The walk to Saint Patrick’s Church has been part and parcel of life for the parishioners of Portlaw for 150 years.
A healthy way to start the morning, the stroll over the bridge and up the hill to one of the area’s most striking landmarks has begun many a Sunday for many a decade; 15 of them in fact.
On the hill overlooking the town on the banks of the River Clodagh, Saint Patrick’s Church has dominated the local landscape this past century and a half.
And on Wednesday evening last, the 150th anniversary of one of the county’s biggest churches was marked at a special Mass in Portlaw, which brought locals and many of the village’s diaspora together once more.
Clergy, including serving Parish Priest Father Michael O’Byrne and Curate Fr Ned Hassett, were in attendance, along with many familiar clerical faces who have served the parish in years past.
Also among the returning priests was Portlaw born and bred Fr Seamus Ahearne, now Parish Priest of Saint Finian’s, Finglas, Fr Joe Flynn, now Parish Priest of Ballyporeen and former Parish Priest of Portlaw and Ballyduff, Fr Sean Nugent.
The 18 priests present, who were led during the concelebration of Mass by Monsignor Michael Olden were also joined by the Rev Canon George Cliffe.
Monsignor Olden offered a detailed and compelling history of the church, which had been resplendently presented for the occasion by the church’s cleaning group.
“It was a privilege to be asked to attend this special anniversary in Portlaw and a particular privilege for me to be asked to provide a history of the church,” Monsignor Olden told The Munster Express.
“It was a most pleasant occasion, providing many priests and parishioners alike with an opportunity to reminisce on times past and to recall friends and colleagues who have since earned their eternal reward.”
Monsignor Olden thanked Fathers O’Byrne and Hassett for the work they had extolled in the months and weeks leading to this event, with both priests in turn recognising the significant efforts of the Parish Council.
The role played by the Marquis of Waterford in the development of the Church, which included the donation of lands to extend the graveyard, along with the provision of the Church organ, were rightly recognised.
Music on the night was provided by the Church Choir, Folk Group and the pupils of Portlaw National School, several of whom were on altar serving duty on the night.
A marquee was erected alongside the church where refreshments were served, which provided locals and returning Portlaw natives with a chance to talk about the Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, Weddings and Funerals that mould the history of the community.
During the ceremony, Monsignor Olden was presented with the original ‘gong’ used in Saint Patrick’s Church on the occasion of its very first Mass 150 years ago.
And it was fitting that he received this historical element of local life from Maurice Nugent of Brown Street, the Tannery Town’s oldest resident – but still proudly one of its most energetic!
The Church is one of the few places where a community comes together – be it to celebrate or to sympathise with a loved one, friend or colleague. And in this respect, Saint Patrick’s Church is no different than any other place of worship.
While its bricks and mortar proudly stand on the hill over the village, it’s the spirit of the locality’s people that have frequented it this past century and a half that makes Portlaw’s Church a special, unique and justly celebrated landmark.
And long may that remain the case.