17 April, 2010

The Mercy Convent Chapel, Callan, Co. Kilkenny

Celebrating with the Mercy Order
Published in the Kilkenny People of 29th November, 2006

ON Sunday evening the Mercy Order in Callan celebrated the centenary of their convent chapel with a concelebrated Mass for the nuns and invited guests.

Later in the evening solemn benediction was also celebrated in the little chapel for parishioners, friends and supporters. This writer was privileged to be asked to the special Mass which was celebrated by Bishop of Ossary, Dr. Laurence Forristal.

In my 35 years living in the town I had never had the privilege or opportunity to visit the interior of the church, it was certainly worth the wait as it is the most beautiful of places. This was the church build by local tradesmen 100 years ago and the beautiful church is testament to their wonderful workmanship. One could sense the history of the place and could just imagine when young and not so young nuns sitting in the choir seats which line both walls saying their office all those years ago.

Nothing has changed in the little church in those hundred years, the exquisite white marble alter which was donated by Count Thomas O'Loughlin still stand proudly at the front of the church, the wonderful marble pillars still shine like beacons and the original timber floor looks as good today as the first day it was installed.

Also in place are the stain glass windows, Sr. Asumptha tells of a recent visit by a stain glass expert who was amazed at the excellent condition of the windows and were definitely the finest stain glass workmanship he had ever seen.

Before the concelebrated Mass began there was a procession by some of the nuns and former members of the order to the alter bearing of artefacts from the convent including the original plans of the church. Also brought to the alter was a ticket dated 1904 which was sold to fundraise for the church. The Mercy Nuns greatest benefactor was cardinal Moran, he was especially remembered as the royalties from his books helped to pay for the building.

During the Mass Bishop Forristal spoke of his wonderful time as a pupil of the Mercy Convent in Thomastown and humorously stated they were responsible for the direction he took in life.

The concelebrants were Fr.Jim Forristal was Chaplin to the St.Brigids College for twenty years, Fr. Johnny Lawlor, Fr. Sean Doherty, Fr.Mark Condon and Fr. Raftes all former curates in Callan, Fr. Bernard Larche Community, Fr. Larry O'Keeffe Parish Priest of Clara and native of Callan and Fr. Willie Dalton P.P.

Parish Priest of Callan Fr. Willie Dalton gave the homily. He spoke of the Mercy nuns contribution to Callan and on arriving in Callan wasted no time in getting involved in education and parish work. Callan at the time was a very poor place and on their arrival the town was trying to over come many divisions and great poverty.

The town was still trying to come to terms in the aftermath of the Great Famine and as part of the Nuns work they engaged themselves in working in the Work House. He said the church is a legacy of our past and was described at the time as 'A Little Gem in the Mitre of Ossary'. When the nuns arrived in 1872 they first set about building a school and convent which both stand today and are in full use.

Their one wish was to build a church and Bishop Moran pledged to help them in every way, but economic circumstances dictated the church would not be built for another thirty years.On that faithful day in 1906 when the church was consecrated on eminent Jesuit priest said the church was a 'Store House of Apostolic Energy'. It was certainly a very fitting tribute to the Mercy nuns who have spread their teaching from Callan to many parts of the world.

In this modern age callings to the religious life are very few, and even though many of the community of Callan convent are getting older, there is a great vibrancy and spirituality about the community and above all a great welcoming as was again witnessed on Sunday.

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