Moyross monks' message for hope and peace in Limerick this Christmas

CHRISTMAS cheer, plus a message of hope and peace was in full supply in Moyross, as the Franciscan Friars held their fourth annual Christmas Fair.

CHRISTMAS cheer, plus a message of hope and peace was in full supply in Moyross, as the Franciscan Friars held their fourth annual Christmas Fair.

Food and bric a brac stalls joined carol singers below a huge marquee in Delmege Park. But it was the modern-day re-telling of the traditional Nativity play which really caught the eye: as 15 children from the area sang songs, and reprised the various roles from the first Christmas.

Back in December 2007, the five friars who months earlier had made the northside estate their home held their first Christmas fair.

And four years later, it is still going strong, with the whole community turning out for the festivities.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader, Fr Paulus Maria Tautz said the turnout really gives them hope.

"This year, we have made it bigger than ever. We decided to hold a cake competition and put up a marquee. Luckily, we have been blessed that the bad weather has stayed away. We have had a very good turnout from the community, and it's great to see everyone mixing. Moyross is such a quiet area now - almost too quiet. But we are here for the people, and when events like this take place, it truly comes to life," he said, adding that it is easy for Moyross residents to lose hope when they see the demolition and non-replacement of houses.

There were horses and donkeys on hand to bring the three wise men to the manger, where Jesus - played by local tot Darrell Fitzgerald, and mothered by 17-year-old Nicola Griffin - lay.

One of the wise men, Patrick McCarthy, of Pineview Gardens, said: "The horses are always involved in the nativity play at Christmas time here, so it's a great tradition to keep. All the young fellas play their part, and we all have a great time. There has been an awful lot of effort in planning this, and it's important that everyone is made feel welcome here."

Meanwhile, Aaron Power, from College Avenue in Moyross grinned: "It's great for the local kids like us. There is good, singing, music and soccer."

He was joined in the play by friends, Eoin O'Keeffe, John Stanners, Turlough Fitzgerald and Lee McCarthy, all from Cliona Park.

Brother Thomas, who directed the nativity, paid tribute to those who took part in the play.

He said: "It all came together really well. With all the people, and lots of volunteers from in and outside Moyross, we have managed to put this together in the space of one week. The children have been singing for this over the last three weeks though."

Following the nativity play, incense thronged thwe air, as the friars led a procession around Delmege Park. Then it was off to enjoy the fare on offer on the stalls, including Dresdner Christ-Stollen, a speciality Christmas loaf, brought directly from the Friars' German homeland.

The day also served as a fundraiser for Mary's Meals, which sets up school feeding projects in third world communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education.