The Cork Foyer Project in Ireland

“GOD NEVER CLOSED ONE DOOR WITHOUT OPENING ANOTHER” (Irish Proverb) This is the story of what happened when the door of our Assumption Rd Convent was closed for the last time, over 10 years ago- by Srs Joan Murphy, Clare Whelan and Lucy Roche (Sr. Joan and Sr Lucy are now deceased).

 
 The LSA had occupied the convent for over 100 years - a local neighbour recalled a time when over sixty sisters (including novices) lived there. Gradually, over time, Srs Joan, Clare and Lucy became the “REMNANT” who had to take on the ’letting go’ process which was emotionally and physically painful for them. 
 
THE CORK FOYER PROJECT
God opened another door for the use of the convent when Cork City Council bought the property to provide a programme directed towards young people, known as The Foyer, it is designed to offer an integrated approach to the needs of young people to safe and affordable accommodation, guidance and support, and access to learning and work, and allowing young persons to achieve the transition from dependence to independence. We welcomed the fact that our convent would be used for a project closely linked to the thoughts and vision of Fr. Pernet.
 
 
Based in our old convent in Assumption Rd., THE CORK FOYER celebrated its 10th year of service in 2016. It is owned and managed by Cork City Council.
 
The main convent building provides a unique combination of safe and affordable accommodation, support and training under one roof, for 18 young adults aged 18-25, who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. So far it has been very successful in achieving and developing its aims. The residents have to sign on to undertake the in house programme of training - in life skills, IT, cookery etc. – they also take on courses that are certified and lead to employment opportunities. The Foyer also operates a talent pool whereby residents are encouraged to start working on their talents e.g. one resident(aged 24) had a lifelong love of music but due to huge difficulties could not develop or use his gift. Being part of Foyer he benefited from a personal development initiative and enrolled in the Cork Academy of Music, he was given a trumpet to further his musical studies, and a year later he played solo at a concert in the City Hall. The excellent management team sees the project as a bridge and a stepping stone towards independence and greater self-confidence.
 
 
The surrounding gardens have been developed and are open to the general public, they include a Garden Cafe, a Toddler Play Park and seating area, terraced garden and tunnels for growing fruit and vegetables, it also has a Mini Pet Farm and a Community Bicycle project.
 
The Chapel is now home to the Graffiti Educational Theatre Co., it is dedicated to Arts/Theatre for and by young people ranging from toddlers to teenagers.
 
 
Though the property has passed from LSA ownership the spirit of service is alive and well. Cork Foyer states in its website that it sees itself continuing ’the tradition of Community service and care so carefully built up by the Convent’s previous guardians – the Little Sisters of the Assumption – who previously occupied the premises and served the Blackpool Community for 125 years’ (c/f www.corkfoyer.ie). The staff are very welcoming towards us whenever we bring visiting sisters and it was in the Foyer we celebrated the beginning of our 150 year Jubilee.
 
Our LSA community lives in sheltered accommodation just across the road from the Foyer, and when we look over at the house and garden, which was once our home, we are filled with gratitude to God that such a great project succeeded us and remember with prayerful thoughts the LSAs and the lay staff who served there.
 
When writing about leaving Assumption Rd Convent for the last time Sr Lucy Roche was reminded of lines from one of our Irish Poets- Brendan Kennelly’s poem “Begin”:
 
“Though we live in a world that dreams of ending,
That always seems about to give in,
Something that will not acknowledge conclusion -
Insists we forever begin.”
 
 
 
Srs Patricia Donovan and Aine Ashe
St. Francis Gardens Community
 Blackpool, Cork.
22/05/2017
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