Castleknock College Union

Church where kneelers have penance built in!

Golden Jubilee celebrations

May 31, 2002
Church where kneelers have penance built in! -

I met a clever businesswoman a few years ago, who was buying a house on the north side of the Liffey and she announced: l want Castleknock in my address!


"Because of the College, and it is beside the Phoenix Park ... trees, parkland, rural feel, the tone of the place you know!"

"Well I am learning."

Last week I got an invitation to Castleknock College, to a party, to celebrate the golden jubilee of ordination of three priests, Fathers Patrick O'Donoghue, John Doyle and Richard McCullen. Since blood is thicker than water, I had to go along to support "our fellow". They are Vincentian priests who go back to St Vincent de Paul, but the official title is Congregation of the Mission. The original "mission" was to provide spiritual services to rural areas of France, because the towns and cities were full of priests. Since then, they have become worldwide and include offshoots like the Daughters of Charity and the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The chapel

This is an ornate place with a large message high up over the altar: "Laudate, Pueri, Dominum." which means, "Praise God, Boys!" The other feature was the absence of padded material on the kneelers, so penance is built in. There I met my cousins, some of whom had grown up since our last event. Others had grown out, and others down, but all were wiser. The lad from Stamullen was enjoying the notion of Superior knee comfort in his home parish, but he stopped whispering when the twenty concelebrating priests appeared. As I watched them, it occurred to me that only the lead singer and the representative of the Father-General from Rome had dark hair. All the others were silvery-grey or tonsured. I wonder who will replace them?

Afterwards, there was a reception and meal with a quartet providing musical background under the gaze of old portraits hanging on the high walls. These included Father McCann, whose money bought the place in 1834 and who was of the McCann (and Hill) family from Drogheda, and Father McNamara from Walterstown, an ancestor of Father Richard, and a connection of the McNamara family of Shop Street and West Street. The non-clerical one was Baron Russell of Killowen, a past pupil of the school, who became Lord Chief Justice of England in 1894- Our man from Stamullen looked up, and said: "That's a horrid wicked looking priest!" I think he was reminded of his sad, distant days in Saint Fintan's in Mullingar.

The locals

At one stage, it felt a bit like a meeting of the Old Drogheda Society because Sister Rosaleen from the MMMs was there to celebrate with her cousin, Father John Doyle, and Dominic McQuillan from West Srteet, whose father gave me my first haircut, came over to see a local face. He is now principal of Saint Paul's in Raheny, and a bit more dignified than when he played on the beach in Bettystown.

The President of Castleknock College cut the cake on behalf of the jubularians, and of course he also had a Drogheda connection, being Father Sam Clyne, whose uncle Tom used to be the Manager of the Hibernian Bank at the Tholsel. His cousin. Father Jimmy, is the PP in Ardee. As I munched my piece of cake, I was still reflecting on the extraordinary spirit of service shown by the three priests, who had 150 years between them. The last word goes to the cousin from Stamullen:

"There are some mighty priests out there".

John McCullen