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Late call to priesthood for widower Fr. Se‡n

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Aug-2012

It is not many people who can say they have received all of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. The sacrament of marriage is not compatible with the sacrament of ordination as the Vatican doesn’t allow its clergy to be married. However, Seán Kilcoyne was married for 30 years and after he was widowed, he realised he had a late vocation.

Seán was 62 when he started his studies for the priesthood in Rome and on Saturday he turned 90, making him the oldest working priest in the diocese, if not the country.

A Mayo man, Fr Seán settled in Galway over 50 years ago with his young wife, Rita, a native of Caherlistrane, and enjoyed a working life as a technician for the Posts and Telegraph, now Eircom. In fact he worked with them for 40 years.

They lived in Newcastle for a while before they bought a house in Dún na Mara, Renmore, where incidentally he lives now to be near his post as chaplain in the Bons Secours Hospital.

“I had always thought I had a vocation, even as a young child but I never said it to anyone. Then I met Rita and married and it wasn’t until she died that I started to think about it seriously again,” he says.

When he told his younger brother, Colm, who is a priest, that he was thinking of joining, his brother replied “I think you might make it”.

Fr Seán remembers the support he got from the then Bishop of Galway, Eamonn Casey and says he was kind and understanding and even ensured that Seán could mention his late wife during the ordination ceremony in Galway Cathedral on June 19, 1988.

Seán studied for four years in Pieta College in Rome and was one of 95 late vocations, though the only one from Ireland.

“I loved being in Rome and I took to the studies because it was what I really wanted. I spent four years there and after I was ordained, I was first appointed as a curate in Mervue, then to Claregalway, as an administrator in Kilchreest and then to Bushypark where I spent nine years before I moved here to the Bons [Secours] seven years ago.”

You could say that being chaplain in the Bons is a return to his own parish of Renmore, where he lived as a married man.

In those days he was not only a practising Catholic but a member of the Knights of Columbanus, a fraternity for lay members and while Seán prayed for vocations on a regular basis, though as a married man, he was certainly not praying for his own vocation at the time!

“I believe it is never too late to have a vocation and the great thing is that all vocations are welcomed. Though I had a brother a priest, I really didn’t know who to turn to at the time, believe it or not. And when I did mention it, I was advised about going on retreats or take a correspondence course. I had no interest in any of those. I knew I wanted to study for the priesthood so when someone said I should speak to the Bishop, that’s what I did and I got great support.

“One of the things I do remember is the support I received from the lads I had worked with. That meant a lot to me at the time.”

Indeed he has never looked back and if anything, his life experiences have probably made him a better priest, though he is far too humble to say that himself.

He is much loved by young and old and many of his former parishioners in Bushypark consider him a friend, with some still in contact with him to this day.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.

 

For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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