksgiving that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Limerick dedicates its new Limerick Chapel and is pleased to have received so many kindnesses and acts of assistance from the people of Limerick in the provision of the chapel in the city.
“The entire branch membership of the church in Limerick, through myself as branch President, thanks with deep gratitude the people of Limerick for their assistance and kindness in making this work possible and we pray blessing upon the people of Limerick both in spiritual and temporal prosperity.”
Mr Elder added, “It is in keeping with the lengthy traditions of this city, which holds the oldest charter for a city in the world, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been enabled to provide a chapel for its membership and friends, and proclaim the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The building has been constructed in a way that will allow extensions to be added as needed. Funding for the building has been provided by church members’ voluntary donations, with the local membership funding six percent of the overall cost, part of which involved local members’ labour on the chapel site.”
In the intervening years we have established a rapport in Limerick with all strands of society as people have become aware of our existence and location and socialised with us in many facets of local life. We have, over the years, taken part in various events, which have highlighted the many aspects of our church, which people have both been unaware of or been misinformed about. We have been proactive in participating in projects for the enhancement of our city in small yet significant ways for the benefit of both ourselves (the church) and our local community.
Meanwhile our numbers attending church grew and in the year 2000 we qualified for an extension to our chapel. An interesting sidebar to that extension was that during the extension we were unable to use the chapel so had to find temporary premises to hold our meetings on Sunday. On the same road as we have our chapel there is a well- known college called the Crescent College. It is a Jesuit establishment and the Jesuit order of priests are a leading Catholic organisation and well known for the defence of their theology. Many of our children attended the college and were highly thought of for their behaviour and standards. I approached the college and had a meeting with their principal Fr. O’Connell, and told him of our dilemma, having to locate alternate premises. He offered me the use of their main hall for our Sacrament meeting and the surrounding classrooms for our classes. When I inquired about the cost of renting the premises he insisted that it would be free and gave me a key for access each Sunday morning. This was such a blessing. As things turned out a number of years later the college was resurfacing their staff car park and we offered them the use of our chapel car park of 50 spaces each day. All went well in that matter. The picture I am attempting to paint is one outlining the changes that have taken place over a number of years, indeed decades, with regard to the image of the church as in the eyes of the people of Limerick.
About a decade later we had a second extension to our chapel, so we are well catered for with regard to holding all the desired meetings and activities in our chapel. Our location is, we feel, exceptional as we are in the busiest shopping area of the city. Thus the chapel could be referred to as ‘a city on a hill’ in that daily it is viewed by throngs as they pass by doing their shopping.
We have hosted many events over the years in our chapel involving outside groups and have seen the building availed of for some interesting projects, as a few examples will indicate. The local ‘La Leche League’ met weekly at the chapel for a period during 1970s. We never, of course, charged for such use of the chapel and always ensured that standards were kept, which everyone was more than happy to observe.
One of our highlights each year, growing in popularity, was our annual St. Patricks week concert. You may be aware that the St. Patricks day celebrations are Ireland’s biggest and most universally celebrated event and we hold an evening concert in our chapel to mark what is our perennial national holiday as a nation. This night consisted of various acts performing, for example, music mostly traditional, poetry readings, Irish dancers, comedy sketches, etc. This was followed by a buffet of mostly traditional Irish fare, without the Guinness of course. The hall would always be thronged and would include some invited VIPs among whom would usually be members of our parliament and our Senate and often the neighbouring Catholic priest. I recall at our last such gathering that the 1st counsellor to our mission president and his wife were seated next to the local Catholic priest and they were laughing their heads off at the show and really enjoying each other’s company.
What you may observe, from the barest of information I outlined above, is that the Limerick branch has gone from strength to strength over five decades. We have suffered quite a high degree of emigration during such times as the depression of the 1980s reduced our numbers from average attendances of circa 110 to lows of 60, but always managing to return to fairly decent numbers in and around averages of 100 to 130. During the present restrictions, while on zoom, our numbers are around 100 to 110 zooming in on Sundays. The branch has also sent quite a number of missionaries into the mission field over the period and are preparing more for the future.
Located on the Shannon, the longest river in all the British Isles, Limerick is the 3rd largest city in the Republic and has a proud history. It is one of Ireland’s oldest cities with a charter of incorporation older than that of London, going back to 1197. Some well-known people came from the city: the late Terry Wogan, beloved of English radio listeners, and actor Richard Harris. But now Limerick is also the District centre due to among other things its location, as it is more central to each of the five units that comprise Limerick District than any of the other units. And Limerick was the first unit outside of Dublin to qualify for a chapel due to a very faithful core of members in the city.