By Kieran O’Mahony
and Emma Connolly
CAMPAIGNER for the homeless Enniskeane native Brother Kevin Crowley said it was a huge honour for the Pope to visit his centre in Dublinr ecently.
Brother Crowley, who runs the Capuchin Day Centre which provides food and shelter to an average of 800 people every day, said Pope Francis spent at least half an hour speaking with a group of 80 people who use their services.
‘There were no dignitaries present – it was an occasion for the homeless and the poor and he was very concerned to treat them all with dignity. It was a very important day for them,’ said Brother Kevin.
He said the visit will be a stand-out memory for everyone present, many of whom were mothers and children, and that all took comfort from the respect they were shown.
Brother Kevin, who returns to Enniskeane – where his brother Jerry lives – around once a month, said unless the problem of housing was dealt with immediately, the numbers at his centre would continue to increase.
Meanwhile, Teresa Menendez, who is married to Bantry man Liam Collins, did the second reading in Spanish at the Sunday mass in the Phoenix Park.
Terry, as she’s known, is originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. She lives in Clontarf with Liam and they are regular visitors to West Cork.
Mother-in-law Margo, speaking from their home at Chapel St in Bantry, said that Teresa, who was the marketing manager for the World Meeting of Families, wasn’t at all nervous and regarded it as a huge honour.
Margo and her husband Denis, who is originally from Coolbawn, Caheragh, watched the mass on TV in Killarney where they were minding their grandchildren.
West Cork’s musical talent also came to the fore during the papal visit with Phoenix Park performances by Peadar O Riada from Cuil Aodha, while Castletownbere woman Mary O’Connor led a choir of singers from the Beara peninsula.
Mary and her group of 26 made up a 3,000 strong choir from all over the country and said the experience was ‘absolutely amazing.’
She was also present at the last Pope’s visit and said it was ‘wonderful to be alive and go again.’
‘As a choir we were thankful to play a small part on such a marvellous occasion; we were thrilled to bits.’
Busloads of pilgrims travelled to Dublin and Knock last weekend for the visit.
Among them were Evelyn Kennedy and her mum Margaret O’Mahony, who was incidentally celebrating her 80th birthday that day.
Along with other pilgrims, they boarded a bus from Bandon at 5.30am to make the trip up to Dublin.
‘We were at our coach park in Dublin by 10am and the three-mile walk passed in no time as we met people along the way and we were chatting and with the road closed and big crowds about, we didn’t notice the time passing,’ said Evelyn.
She added that the event was very well organised and they found their corral in no time and set themselves up with their portable seats and their much-needed rain ponchos.
‘It seemed that all of the West Cork and Kerry buses were allocated the same area because there was no end to meeting people we knew – from neighbours, to relatives and work colleagues. It was indeed a West Cork/ Kerry meeting of families,’ she said.
With plenty of facilities closeby, they experienced no problems with access or queues and they even found the €2 price for a cup of tea very reasonable.
‘When Pope Francis entered the park in his Popemobile there was a sense of joy and we saw on the screens that the crowds were running to the pathways, so we ran to the nearest one to get as close as possible. There was no security on the path and we were almost on the path as he drove past us.’
Evelyn said it was ‘a very surreal moment’ as he was so close they could almost have touched him.
‘It was all very overwhelming and lots of people shed tears of joy, excitement or relief, at getting a close up glimpse of him,’ she said.
One thing that struck Evelyn during this special event was the fact that so many people were in complete silence.
‘The sincerity of everyone there was a revelation and even the teenagers sitting near us sat in silent reverence.’
Despite the early start and not getting home until 2am, Evelyn said it was definitely worth making the trip. ‘It is a day that I will always remember.’