An Introduction to Franciscan Questing in Twentieth Century Ireland

Cathal Duddy


During the twentieth century, members of religious orders visited homes and farms on an annual basis seeking material support for their continued presence in a locality. Known to Franciscan friars as questing or simply the quest, it was essential for the existence of friaries across Ireland. Most friaries accommodated on average ten friars, and some such as the Novitiate in Killarney and the city friaries of Dublin and Cork had larger communities. Without an alternative income, questing for alms amongst the local population was a necessity for the friars but also met needs in the lives of the people. In practice, both parties gave and received according to their different roles and means and usually within the context of a shared faith. In times before modern or private transport, the customary visits of questors to rural homesteads forged an enduring bond between country people and town-based friaries evident in the testimonies of those who recall them. Nonetheless, questing seems to have fallen victim to the myriad of changes that prevailed in Ireland from the 1960s onwards, including improved standards of living, rising car ownership and a decline in religious vocations.

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