Jubilee Thanksgiving Mass St. Joseph’s Church, Carrickmacross, Sunday 7th August 2016

Carrickmacross Parish celebrates and shares…

150 Years of Prayer and Worship at St Joseph’s Church 1866-2016.

On Sunday 7 August 2016 the faithful of Carrickmacross (Machaire Rois) gathered at St Joseph’s church to mark 150 years of prayer and worship there. They were commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Dedication of the church in April 1866 by the then Bishop of Clogher, Dr James Donnelly. On this occasion, the present Bishop of Clogher, Dr Liam S. MacDaid, joined with the priests of Carrickmacross parish and other priests, some of them natives of the town and area, and with the lay faithful to offer thanks to God for the witness that the local faith community of that part of the diocese has given and continues to give. The Parish Priest of Carrickmacross, Fr Larry Duffy PP, VG, has announced that the people of the parish wish to share their joy with other church communities by contributing financially to the building of a new church for parish in Kitui, Kenya. He has encouraged people to share their joy in this way.  

The theme of Sunday’s celebration was one of faith – Credo in Unum Deum – I believe in one God.

In his Introductory remarks, Bishop MacDaid alluded to the combined choirs of the parish filling ‘this sacred space with splendid music and joyful song to express gratitude and affection for a building that has served [the people of Carrickmacross] for 150 years’. The music for the 150th celebration included a hymn, dating from 1741, that was sung at the Dedication ceremony in 1866 by a visiting choir from Dundalk – Magne Joseph fili David.

Bishop MacDaid reminded people that a jubilee brings people back ‘through the mist of history and reminds us of the strength, courage, generosity, loyalty and perseverance of our ancestors’ He commended the forthcoming publication of a history of St Joseph’s by local historian Larry McDermott and the publication soon of an updated version of ‘The Face of Suffering’ by Fr Padraig McKenna – a detailed description and reflection on the Stations of the Cross in St Joseph’s by Richard King. He paid tribute to teachers – sisters, brothers and lay – who inspired the people of Carrick and the surrounding parishes and welcomed people back to the source of their faith in the house of God.

 St Joseph’s Church:

St Joseph’s church, which is one of three churches in Machaire Rois parish, was designed by the renowned 19th century Irish architect J J McCarthy. It was dedicated to the service of God on Sunday 22 April 1866 by the then Bishop of Clogher, James Donnelly. The preacher on that occasion was Dean Michael Kiernan PP, Dundalk, later to be Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland (1867-1869).  The church was dedicated under the invocation of St Joseph by special indult from the Holy See. The tower and steeple were added in the 1890s, with the cross being placed on top of the finished spire on 17 April 1897.

St Joseph’s replaced another church located nearby, St Marys, which was dedicated in 1786 and served as parish church for eighty years. The parish priest who commissioned the building of St Joseph’s and who led the parish throughout the project was Right Rev James Joseph MacMahon, a native of Aghabog, Co. Monaghan, PP of Carrickmacross 1854-1884 and Dean of the Diocese of Clogher 1862-1884.

Artistic features of the church also include a set of stained-glass windows by the Harry Clarke Studios, including one (window of St Ceara) by Clarke himself. Another feature is a set of Stations of the Cross by Richard King, erected in 1951. The sanctuary of the church was re-modelled in the 1990s to take account of the liturgical changes flowing from the Second Vatican Council. This work, while taking account of the reforms, has been sympathetic to the architectural heritage of St Joseph’s.

 Bishop MacDaid’s Homily:

‘In today’s reading from Hebrews, it is said of Abraham “he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God”.  In the Gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

‘Terri had two small children and lived in an abusive marriage.  She fled one day, moved into an apartment and started a new life for herself and her children.  She came home one evening to find her key no longer worked in her apartment door.  She broke a windowpane and got in, only to discover that all her possessions were gone – everything! The police showed up shortly after.  Terri was arrested for breaking and entering.  It transpired that her roommate had taken Terri’s rent money but never paid the rent with it.  She had been evicted that day by the landlord, and when she moved out, she took all of Terri’s belongings with her.

