by ehistoryadmin on September 23, 2017

Leinster Leader 7 May 1960

Memorable Day for Caragh Parishioners

Sunday was a proud and memorable day for hundreds of Caragh parishioners who saw their beautiful new Church of the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph blessed and dedicated by Right Rev. Monsignor J. J. Conway, P.P., V.G., Bagnelstown, deputising for His Lordship Most Rev. Dr. Keogh.

Costing £57,000, the church stands on the summit of Caragh hill overlooking most of the parish. On his arrival for the ceremonies Monsignor Conway was met by a Guard of Honour drawn from the 6th Field Artillery Battery, F.C.A. and commanded by Lieut. J. McGinley.  In charge of the detachment was Comdt. J. Frost, Battery Commander.

After the blessing and dedication, High Mass was celebrated by Very Rev. Jeremiah Bennett, P.P.; Deacon was Very Rev. Edward Kinsella, P.P., Daingean; Sub-Deacon, Very Rev. Michael O’Connor, P.P., Mountrath; Master of Ceremonies, Rev. Joseph Keogh, C.C., Suncroft.  Monsignor Conway presided, and also in the sanctuary were Right Rev. Monsignor W. Miller, P.P., V.F., Newbridge; Right Rev. Monsignor J. Dowling, P.P., Fresno, California (native of Naas) and visiting clergy from neighbouring and other parishes.

At the Elevation, the Royal Salute was sounded by trumpeters of the Ballymore-Eustace Brass and Reed Band. The Mass was sung by the parish choir which was trained by Rev. T. Mahon, C.C., who also presided at the organ.

Gate of Heaven

Of Gothic design, the church has an Anglo-Norman tower rising to 100 feet.  This is capped with a slated pinnacle resting on a cantilever of chaste design.  Flanked on either side by a cone-shaped Baptistry and Mortuary, having separate entrances and with a main door exquisitely set in a relief of beautiful Celtic moulding, the new church presents a picture of the Janua Coeli or Gate of Heaven.

From the end of the church there is an uninterrupted view of the nicely proportioned apse in which is set the High Altar, with the altar of St. Joseph on the right and the Blessed Virgin Mary altar on the left.  There is a spacious sanctuary floor, separated from the nave of the church by the exquisite brass and marble-topped Communion rails of the old church.  The sacristies are to the right of the main building and joined by a corridor to the side entrance.  The whole building stands on two acres and is enclosed by a wall and ornate iron railing on the road side.

Rev. John J. Gorey, C.S.S.R., St. Patrick’s, Athenry, who preached the special sermon, said that it was a day of joy and triumph for them all. The parish of Caragh, he said, was blessed by hearing the Gospel of Christ from St. Patrick as he passed that way.  But it had its dark and evil days.  For it, as for Jesus Christ, there was the darkness and failure of Calvary before there was the glory of the Resurrection morn.  Down in the old cemetery was the church in which their ancestors worshipped: their grandparents saw a heretical temple occupy its site.

The boundary wall of the old church included stones of the Master-house where their great-grandparents worshipped their God almost by stealth.  A grassy mound in the grounds of Yeomanstown House covered the few stones of the cabin where in darkest days the sons of St. Dominic offered to God the sacrifice of praise which is the Catholic Mass.

What a sad and yet glorious history the children could learn in freedom from these hollowed spots!  What a lesson in fidelity they could learn on the rising ground by the Liffey’s banks, in his young days called “Shannon Hill” where the old and feeble hermit, Shannon, unable to cross the Liffey knelt to join himself to the Mass offered by the hunted Dominican in the Friars’ Mass-house just across the river. These sacred stones would remind them that the immortality of the Church promised by Jesus was no immortality of ease and comfort.

It was no harm, he went on, for them to turn over the blood-stained pages of their national history, those of them who had seen the passing of the days of the flogging post, pitchcap, the prison ship, the outlawry of almost the entire nation.  They did not, however, recall those things with bitterness.  Rather did they think of them with humble gratitude for the grace which enabled their fathers to stand firm.  If they cast a glance at the past in this hour of triumph it was to give hope for the future.

God’s priests, in the land of unity with Christ’s Vicar, would continue the great work of those who had gone before, of those who remains lay in the old church and old cemetery – Fr. Christopher Nuny, Fr. Anthony Higgins, Fr. Matthew Tierney, Fr. Denis Muldowney, Fr. Patrick Glowry, Fr. Austin Kinsella.

“This noble building,” he continued, “will stand in the midst of your parish for all that is best in life and in eternity.  It will be the guardian of the marriage-bond forged before this altar; it will be the nurse of Catholic families brought up within its shadow; it will be the healer of sorrow and sin for those who cross its threshold; it will provide you with the strength of God Himself at these altar-rails; from its tabernacle will come the Bread of Heaven which will nourish you for your last journey; from its pulpit, Sunday after Sunday, you will hear the Gospel of Christ which will point out for you the road to heaven.”

It was with the confidence inspired by a worthy cause that another appeal was made to their generosity – already so lavish – to lesson the outstanding debt on the building.  The cause was a noble one and should bring its reward.  He thought he could make a promise of heavenly reward to those who helped crown the unremitting labour of their revered parish priest by freeing as far as possible from the debt this outstandingly beautiful church which would be his monument in the parish he had so long and faithfully served.

