OLD photographs from a by-gone era of the Marian shrine in Ballinacurra Weston are in stark contrast to the images captured of the vandalised grotto by the Limerick Leader this week.
The photographs reveal the reverence Limerick people had for holy shrines which were erected in estates across the city during the Marian year of 1954. They featured in a book entitled ‘Marian Shrine Golden Jubilee’ which was published by Limerick man, Sean Curtin in 2004, who was disgusted to see the current condition of the once beautiful shrine.
“While people might not always agree with the Catholic Church, religion was always treated with respect. It didn’t matter if you were Catholic or Protestant, they were always treated with respect. It was unheard of then, for religious artefacts to be deliberately destroyed. It was unheard of. It is actually still unheard of, it is only still the real low-lifes that go to that extent,” he said.
The Mayor of Limerick is calling on the local community in Ballinacurra Weston to tell gardai who is behind the desecration of the Marian shrine. Mayor Jim Long visited the grotto and was angered to find it covered in graffiti.
“I’m not at all convinced that it is outsiders that are doing it,” he told the Limerick Leader. “I don’t want to be disingenuous but there is a very active group there; the Ballinacurra Weston Alliance. They are forever walking around with video cameras and putting stuff on Youtube. They must know who is behind this. It is remiss of them to say that it is coming in from outsiders. There is no one going in to the heart of Ballinacurra Weston, desecrating a statue, and it not known to the people.
“I would publicly call on the perpetrators to be identified, and let the gardai deal with them,” he said.
“I’m living right across the street from the grotto and it is a holy disgrace to look out at it, a disgrace it is,” said local woman, Aileen Doran.
“We used to come down here with the kids for their holy communion, we used to march down here to the grotto and take their pictures. There were beautiful flowers and it was beautifully painted, but now look at it.”
Matt Collins, chairperson of the Ballinacurra Weston Residents’ Alliance, lives around the corner from the grotto which is situated in Our Lady of Lourdes parish. He said the desecration of the shrine has brought shame on the neighbourhood whose residents want to restore the community’s good name.
“To see that blackguarded like that, it is disgraceful. You can go to all the estates in Limerick and they all have grottos and every one of the grottos are respected. I don’t care how bad the estate names are, they respect the grottos, and up here it is being defiled and it’s a disgrace. People drive in here and think, ‘What kind of people live here?’ It creates a bad image for Weston, and Weston is getting it bad enough and we need to stop it.”
The statue, erected in 1954, was a source of great pride in Our Lady of Lourdes parish, according to Angela Crawford.
“We couldn’t go near that wall, our mother would kill us if we went near it. You ask the children to come down off the grotto and I won’t tell you what they’d tell you what to do with yourself,” she said. “It is a sin to see it like that, it’s a mortal sin. It’s here so long.”
Some locals would like to see the statue removed rather than see it defiled, and Mr Collins believes it would be best placed behind the community centre near a housing development for the elderly.
“We’d like to see the statue moved to save it, and it would be respected by the elderly and they’d pray to it, rather than having it the way it is now.”