About us

The Capuchin Franciscan Friars

The story of the Capuchin Friars is one of renewal and is part of a wider story that goes all the way back to St. Francis of Assisi – Patron Saint of Peace, Ecology and Animals (1189 – 1204). In the early 16th Century, a new shoot of Franciscan life emerged from a desire to reaffirm the contemplative dimension of Franciscan spirituality. The Capuchins Friars first came to Ireland in 1615 and have made a significant contribution to Irish life, culture, and spiritual expression since then.


St Francis of Assisi heard the call of Christ from the cross to “Go and Rebuild my Church!”. This call inspired St Francis to dedicate his life to the living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through a life of brotherhood, prayer and sharing the Good News with all creation.


Today this vision of Franciscan and Gospel centred renewal continues at Ards through the provision of tailored retreats and spirituality programmes that aim to nurture and support spiritual growth and development. The Capuchin charisms of fraternity, poverty and minority are lived each day by the community of Friars who call Ards their home.


The Retreat Centre


Here at Ards Friary, we offer a comprehensive range of retreats to suit groups and individuals from individual days away to directed retreats and everything in between. For many years we have worked closely with parishes and schools to offer tailored retreat options to suit their needs. Wherever you are coming from and however long you plan to stay; you’ll be assured of a warm Franciscan welcome.


View our upcoming retreats: 

..through Brother Sun, who brings the day; and through whom you give us light. How beautiful is he, how radiant in all his splendour; Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness…

Ards Friary:
Past & Future

The Friary at Ards has been a place of learning since the 1930’s when the Capuchins first came here. Originally the land and old manor house were owned by the Stewart family, who gave the name Ards to the manor house and peninsula. Capuchin students studied in Ards from the 1930’s up to the 1970’s and since then Ards has provided learning of another kind, through the ministry of faith and spiritual development.


The Friars at Ards have developed a deep connection with the people of the area as well as with those who come to Ards for retreat or just for a day to enjoy the beautiful grounds. The friars are always on hand to hear confessions, have a chat or offer a blessing.


In faith towards the future…


St Francis of Assisi encourages each of us to discern what God asks to do and to respond to that call with open and generous hearts. Over the last number of years, a new vision has emerged for Ards – a vision that will allow Ards to speak, in deep and meaningful way, to the times we live in.


The fruit of this discernment was the creation of the Centre for Ecological Contemplation at Ards. Rooted in the message of Laudato Sii, the Centre for Ecological Contemplation provides programmes that encourage and support a greater awareness of the needs of the Earth, our common home.


This project is in its infancy and will continue to develop over time.

'For what has been we say thanks, for what is to be we say yes!!'

Ards Friary a Spiritual Centre

Ards has an exciting programme of retreats. In a world which aims to excel the material wealth, the spiritual is often left to decay. It is this void in our lives, that often leaves us empty and distanced from Jesus.

As a spiritual centre, set in 200 acres of grounds on the edge of the beach, it is a place where one can find God, in the innermost recesses of ones being. To share time, reflect and allow for prayer in these magnificent settings lends to the natural cycle of finding a loving and caring God.

The Friary aims to welcome everyone and is available throughout the year for Retreats (preached, directed, private etc) Conferences, Seminars, Periods of Rest and Relaxation, Reflection, Prayer and Holidays.

We all need to take time out from the hectic and stress filled lives we lead so as to refocus on what is really important to us. We complicate our lives and Ards helps us to simplify things, so that God can speak to us and we can listen to Him.



Our Mission Statement


In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, Ards Friary offers peace and quiet in surroundings of enchanting natural beauty, where we can come closer to God.

We aim to share our Christian Faith through prayerful, reflective and informative retreats and conferences.

We promote Justice, Peace and Reconciliation.

We strive to raise awareness of ecological issues, through training, education and respect for our sister, mother earth (St. Francis).

Why not let Ards become a part of your life today!

Ards Friary is a spiritual centre, set in 200 acres of grounds on the edge of the beach, it is a place where one can find God, in the innermost recesses of ones being - County Donegal Ireland
St. Francis preached to the birds, calling them 'noble' among God's creatures, Ards Friary is under joint management with the Capuchin Franciscans



It was the end of an era. The Franciscan Capuchins of Ards Friary in Donegal, at the end of 2006 had decided to close down the retreat and conferencing aspect of the Friary, due in the most part to their declining numbers and age. It was to be a very sad loss. Ards had for many years been a place of sanctuary, a place to recharge and gain life direction through prayer and reflection, a centre where one could find Our Lord Jesus Christ. A little piece of heaven. Thank God, it was not to close.