‘Terri was understandably in shock.  She and her two children were now homeless.  They had lost all they owned.  Terri took what cash she had and bought them something to eat.  Then she drove to the park to spend the night there.  As the girls fell asleep, Terri noticed other people drifting into the park.  They were homeless, dirty looking and down and out; not the kind of people she would ever associate with.  She was frightened, very frightened.

‘Next morning Terri found a phone in the park.  She called her boss and explained her plight, asking him for an advance on that week’s pay cheque.  He did not believe her.  An hour later, as she tried to compose herself, one of the dirty-looking and unshaven park squatters shuffled towards her and said” ma’am, me and the fellas took up a collection for you and your little girls; it’s not much but it’ll help a little.” He shoved some cash into her hand.  She began to cry again, this time because she realised that these men whom she had written off were showing her a love she could not imitate.

‘Terri later said, “As long as I live, I will never forget that day, when God showed me what true generosity and giving meant.  He showed me love comes from the most unexpected places, often in the most unlikely way.  These park squatters will live in my heart and memories forever, as the richest people I ever came across because they had enough love to share with a mother and her two daughters, who would not have given them the time of day.

‘The next time a sunrise steals your breath away, a meadow of flowers makes your spirit skip, a spouse’s sacrifice drops your jaw, a child’s hug warms your heart, a stranger’s kindness blows your mind, a neighbour’s thoughtfulness leaves you speechless – say nothing, pause a moment and listen as heaven whispers “God is alive.”

‘Parents are normally the first ministers of God’s word.  But then, Terri’s experience reminds us that any of us can be.  Each one of us has the capacity to open up the precious gift of God’s love to another.  We can all be breakers of the bread of God’s life for those around us.  The God of Jesus does not condemn people in their misery; he feels their pain and brings forgiveness and healing.  He asks his followers to imitate him as ministers of these gifts.  In God’s kingdom, neither sin nor illness has the last word and Jesus today proclaims this as good news.

‘My dear people of the parish of Carrickmacross, today is a very special day for you.  Your Church, St. Joseph’s, has been in a sense a stone owl observing two centuries of our people’s history from the early days of emerging emancipation after the penal laws, to the beginning of a school system and the building of churches, the horrors of famine years and wholesale emigration, to establishing a form of independence with our own parliament and constitution, coping with a civil war, creating a modern state, living in a spin of apparent wealth and now waking up to start coping with reality again.

‘Through all that time this building has housed and offered to your people the Book of the Word of God and the table of the Lord’s Body and Blood.  In this building, your children have been received into the family of parish; you have experienced signs of forgiveness and have been nourished in mind and heart at the Lord’s table.  In this Church your young people have welcomed the Holy Spirit and committed their lives to each other as they began married life with the Lord’s blessing.  You came here to pray for your dead and laid their bodies to rest in consecrated ground.  The owl’s eyes have wept, been startled, frightened, at times joyful and never without a smile of affection, compassion and hope.

‘Today has been a good day.  For 150 years, this sacred space, this building, has in a very real way been home to you, to your family and to your community.  This space has been where you have experienced some of the most tender and most moving moments of your life.  You have found God here.  You have listened to Him and spoken to Him.  You cannot speak of Christmas, Easter, Good Friday or Ash Wednesday without associating each one with this Church.  You were right to follow in the footsteps of those who went before you and beautified this Church through the artistic talents of J.J. McCarthy, Harry Clarke and Richard King.  You respected your patrimony and it glowed in your love.  Well done and may I join in your hopes for the future.

‘With God’s blessing may St. Joseph’s Church continue to be a place of grace and inspiration, where God’s love will touch your people’s hearts and minds in such a way that future generations will live in peace and harmony, in a spirit of mutual service.  In thanking God for the blessings of the past, we ask his favour for the future.  We pray that in loving and humbly serving one another we may find happiness that extends to eternal life.’


+Liam S. MacDaid

7 August 2016  


For further information: Gary Carville, Diocesan Communications & Media Officer, 087-1767226 or communications@clogherdiocese.ie


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