St. Patricks Church 150th Anniversary Celebrations
St Patrick’s Church, Louisburgh, 1862–2012
150th Anniversary Weekend, 7-9th September 2012
The celebrations of the 150th anniversary of St Patrick’s Church, Louisburgh started on a high note on Friday 7th September with a concert in the Church titled “A Journey Through Time”.
It featured the Junior and the Senior Choirs from the Church along with soloists; Michael Hannon, tenor, Anne Marie Gibbons, mezzo soprano, and Anne-Marie Carroll (nee Scanlon), soprano, who all returned to their native parish to join in the celebrations. The concert was organised by Catherine MacLeod and Sandra McCluskey, who were also soloists and who conduct the Junior and Senior choirs respectively all year around. Valerie Quirke accompanied the choir on piano. The Church was transformed for the weekend by beautifully arranged flowers and candles, which provided the perfect atmosphere for this remarkable musical event, and made all realise the wealth of talent there is in Kilgeever parish.
On Saturday, a large crowd gathered in glorious sunshine at the Holy Well in Kilgeever, the site of an Abbey, dating back to the 13th or 14th century, though believed to have been built on a much more ancient Christian site dating back possibly to the time of St. Patrick. A short prayer service, centred on water and its significant role in faith, was held. Each person received a bottle of Holy Water to take home, while water from the well was brought on the walk back to the Church and used in welcoming baby Ciara into the Christian community through the sacrament of Baptism, a symbol of how the faith that has been received is handed on. Along the way, a stop was made at the site of the old Catholic Chapel, where Mrs. Joan Harney laid a wreath in memory of those ancestors who passed on the faith in often difficult times.
Mass on Saturday night was celebrated by Mattie Long, Parish Priest, and he was joined on the altar by Fr. Kieran Waldron, who served in the parish (1970- 1987) and Fr. Richard Gibbons, PP in Knock and Louisburgh native. Following Mass the crowd adjourned to the West View Hotel for the launch of An Choinneal, the parish magazine, which was published to coincide with the 150th anniversary celebrations. John Lyons, editor, outlined some of the story of the building of the church while the official launch was performed by Elaine Duffy, chairperson of Kilgeever Parish Pastoral Council. A great night of talking, singing and dancing was had by all.
On Sunday, the anniversary Mass was celebrated by Parish Priest, Mattie Long, and concelebrating with him were: Fr Michael Darcy, who served in the parish, (1998 – 2009), Fr. Leo Morahan and Fr. Pádraig Ó Máille, Fr. Sean O Leary and Fr. Geoffrey O Grady, all Louisburgh natives. In his homily, Mattie Long said:
“ One of the stories from the history of this church that I particularly like, is about how its size and boundaries and parameters were decided.
It wasn’t Parish Priest, Michael Curley, or an architect, who just decided of their own accord what they should be. The story is that the people assembled and the measurements were then taken around them so that the building, the church, fitted about them, and accommodated them, rather than they accommodating it.
It functioned as a church, it fulfilled all that was necessary, it had all that was required and essential to be an authentic church and place of worship, and it has stood the test of time, and yet it was fitted to the people, rather than the other way round.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a lesson there for our church now as we seem to struggle with, and have difficulty with, so much in the modern world. ”
Many people took part in the Mass, some of whom had been baptised in the Church 50 years ago, married there 25 years ago and 4 generations of one family brought the bread and wine to the altar representing the faith that has been and continues to be handed down through the generations in Kilgeever parish. A time capsule was also presented at the altar, and with it the hopes of the parish for the future. This had been prepared and sealed by the 6th class pupils of Scoil Náisiunta Phádraig Naofa, and it also contains contributions from many in the parish including the 1st year students of Sancta Maria College in the town. It was buried after Mass, and unfortunately, it had to happen very quickly due to the constant, unyielding rain.
Everyone continued to the hall for a wonderful photo exhibition, featuring photos of the Church pre 1974 and some dating back to the 1880s when the town was in its infancy. The photos following the renovations of 1974 are stark in contrast to earlier ones, as much of the ornate detail was removed in order to facilitate the greater participation of the congregation in the liturgy in line with the recommendations of the Second Vatican Council. Also on view was the grandfather clock, still ticking and chiming, that used to be on the altar, some marble from the old altar, a stained glass window that was removed to make room for the side porch and some old vestments. A chalice and brass crucifix presented to Fr. Michael Curley in Clinton, Mass. in 1860 and in New York in 1859 while he was fund raising for the building of the church were of particular interest. Refreshments were also served, and two cakes both in the shape of the Church in exquisite detail were cut.
Archbishop Neary was unable to attend the celebrations on 7th-9th September, however, he celebrated Mass in St. Patrick’s, Louisburgh, on Sunday 30th September. He blessed a new plaque in the Church to mark the 150th anniversary. This plaque also commemorates two former parish priests of Kilgeever whose remains are interred in the church, Thomas McCaffrey, died 1849 and Myles Sheridan, died 1853. Also, the Archbishop blessed and dedicated a monument outside the Church that has been built with stones from the old Catholic Chapel in the town and which honours the memory of all the children buried in the Cillins in the parish. There are six children’s burial grounds, Cillins, in the parish and these were marked and blessed over the last few years. A candle representing each Cillin was lit in front of the altar before Mass and these were then carried in procession after Mass to the monument where a moving ceremony took place led by the Archbishop. The monument also remembers “those whose resting place is known only to God” and a wreath was laid in their memory.
The Parishioners of Kilgeever send their very best wishes to their neighbouring parish, Clare Island, who also celebrated the 150th anniversary of their Church last month.
For all that has been in our parish, we say “thanks”,
For those who have gone ahead of us,
For their faith and their care, and the spirit they have left with us.
For all that will be in our parish, we say “yes”,
For the possibilities that will present themselves,
For the potential that will reveal itself.