Esker Retreat House Spring 2004

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Esker Retreat House and Youth Village is part of the greater complex which encompasses the Redemptorist Monastery, a community of 22 Redemptorists, priests and brothers, bog-oak studios and an 18-hole pitch and putt course.

The Redemptorist history in Esker goes back to 1901 when they bought the old monastery and farm from the Diocese of Clonfert. The monastery and church have been a haven of prayer and devotion since that date. The priests and brothers have preached at missions and novenas up and down the length of the country since 1901.

What is now the Retreat House was built as a house of studies back in the 1920s. It later became a novitiate. Finally, in 1973 the house was transformed into a retreat house and has been a centre of prayer and consolation for men and women since that date. There is a huge variety in the types of retreats given.

There was a farm attached to the monastery, which fell into disuse sometime in the 1950s. The barns, outhouses, stables, granaries and hay-lofts remained in a state of semi-decay until a small group of Redemptorists decided to restore and refurbish the whole farm area in 1994. This was executed with great care and taste and since 1994 the Youth Village, as it is now called has functioned as a retreat centre for young people every academic day of the year. These retreats are given by a lay team and one priest on full time duty who looks after the spiritual side of the work.

From September until Christmas the senior students from schools as far away as Donegal and Limerick and as far inland as Athlone come to make their annual retreat. We offer a short day, a long day and over-night retreats depending on the distance the school has to come.

After Christmas it is the turn of the junior students right up until Easter and after Easter we turn our attention to the young who are preparing for Confirmation. About 5,500 pupils pass through the Youth Village each year.

During the summer period when the schools are on vacation the Youth village is utilised for students from The United States, France and Germany as well as from different parts of Ireland. There is a vast variety of courses conducted in the Village during the summer. Some are strictly prayerful, some musical, some drug and alcohol related. Others attend to Irish dancing, singing and culture. Boy scouts and girl guides constantly use the place. The foreign students use Esker as a base while they tour the West of Ireland. From Texas alone we bring in about 70 mature students each summer.

Whatever we think would be beneficial to youth would automatically be part of our agenda. Our aim is to prepare young men and women to be decent citizens in our state. We are more than pleased with the results so far and the feed back from schools and persons in charge has been always positive.

The village can sleep 71 persons. We have three dormitories, several meeting rooms, dining room, kitchen and games room. There is a beautiful chapel, very tastefully worked over, which goes back to the 1600s, we are told. Athenry, (three miles away) was the home of the Dominican Fathers since 1241. From 1653 until about 1700 the monks lived in the woods in the Esker area. This was the period of Henry VIII and Elizabeth 1. Athenry was destroyed at that time and so was the Dominican monastery and church. The Dominican monks then made their way across the Fields of Athenry to Esker

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About this record

Written by Fr. Sean Lawlor

Published here 04 Dec 2023 and originally published Spring 2004

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