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Town councillors call to presbytery to pay tribute

Leinster Leader 8 May 2008

Town councillors call to presbytery to pay tribute

to long-serving pastor



Probably one of the more unusual meetings of a town council in the annals of local authority history took place in Naas in May of 1958 when members of the Urban District Council visited the Presbytery on the Sallins Road in Naas to present an illuminated address to Very. Rev. P.J.Doyle, parish priest, on attaining the Golden Jubilee (50th anniversary) of his ordination.

The illuminated scroll was presented by the Mr. J.P.Whyte, Naas Town Clerk, who with the other members of the Council expressed their joyful appreciation of the great achievement of their beloved pastor in reaching his Golden Jubilee.

Father Doyle thanked the Councillors for their kind thought and added that it was an unexpected and welcome gift. He modestly said that anything that he had done was in the course of his duties as a priest and spiritual adviser to the faithful. He had been in Naas over 36 years in the town. He had been overcome with the kindness and generosity of bodies and individuals who had wished him well on his Golden Jubilee. But he reserved a particular appreciation for the little pupils of the Convent School who had daily noted in their exercise books their communions, prayers and Stations of the Cross for his continued health.

Father Doyle mentioned that the Convent primary school although built to accommodate about 200 had now 450 children on its roll and it was proposed that the school should be extended as soon as possible.  Despite the growing enrolments in the school the 1950s were a time of population stagnation in Ireland and while Naas had a level of prosperity which in part deflected the worst of the prolonged recession of the 1950s, emigration was a reality for many other parts of the country. Fr. Doyle was alive to this haemorrhage and said to the councillors that emigration was a very grave problem and that a solution should be found in the interests of the country as a whole.

The Address of Appreciation to Father Doyle was effusive in its tribute to the long serving pastor – its text was quoted as an addendum to the report of the councillors’ visit to the presbytery. It began: ‘We the members and officials of Naas Urban District Council respectfully tender you our heartiest congratulations on the Golden Jubilee of your ordination to the Priesthood and on your devoted Ministry among us as beloved Pastor during the past thirty-six years.’

The council made particular mention of some improvements which Fr. Doyle had overseen to the parish church of Our Lady & St. David in Naas: ‘Due to your efforts the church is now one of the very few in this Diocese which has been solemnly consecrated. The Mortuary Chapel alone will for ever stand as an abiding memory to you.’  The Mortuary Chapel (seldom used now) was added to the church in the 1950s under Fr. Doyle’s supervision and reflected his passion for Teutonic or German art and architecture which produced an aura of solemnity and gravitas.  According to local lore some of the stone from the old gaol in Naas (near the canal harbour) was used in the construction of the mortuary.

The encomium presented by the council went on to describe Fr. Doyle’s other achievements during his long tenure in the town: ‘ As Spiritual Director of the Naas Conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society much good work has been done for those in need’. There had been considerable expansion too in the boy’s school accommodation in the town with St. Corban’s primary school having opened in 1954 and the new Secondary School for the Christian Brothers in 1958 and Fr. Doyle was credited with being influential with this progress.

The role of the pastor in exposing the people of Naas to some of the finer aspects of continental music and literature was also mentioned – again a reference to his life-long interest in the mid-European tradition which had seen him form a polyphonic choir to sing the works of the great composers in Naas church. As the council said: ‘Your attainments in literature and music have been a source of great pleasure and pride to your parishioners.’

Fr. Doyle was a man of many accomplishments and indeed in a much earlier phase of his life had been on the staff of Knockbeg College where he was a mentor to many who were to become nation-builders in the emerging Irish state – he was particularly close to Kevin O’Higgins, Minister for Justice in the Irish Free State who was assassinated in 1927.

Returning to the visit to the Presbytery by the Council reported on the front page of the Leader in 1958 it is an interesting local example of the great closeness in the Ireland of the 1950s between church and state when the protocol of the civil authorities deferred demonstrably to the position of the Catholic Church in Irish society.

Series No. 66

Liam Kenny in his regular feature, 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' in the Leinster Leader of 8 May 2008, reports on the visit by members of Naas Urban District Council to the Presbytery on the Sallins Road to present an illuminated address to Very. Rev. P.J.Doyle, parish priest, on attaining the Golden Jubilee (50th anniversary) of his ordination.

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