Address of Welcome

By Fr Séan O'Longaigh

A Shoilse Ardeaspaig, a Thiarna Easpaig, a Chathaiorligh agus a Bhainisteoir an Chomhairle Chontae, a Athaireacha, a Shiúireacha agus a Bháithre oirmhinigh, agus a Phobail Dé uile:
Ar an ocháid ghairmiúil seo i saol muintir agus paróiste Eas Géitine fearaim fáilte romhaibh uile um thráthnóna go dtí ár dTeach Phobail.
Your Excellency, you do us a great honour in coming to Askeaton to visit us. There is a question as to whether this is the first visit of a Papal Nuncio to our parish. Some hold, that one of your most famous predecessors, Cardinal Rinucinni, once visited Askeaton on the occasion of the re-burial of the two martyrs in the old Franciscan Abbey in 1647. But, even if true, this is long before anybody here present can remember. Today, it is my great privilege, on behalf of the people and priests of Askeaton, to welcome you to our church and to our parish. You have already endeared yourself to all who have met you today. As representative of the Holy Father you link us in space with the Universal Church and with its Chief Shepherd. And along with Bishop Murray whom I also especially welcome, you link us in time in an unbroken line that reaches through the centuries right back to the first Apostles. For us it is a truly historic occasion that will be long spoken of.
The occasion of our celebrations is the 150th anniversary of the building of our present church St. Mary. Constructed at a time when the parish and country were at one of their lowest points in the dark days of famine and oppression, this building has been lovingly cared for and restored by successive generations of believers over 150 years. It has served as a focal point for the expression of faith of this community in good days and in bad.
But this is not the beginning of our history as a parish. Furthermore, throughout that long history we have had a proud tradition of veneration of the Mother of God. The inscription over the main door declares that this church is dedicated to God in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Beginning in olden Celtic days the parish then traces its Norman-Irish path for a thousand years in the town, in which time five separate churches had been dedicated to St Mary. During that millennium the parish has also had particularly close connections with the Franciscan Order. I take this opportunity to thank the Franciscans and the National Museum for allowing us to have present this evening the old Friary hand-bells and the Askeaton Madonna to recall that link with our past, and we also welcome some living members of the Franciscan Order to our Eucharist this evening.
Above all, this evening is a celebration of faith. On the eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady we gather again to worship our God and to honour the Mother of God. It is a day that none of us will ever forget. Over the centuries our ancestors have remained faithful to their God and steadfast in their Catholic faith. We pray that we may prove ourselves worthy of such a rich heritage and that we may not allow that light of faith ever to grow dim.