Working Party Established to Save Ards Friary

Through the intervention of Bishop Philip Boyce, Bishop of the Diocese of Raphoe, a working party was quickly established to discuss how the centre could be kept open. With the full support of Bishop Boyce, the Friary Guardian Fr Eustace McSweeney (now in Raheny, Dublin) and the Capuchin Provincial at the time, Fr Terrance Harrington, a working agreement was reached. The Diocese of Raphoe would actively support a joint venture between Secular and Religious.


Board of Management & Fund Raising

A Board of Management was appointed, comprising of laity and clergy; Patrick J Doherty (Chairperson), Fr McSweeney Cap OFM, Fr Michael Sweeney, Mary Murry and Charlie Bonner. Benito Colangelo was then asked to take on the new venture as centre manager and made headway with the first project for Ards Friary, of totally gutting the existent kitchen and replacing it with a new one which would meet Environmental Health regulations. The cost of this project was €101,000 and was met by the Diocese of Raphoe with the promise of the Board to raise the sum by way of fundraising. By the sheer generosity of the people here and in the USA the total cost has been raised. For this we are grateful and thank everyone that gave support to the project.


Ards Friary Operational Again

With Ards now considered operational, Sr Veitraud (Sr Clare) of the Sisters of the Spiritual Family The Work FSO, an Austrian Religious Order, whose founder was Mother Julia Verhaeghe, flew over from Austria to help show us the ropes, and stayed with us for two weeks. The Sisters used to come to the Friary every year to run the Centre and had ceased to do so when they were told it would close. A programme of retreats for 2007 was quickly drafted and posted out along with an accompanying letter explaining that we were not closed but very much alive. Retreatants returned and Conferences commenced and the atmosphere around the Friary became elevated and vibrant.

After the Capuchin Chapter in 2010, Fr Donal Sweeny moved to the Friary in Kilkenny and Fr Silvester O’Flynn was appointed as Guardian.


More Renovations and Sustainability

Renovations continued and in 2013, the Friary replaced its oil heating system with a wood chip biomass machine, installed new piping, radiators, windows, wifi, electrics and lighting, all on the ground floor. This venture was achieved with assistance from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, the Capuchin Friars and the Diocese of Raphoe.


The Capuchin Franciscans, in Ireland since 1615, are part of a story that goes all the way back to St. Francis of Assisi who, in 1209, having heard the call of Christ from the Cross to “Go and Rebuild my Church!”, dedicated himself and his first followers to the living of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the service of the Church through a life of brotherhood, prayer and sharing the Good News with all creation. In so doing he founded what would grow to be a huge religious family of brothers and sisters who continue to spread the Franciscan message of Peace and Joy. Recognised for his holiness of life and joy-filled contemplation of creation by all people, of all spiritual traditions, since then St. Francis remains the inspiration and the model for Franciscan life to this day.


The Capuchin story is one of renewal. In the early 16th Century a new shoot of Franciscan life emerged with our brothers setting out from what they knew in trust and hope with a desire to reaffirm the contemplative dimension of our spirituality. This desire for renewal, and the courage to set out, remain central values for us, and our Laudato Si Community is one expression of this.

About us

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The Friary

The Friary & the Capuchin Friars

The Friary you see today was opened in 1966 and was designed by James Boyd Barrett. The Friary is home to a community of Capuchin Friars as well as the retreatants who stay there.


The friars open their chapel for Mass, morning, and evening prayer. Those staying in the retreat centre welcome to join the friars for Mass and prayer.


For more information on the Capuchin Franciscan way of life please visit our Provincial website’s vocation page:


“...through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong....”

Fraternity: Living as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Fraternity is a technical term that means the experience of sharing our lives with each other and seeing all God’s creatures as brothers and sisters. This was the revolutionary vision of St Francis of Assisi.


At Ards, the Friars have lived this chrism for over 90 years and have developed deep bonds with the local community. The fraternal relationship is never one-sided; we learn from and support each other as pilgrims on the road to Christ.


Ards has always been known for its warm welcome and down-to-earth hospitality. We welcome every person who comes to our home as a brother or sister. The fraternal welcome at Ards extends to all who call is

 omething to be experienced and savoured.

...through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs