by ehistoryadmin on July 5, 2014

Leinster Leader, June 7 1958

Rathangan’s New Church Blessed

One of the greatest days in the history of Rathangan was celebrated on Sunday last when His Lordship, Most. Rev. Dr. Keogh, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, blessed and opened the town’s magnificent new Church of the Assumption

The occasion was marked by ritual of the most solemn and impressive nature and celebrated with great rejoicing in the town.

After he had solemnly blessed the church. His Lordship celebrated Mass and then blessed the Stations of the Cross. Assisting the Bishop at the ceremony and at the Mass were:- Right Rev. Mgr. W. Miller, P.P., V.F., Droichead Nua, An t-Athair P. MacSuibhne, P.P. Kildare, Rev. J. Murray, C.C. Rathangan, Rev. J. McInerney, C.C. Kildare and Rev. Fr. James Dunne, C.S. SP. Kimmage, Dublin.

Later in the afternoon His Lordship administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 458 boys and girls from the schools of Kildare, Rathangan, Barnaran and Boston.

Speaking from the Altar after the morning ceremonies. His Lordship said that the opening of a new church was one of the most important occasions in the history of the parish. He fully realised what the people of the parish had done to make this great event possible and for that he thanked them from his heart, with all sincerity. They had been generous in the extreme, and what was more, they did not count the cost in giving so generously.

“I wished to express my thanks to you by a little deed, and that is the reason why I am here to-day to say the first Mass in the church and I offered the Mass for you,” said His Lordship.

Expressing his “profound gratitude” to the people he said the opening of the new church had been delayed for a short time. He had delayed the ceremony himself, with great regret, because he did not want to impose too great a burden on a generous, loyal and grand people. For that reason they had slowed down the final stages of the building.

His Lordship said he would like to mention that this beautiful church was built by Mr. Andrew Cross, who, in addition to giving excellent workmanship had been extremely generous.

Thanking the people again. Most Rev. Dr. Keogh said he did not want any thanks for coming there that day, because it was his duty to express his gratitude and appreciation of the grand work done and on the extreme generosity shown by them all.

He mentioned that although the church was not yet finished it was in one sense completely finished, because they had Our Lord in the Tabernacle. The grandest furnishing or equipment a church could have was to filled with Our Lord’s blessing. When that was there the people themselves furnished and completed the church. Little things still remained to be done, and they would be done with the help of God.

Concluding his address, His Lordship saiid said that the people may have noticed that there was no collection for the church that day. This was just a gesture but perhaps it conveyed to the people what he felt towards them for the great work they had done. He prayed that God would bless them all.


His Lordship returned to the church in the afternoon and administered Confirmation to the children. He was greeted at the church door by the priests and was escorted up the aisle under a canopy borne by Messrs. David Loughlin, Edward Keenan, Chr. Behan and Patrick Loughlin.

Addressing the children after Confirmation His Lordship told them they could look back on this day with great pride. They had received the Sacrament on the day that this beautiful church was opened and when everybody’s heart was glad and grateful to God for this grand and glorious moment. But still more, would they remember that on this great day, on the 1st of June, 1958, they were honoured with the hand of Christ. The Confirmation concluded with the celebration of Solemn Benediction by His Lordship.

Town Decorated

The church, built to accommodate nearly 1,000 people was crowded for the ceremonies. During the Mass and Confirmation a special choir rendered appropriate hymns. Traffic in the town and at the church entrance was regulated very efficiently by the local Gardai in charge of Sergt. F. McNamara and members of the Force from Kildare, Monasterevan and Newbridge.

Stewarding arrangements at the church were carried out by members of the Rathangan C.Y.M.S. The town was decorated lavishly with flags and bunting, and some beautiful scrolls spanned the main street and the approaches to the church. Almost without exception, every house in the town was painted and decorated for the great occasion

On Sunday morning the last Mass in the old St. Patrick’s church was celebrated at 8 p.m., by Rev. Fr. James Dunne, C.S.S.p Kimmage, who is a native of Rathangan. Father Dunne was ordained a year ago.