And they would have their reward – even on earth – in the glory of having erected through their sacrifices this House of God which was the vindication of the sufferings of their fathers and a guarantee to their children that:  “whatever takes its origin from God must needs triumph over the world: our Faith, that is the triumphant principle which triumphs over the world,” (I John 1:4).

Before and after the ceremonies, the Emerald Girls; Pipe Band and the Ballymore-Eustace Band played in the church precincts. All attending the ceremonies, about 2,000, were entertained by a parish committee.

Other clergy present were Very Rev. T. Gahan, P.P., V.F., Baltinglass; Very Rev. T. Burbage, P.P., V.F., Mountmellick; Very Rev.  J. Dunny, P.P., Tinryland; Very Rev. T. Cunningham, P.P. Rosenallis; Very Rev. T. Ryan, P.P., Clonaslee; Very Rev. W. Mahon, P.P., Raheen; Very Rev. E. O’Byrne, P.P., Allen. Very Rev. J. Doyle, P.P., Clane; Very Rev. P. Harris, P.P., Ballina; Very Rev. P. Lennon, D.D., President Carlow College; Very Rev. P. Bennett, P.P., Cloneygall; Very Rev. J. Mooney, P.P., Hackettstown; Very Rev. P. Byrne, P.P., Graiguecullen; Rev. Fr. O’Leary, S.J., Clongowes Wood; Rev. Fr. Hegarty, O.P., Newbridge. Rev. S. McNally, C.C., Newbridge; Rev. P. Lawler, C.C., Allen; Rev. T. O’Reilly, C.C., Allen; Rev. B. Ryan, C.C., Hackettstown; Rev. J. Flood, C.C., Mountmellick; Rev. D. O’Sullivan, C.C., Edenderry; Rev. P. Keogh, C.C., Clane; Rev. Fr. Cullen, C.C., Clane; Rev. J. Gahan, C.C., Graiguenamanagh. Rev. J. Murphy, C.C., Rathangan; Rev. R. Kelly, C.C., Kill, Rev. T. Donohue, C.C. Killeigh; Rev. L. Newman, C.C., Naas; Rev. P. Boylan, C.F., Curragh; Rev. G. Rugeot, C.F., Curragh; Rev. G. Phelan, C.C. Thomastown; Rev. S. Kealy, Dalgan Park. Brother Lazerian, Superior, Newbridge; Brother Vincent, Superior, Ballyfin.

Amongst the attendance were Mr. P. Dooley, T.D., Mr. G. Sweetman, T.D., Mr. W. Norton, T.D. and Kildare Co. Manager, Mr. M. Macken.

Parish Priest Thanks

Very Rev. J. Bennett, P.P., speaking at the luncheon afterwards expressed thanks to all who had helped make the day possible, making special mention of the Vicar General.  He congratulated Mr. A. Cross, principal contractor, Mr. Cross’s “chief lieutenants” Kevin Tierney and John Behan, Mr. Thomas Manning, carpentry work, and all others taking part in the erection, for the wonderful effort they had put into the edifice.

He congratulated more than anybody, however, the people who had really built the church, the people of Caragh who had contributed the money in six years.  It was a monument to their great faith and generosity. He added: “This was the day that the Lord had made for Caragh: let us rejoice therein.”

Sent his blessing

Right Rev. Monsignor J. Conway, representing His Lordship Most Rev. Dr. Keogh, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, said that His Lordship regretted that he could not be with them on that joyful occasion.  He, however, sent them his blessing and assured them that he was with them in spirit in celebrating the opening of their beautiful new church. Fortunately, added the Monsignor, His Lordship’s illness was not serious, and he would be shortly out and about again.

He paid tribute to the zeal of Father Bennett, who in a few short years had been responsible for raising this magnificent building, which for many years to come would be the place of worship for the people of the parish of Caragh.

Beautiful structure

Right Rev. Monsignor W. Miller, P.P., V.F., Droichead Nua, voiced his admiration of the beautiful new structure which had been made possible by the devoted efforts of priests and people.  It could be hardly otherwise for Father Bennett’s infectious smile and good humour would enthuse anybody to get on with the job.  Even the weather had smiled benevolently on this wonderful day in the annals of Caragh.  He wished them every joy.

Right Rev. Monsignor J. Dowling, P.P., Fresno, California, native of Naas, expressed his appreciation for the invitation to the ceremony.  It was a day that he would always remember. His prayers and his joy would be shared with the people of his diocese in California.

Mr. Wm. Norton, T.D., said that they all wished to join with Father Bennett and the priests of the parish in the red letter day for Caragh.  It was a magnificent edifice, this new Catholic Church, which would be a monument to the people of Caragh, who made it possible.  He highly praised the builder, Andy Cross.

Mr. Norton referred to the struggle being waged by the Communists to gain control over the minds of men, women and children.  As long as people had the faith of the people of Ireland, which even had the admiration of the non-Catholic world, Communism would never get a grip on this country.

Mr. P. Dooley, T.D., also paid tribute to the Caragh people on their great achievement and congratulated them on their delightful choir, which he had heard that day. The catering was carried out, splendidly, by the well-known Corscadden firm of the International Hotel, Bray.


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