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Thursday, May 20, 2010

"New York Franciscan monks battle crime in Irish projects"

From Irish Central
Picture at left: Brother Shawn O'Connor, CFR
Since the beginning of the decade the Moyross estate in Limerick City has been a battle-ground for vicious gangland criminals.

Violent crime stalked the streets, making everyday life a nightmare.

But now, the estate is being turned around by a group of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, from the Bronx, New York.

The Moyross estate was built in the late 1970s and is home to 5,500 residents. The vast majority of householders are local authority tenants.

Back in 2006, crime in Moyross was at its peak. The most famous incident took place when two innocent children who were sitting in their mother’s car were nearly burnt to death when three teenagers petrol bombed the vehicle. Violence was an everyday threat on the estate.

In 2007, the monks opened the friary in the troubled estate and over the past four years they have seen a vast improvement in the standard of living in the people living in the surrounding area.

Brother Shawn O’Connor said the monks' "primary purpose" was to "take care of the spiritual and material needs of the people, to give them a real sense of hope and a sense of knowledge that God cares for them and loves them."

Brother O’Connor is impressed by the changes that he has witnessed.

"We have seen quite a few changes. The biggest we have seen is with the people and the way they live their daily lives," said Brother O'Connor.

"Neighbors told us when we first moved in there, that (their) kids wouldn't play on the street very much or else with great caution. Now they are out there almost every day. I don't think anyone thinks anything of it to let their kids go out and safely play in the streets. That is one change, I don't know if that has anything specifically to do with us.

"It's gotten quieter there certainly, I know that. Obviously there are still things going on that everybody knows aren't so good. But there haven't been big violent events or things of that nature.

“If we can inspire people just to make that difference, no matter how small it might be, then you have made a difference. That is what we are trying to do at a tangible level."

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have now opened a second friary in Derry City.

"We won't go anyplace unless we get invited by a bishop,” said Brother O’Connor. “The two places we got invited to were Limerick and Derry and we accepted both of those. They are good places to be."

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