The Builder

The proudest and happiest man at Sunday’s ceremonies was perhaps, Mr. Andrew Cross, builder of the church. A native of Drimsree, Rathangan, Mr. Cross is the present head of a family firm with records for local building projects carried out 100 years ago. He gained fame as a builder, when in the 1950s he built the beautiful church of the Immaculate Conception in Allenwood, Co. Kildare. He is at present engaged on the building of his third church in the county at Caragh. A splendid employer and a just one, his popularity with his workmen is such that never once been involved in a labour dispute or strike. His employers are almost exclusively local men and his wages bill for the Rathangan church has run into five figures. During Sunday’s ceremonies, Mr. Cross received many congratulations on his great work.

Spacious Interior

Entering the church one gets the immediate impression of brightness and airy spaciousness. Its splendid proportions it is 142 feet long and 53 foot across, and its 43 feet high, vaulted ceiling, heavily moulded in panels, have a rather startling impact until one realises that the magnificent interior is entirely devoid of roof supports or pillars. The brightness comes from a score of narrow windows, 20 feet high, the light being pleasingly filtered through stained glass in various bright colours. Each window is decorated with religions emblems. The built-in Confessionals are of mahogany. They were presented to the church by a generous local man who wishes to remain anonymous.

The parishioners presented the seats thus giving another example of the generous spirit that has animated them throughout this great project.

A true appreciation of the people’s generosity can be gained when it is remembered that this is the second great parochial building scheme to be completed in Rathangan in less than three years. On Monday, February 14, 1955, His Lordship blessed a new convent schools for girls and infants, which was officially opened by General Mulcahy the then Minister for Education. Church and schools have cost over £100,000.

Another example of generosity was given by Mr. Thomas Manning, furniture manufacturer, Muinebeag, who presented the beautiful altar rails. Mrs. Manning’s firm made the church seats and other furniture, and also furnished the schools. The church ceiling lights are in clusters and the whole building is heated by electricity.

Overhauled Organ

The choir gallery contains the organ from the old Church of St. Patrick’s and this fine old instrument has been completely overhauled and rebuilt by Mr. Frank Moane, Clogherhead. The instrument was formerly powered by a bellows but it is now completely electrified.

The old organ was presented to St. Patrick’s Church during the pastorate of the Rev. Dr. Murphy, V.G. and the curacy of Rev. Father James Hughes in the years 1896-1901. The donor was a Mrs. Carroll (nee Coyle) who was born in Rathangan, but lived most of her life in the U.S. where she died.

The bell of the Church of the Assumption is another link with St. Patrick’s Church, from which it was taken last year and installed in the new church belfry. The bell was made by J. Murphy, Dublin in the year 1857.

More than 250 years have passed since an oppressed and suffering people built their humble chapel and one can only guess what trials and tribulations they endured in the process. To-day the Faithful of Rathangan – many of them are probably descendants of those early builders – gaze proudly on their magnificent new church, so fittingly called the Church of the Assumption.

It stands as a monument to their faith and generosity.; a faith that has been tempered and strengthened in the first of persecution; a generosity of spirit that has triumphed over every obstacle.

Columns could be filled with words of praise for such an intensely loyal, Catholic people. Yet, perhaps, the most appropriate we could see to conclude this report are those already used in praise of a people, who on St. Patrick’s 1816, laid the first stone of St. Patrick’s Church and built it in nine months “notwithstanding the general depression and consequent distress of that time.”

Donors from Wide Area

To-day, despite the depressions and distresses which still exist – albeit of a different sort – priests and people have built in Rathangan another and more magnificent House of God.

It, too “may be looked on by posterity as a monument of the generous “energies and cordial liberality” of a very noble and unselfish Catholic community. Not all of these live in Rathangan for there were plenty of generous subscribers to the church fund in many parts of County Kildare and elsewhere.

Foremost amongst them are the numerous loyal exiles from the town and county who emigrated to the United States. For many years now since they were first informed of the project by Rev. Thomas Kennedy then C.C. of Rathangan they have contributed generously to the church fund. In 1951 they formed a Rathangan Church Fund Crusade, and held the first of many functions to raise funds in the Henry Hudson Hotel, New York, on October 19, 1951.

Since then these loyal Kildare men and women have contributed hundreds of dollars to the building of the Church of the Assumption.

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