Courage and generosity of ancestors remembered as church celebrates bicentenary

St Canice’s church on Dean Street Kilkenny

By Stephen Patterson

Photos: Pat Shortall

The sun shone brightly on St Canice’s church on June 1st. Crowds made their way to a thanksgiving mass for the bicentenary celebrations of the church, founded in 1824.

Small groups gathered on the front steps greeting and celebrating. They spoke of the concert held in the church on the previous night. Stories of previous priests, parishioners, bishops were recalled. Laughter and happiness seemed to be the call of the day.

Priests, Friars and clergy from various churches made their way to the sacristy to prepare to celebrate the wonderful history of the church of St Canice.

Taking time to welcome everyone, pose for the odd photograph and share a laugh, was Parish priest Jim Murphy.

A Bicentenary history, researched and written by Paddy Neary was available to those in attendance.

The booklet gives a marvellous insight into the foundation of the church, the various parish priests who served there and the fundraising efforts made by so many.

One interesting note was that the plan for the church was drafted by William Robertson who was born in High St. He would of course be known for his work on many churches in Kilkenny including St Canices Cathedral, Ennisnag, Clomantagh and Knocktopher. He will also be remembered for his work on such buildings as Kilkenny Gaol, The Court House, the remodelling  of Kilkenny Castle and Evans Home.

The foundation stone was laid on the feast of St Patrick 1824 by Fr James Gorman, parish priest. At the date of his death , April 18th, 1826, the sum of £1,389-17 shillings -2pence had been spent on the new building.

A record of the exact date when the church opened for public worship has yet to be found, but records indicate it took several years.

Speaking on the night, Fr Jim Murphy said that the birth and growth of St Canices church was all about team work. “There is no strength without unity”, said Jim.

Fr Murphy said he was impressed by the unity of the parishioners who, in very difficult times when resources were scarce agreed to construct this beautiful church.

“We are indebted to our ancestors in the faith, people and priests, who have courageously and generously given us such a treasure” continued Jim.

Thanking all who contributed in various ways to the church, Fr Jim remembered the countless parishioners who crossed the threshold of the church over the last two centuries.

Concluding his homily, Fr Murphy said: “I wish to thank all who have worked so well together to prepare this lovely occasion and who have brought to light the truth- ‘Ní neart go cur le Chéile’.  May the faith and hope our ancestors treasured, be enkindled and safeguarded by all of us and those coming after us”

( The Kilkenny Observer hope to reproduce Paddy Neary’s Bicentenary history in a future edition)

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