AN AN OASIS OASIS OF OF CALM CALM
The Luisne Centre for Spirituality is a haven for people of all faiths or none
THE LUISNE Centre for Spirituality in Kilcoole is a secret oasis of calm and creativity open to people of all faiths and none.
Situated in a heritage house nestled in 40 acres of unspoiled land, the house was completed in 1782 and used as a summer residence for John Darragh’s family, the former Lord Mayor of Dublin.
The house was bought by the Holy Faith order in 1897 and a school was subsequently built on the grounds.
The school accommodated some 12 or so boarders and a lot more local children would attend daily, eventually closing down when a bigger school was built in the village.
For years the house remained quite idle, serving as a summer retreat for young postulants travelling from Dublin for a holiday by the sea.
Sr. Miriam Lucas was one of those young postulants from the city and eight years ago she came to live at the house. She lovingly brought life back to the building, inviting the local community to come in and attend classes on science, spirituality and mysticism.
This new centre which Miriam named Luisne (Irish for the first blush of light before the dawn breaks and pronounced Lish-nah) now hosts 30 different tutors and therapists who deliver over 60 different classes and workshops every year.
Luisne has become akin to the early monastic settlements where education, scientific discovery and creativity, all interwoven with a rhythm of meditation and ritual, were part of daily life.
The first beautiful walled garden has been meticulously preserved and is home to several apple trees which annually produce the apples that become Luisne’s Organic Apple juice.
There is a second walled garden which is in need of some loving restoration.
Old photographs from the 1870s show that this garden was once very grand with extensive glassed greenhouse, an ornamental bridge over the river and a tea house.
Photographic evidence shows that the family members would be transported from the main house to the garden by horse and trap.
In 2013, the Holy Faith order made an incredibly generous move and requested that a Luisne Trust be set up so that they could gift the house and outhouses to the trust.
The trust should not be affiliated with any one religion, but should specifically welcome people of all faiths and none.
Luisne is in the process of appointing trustees who will continue the hospitality and integrity of the centre well into the future.
The old schoolhouse is a true time-capsule. It has been left virtually untouched since the last students in the mid 1900s, all that remains are the coat hooks on the walls and the empty shelves where schoolbooks once rested.
‘One of the first goals of the Luisne trust will be to save the schoolhouse and bring life to it once more, perhaps moving the art workshops or the sacred dance out there,’ said Liz Gleeson from Luisne. ‘We hope that in time, a grant from Wicklow County Council will help us to achieve this goal.
‘There is something very special and unique about Luisne. It doesn’t offer the modern, zen-like workspace of many recently built centres, but it does offer an incredible welcome to those who come; visitors report a sense of immediate belonging; a sense of coming home. As soon as you enter the driveway, flanked either side by cattle grazing, there is an overwhelming feeling that something great lies at the end of the driveway! A smell of home cooking infiltrates the house each morning and you may be joined by Sophie the cat as you sit for your daily meditation.’
To date, the centre has been offering a wide range of courses at low cost prices. The goal is to be as inclusive as possible. Everybody is free to attend (with no charge) the twice daily meditation sessions at 12.10 p.m. and 5 p.m. Most courses have a concession price and groups are usually small so that individual attention is guaranteed.
Anyone who is searching for meaning in life or to expand their own spiritual awakening in a place steeped in history will find welcome and encouragement, whether it be through meditation, art, yoga or sacred dance.
For more information go to www.centreforspirituality.com.
ABOVE: volunteers at the Luisne Spirituality Centre in Kilcoole, Lydia Brien and Annette Flynn with Sr Miriam and Sr Barbara; LEFT: painting taking place at the centre; ABOVE LEFT: the walled gardens of the centre.
Musicians Andy Connolly and Dan McCabe of Annie’s Choice performed in the gardens of Luisne Spirituality Centre at a recent open day.