19th Century

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Some better-known names come to us from the nineteenth century. Fr. Theobold Mathew who became known as the Apostle of Temperance was educated in Kilkenny in the Academy where the Loreto convent now stands, and he was stationed in the friary for some years. Fr. Jeremiah Joseph Purcell O'Reilly was in Kilkenny when he was asked to go to New Zealand in 1843. He became the first resident priest in Wellington and remained there until his death in 1880. Fr. Edward Tommins was the first of the friars to wear the habit in public since the Reformation, and was responsible for the construction in 1874 of that part of the friary which runs parallel to Friary St.

Fr. Peter Joseph Mulligan was guardian of the friary in the mid- 19th century. It was while he was in office that the present church of Saint Francis with seating accommodation for about 350 people was built in 1848. A remarkable feature of this work was that it involved building the new church over the old one, which stood within the pillars of the present church, while religious services continued in the old church on a regular basis.

The pillars, pediments and cornices of the altar came from the old Saint Mary's Cathedral and were put in place by a Mr. Pat Leahy "the most accomplished carpenter and builder of his time". The large oil painting of the crucifixion by the Italian painter, Guardocini, was a later addition, being inaugurated on 23 September 1868.

The new church included a bell-tower surmounted by a cross, said to be the first erected in Kilkenny since the Reformation. In accordance with the custom of the time, the bells were given names, the large bell, used for calling the public to prayer, named O'Connell, after Daniel O'Connell the Liberator, the smaller, named Shiel, for calling the friars to community activities.

In 1875 a novitiate was established for the first stage of formation of young Capuchins. From there in subsequent years, Irish Capuchins went to serve God's kingdom in the United States, South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, New Zealand and Korea as well as other countries. One well-known Kilkenny man among them was Fr. Albert Bibby who, with his confrere Fr. Dominic O'Connor, ministered to the 1916 leaders; he died in the USA in 1925. In 1897 the large three-storey building between Friary Street and Pennefeather Lane was constructed to provide, among other things, accommodation for novices.



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