St Mary's Church Askeaton 1851-2001

The present Church of St. Mary, Askeaton, celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2001. Built after the burning of the old thatched church in 1847 the present church opened its doors in 1851. It is now likely the fifth church in Askeaton to be called, ‘St. Mary’, and, given the era of its construction, the anniversary was fixed for December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady.
The celebration was marked by a week of festivities from December 2nd to 8th, organised by the priests and Pastoral Council of the parish. The Redemptorists facilitated a three-night programme on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, under the general title of, ‘Gathering Our Memories; Rekindling Our Hopes’. The high-light of this was a torch-light procession, led by a lone piper, from the grounds of the old Franciscan Abbey (where also stand the ruins of the last parish church) to the present church of St. Mary at the beginning of Wednesday evening’s liturgy.
Much redecoration and repairs have been carried out in the church itself in the last two years. Further to that, in preparation for the celebrations, many other tasks were undertaken by the parish: the erection of a special commemorative limestone monument and of external floodlights in the church grounds, the sand-blasting of the façade of the church and graves of former priests, the installation of a parish radio system for the house-bound, the publication of a booklet on the history of the church building. Every home in the parish received a prayer card and a written invitation. In addition, every young adult was invited personally to the festivities.
We decided to hold our main celebration on Friday, December 7th. The National Museum gave us on loan for the day the ‘Askeaton Madonna’, a priceless 15th century Nursing Madonna and Child in oak probably coming from the Abbey and ‘rediscovered’ in Askeaton in 1970. This arrived in the church at 1.00p.m. His Excellency Dr. Giuseppe Lazzarotto, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, and Bishop Dónal Murray spent the day with us, arriving at 2.00p.m. and remaining until about 11.30p.m. In that time they first visited the primary and secondary schools and were given a tour of Askeaton’s historical sites. Archbishop Lazzarotto was the principal celebrant at the 7.30p.m. Vigil Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This was a truly festive celebration with a full congregation in attendance. One of the hand-bells from the old friary was heard again during the Mass and the newly composed Parish Anthem was sung by the choir for the first time. After Mass the Nuncio and the Bishop joined the people of the parish for refreshments, entertainment and a chat in the community hall. As our special guest, the Papal Nuncio endeared himself to everybody he met in the course of the day and made a special impact on the teenagers in the secondary school.
The 150th anniversary grew into a wonderful celebration for the parish. There was a palpable sense of occasion. Once again the wider community had an opportunity to experience the importance of the spiritual and the place of the Church at the heart of their lives.

Fr Seán's address of welcome

Papal Nuncio's Homily

St Patrick's Church Ballysteen 1861-2011

Ballysteen Church

The parish held a Celebration Mass, commemorating 150th Anniversary of the building of Ballysteen Church, on the 29th March 2011.

A historical commemorative booklet was compiled by Bro. John Feheney for the occasion. It included a commemorative poem written by Kay Naughton and Fr. Seán O’Longaigh. John Anglim of Membrane Technology donated souvenir Bookmarks.

During the week leading up to the celebration booklets, flyers and bookmarks were delivered to the households of Ballysteen. Buntings and banner, donated by D.J. Daly of Daly Hurleys and John Anglim respectively, were erected by members of the organising committee to set the scene.

In preparation for the main celebration Mass there were three nights of spiritual preparation:

Wednesday night 23rd March: Fr. Paul Finnerty celebrated a beautiful Mass, reminding us of the struggle of St Patrick and how he went forward to evangelise.
Thursday night 24th March: Fr Chris O’Donnell got all the youth to join in wonderful celebration, with a candlelight prayer service, reminding us of the light of Christ in our lives.
Friday night 25th March: Fr Noel Kirwan led a prayerful candlelight procession from the church to Beigh Cemetery, remembering the people that went before us and who passed on this Church and their faith to us.

The main celebrant for the Mass on the 27th March was Fr. Tony Mullins the Diocesan Administrator. The celebrants were Fr. Seán O’Longaigh and priests who previously served in the parish (Fr. Michael Cussen, Fr. Eugene Boyce, Fr. Andrew Keating, and Fr. George Ranahan). Regretfully, Fr. Kelleher, Fr. Howard, Fr. Finnerty and Fr. Senan Murray, were unable to attend.

It was a beautiful day and large numbers attended, filling the church to capacity with many more seated outside. And the end of Mass Caroline Sheahan, Chairperson of the organising committee, thanked all those who gave of their time and resources to make the day the success it was. A presentation was made to Mary Holland in recognition of her contribution to the parish as Sacristan over the last 42 years.

Following the Mass a monument, erected to mark the occasion, was blessed Fr. Seán O’Longaigh, P.P. and a few verses of the ‘Road to Ballysteen’ were sung by Michael Ranahan with L.J. Somers on accordion. This set the scene for the many who retired to the adjacent school premises for ceoil, caint agus craic that followed.

The work that went into preparing the church and the grounds was evident to all, and it was enhanced by the beautiful sunny day that God visited on Ballysteen.