Over the decades St Mary’s Cathedral has seen several significant changes.
In the 1890s Bishop Brownrigg oversaw the first change since the opening of the Cathedral in 1857: the addition of new seating, the positioning of the High Altar in the Apse, the building of the Chapter House and the new sacristy, brought a new life to St Mary’s.
In the early 1930s Bishop Collier was responsible for restoring the fabric of the building which had suffered significantly from the weather. He also blessed a new cathedral organ in 1939. Bishop Birch also left an impact on the building when he reordered the sanctuary in keeping with the liturgical changes of the Vatican Council.
In 2010 Bishop Freeman began the present work beginning with restoring the mosaics, the stations of the Cross and developing the Blessed Sacrament Chapel beneath the cathedral.
Bishop Farrell progressed this phase of work before his translation to Dublin. Bishop Farrell engaged the services of a liturgical architect from Dublin. Mr Paul O’Daly, to work with local architect, Mr Brian Dunlop and over the past two months the work has been undertaken.
On Tuesday 15th February Bishop Nulty, the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ossory, presided over the Deposition of Relics in the Sanctuary. The relics of the saints have traditionally been placed in the altar. In 1857 Bishop Walsh placed the relics of SS Cosmos and Damien in the High Altar. In 2021 Bishop Nulty placed the relics of St Oliver Plunkett, Blessed Edmund Rice, Venerable Nano Nagle in a chamber beneath where the new altar will sit.
The relics were placed in a silver pyx which was presented to Bishop Nulty by Sr Ena Kennedy of the Convent of Mercy, Callan. The pyx was used by her uncle, Fr Laurence Murphy, late PP of Urlingford, who was ordained in St Mary’s Cathedral in June 1933. A medal of Catherine McAuley, founder of the Mercy Sisters, was placed in the pyx.
Michael and Agneza Morkzycka presented the relics of St Oliver Plunkett to Bishop Nulty. St Oliver Plunkett was ordained in Rome in 1654 and returned to Ireland as Archbishop of Armagh in 1669. He was martyred at Tyburn on 1 July 1681.
Sr Nuala O’Horan of the Presentation Sisters brought forward a relic of Nano Nagle, founder of the Presentation Sisters. Nagle sent two sisters to Kilkenny in 1800 and they set up a school for poor of the city.
Brother Christy Carroll from the Christian Brothers in Callan brought a relic of Blessed Edmund Rice. Rice, a native of Callan, founded his teaching order in Waterford and opened a school in Kilkenny in 1860 and later in Callan in 1868.
Fr Richard Scriven presented Bishop Nulty with the memorial card of Father Ragheed Ganni, a martyr of the Iraq Church, martyred in June 2001 – Ragheed was a regular visitor to Kilkenny from the Irish College in Rome and visited the cathedral many times.
Alan O’Beirne presented Bishop Nulty with a St Bridgids Cross. The cross was made by Sean O’ hUiginn from The Rower with rushes from the bank of the river Nore. Bridgid was a native of Kildare from Bishops Nulty’s diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.
After the relics were formerly presented Bishop Nulty assembled them in the Pyx and then placed them in the floor of the sanctuary. Mr Joe Maher, formerly Clerk of Works of the Diocese, presented Bishop Nulty with an Altar Stone made of Kilkenny marble. Donal McDonald, stonemason, placed the stone in the floor of the sanctuary. Donal has worked in the cathedral over many years and is presently restoring the black and white tiles of the centre aisle.
Students from Presentation Secondary School, CBS Secondary School, Presentation Primary School, Scoil Iognaid de Rís Primary School were joined by students from St Kieran’s College on the day. Bishop Nulty in particular welcomed the students from the Presentation and Rice Schools on the day that relics of the founders of their schools were being placed in the sanctuary.
The work continues now and a new altar will be installed in the Cathedral. The work of renowed stonemason, Thomas Glendon, the altar is made from Combe Bruin limestone. A new ambo and baptismal font will also be installed in the sanctuary. The work is scheduled to be concluded in March.