The Marian Shrine at Rathstewart is a constant reminder of the great community spirit which saw the men and women of St. Joseph’s Terrace coming together in what were difficult times to commemorate the Marian year of 1954. Throughout the past 55 years the shrine has been maintained exceptionally well and no tribute of mine can be sufficiently conscious of the dedicated work undertaken over the decades by many local people in that area.
The stone used in building the Marian Shrine was originally part of the main entrance of Lamberton House in Timahoe, Co. Laois and was donated by P.J. Hume Auctioneer Portlaoise. John Murphy of St. Michael’s Terrace erected the stone, as he did the entrance to St. Dominic’s Church and both remain a lasting testimony to his skill and craftsmanship.
Maynooth College presented the statute, while Matt McHugh of Offaly Street designed and made the gates in his Janeville Lane Foundry. Many others, including Tom Daly of Stanhope St. and Frank O’Brien Snr. Of Emily Square donated items for the Shrine. Fr. Vincent Steen, Parish Priest, donated the holy water font and the cross and also some shrubs from the grounds of St. Michael’s Parish Church. This Church was subsequently demolished and the surrounding ground cemented over so the shrubs still thriving in the Marian Shrine are a link with our treasured past. It’s of interest to note that when St. Michael’s Parish Church was demolished in 1960 grass sods were removed from the Church grounds and transplanted to the Shrine. The cross on the top of the Shrine also came from the old Parish Church.
The photograph of the Shrine was, I believe, taken on the occasion of the official opening and blessing which took place on Ascension Thursday in May 1955. I was a mass server that day and with a lot of my mass serving colleagues took part in the ceremony. Work on the Shrine had been delayed due to the cement strike and hence the time lag in blessing the Shrine some months after the Marian year had ended. The original Marian Shrine Committee included Jim Fleming, Paddy Doyle, Tony Byrne, Eddie Delahunt and Joe O’Neill. There were many more men and women involved in the venture and perhaps my readers can help me compile a full list of those who over the years were part of the Marian Shrine Committee.
The second photograph is a fine interior view of St. Michael’s Church which was built in 1808. It was in this Church that the first mission in Ireland was held by the Vincentian Fathers in 1842. The side altars were the gifts of Mrs. Hayden of Cardenton, grandmother of M.P. Minch of Rockfield House and of his grandfather. The stations of the cross were presented by Michael Lawler, Park House, while the pulpit on the left of the picture was gifted in 1904 by the local parishioners to mark the Golden Jubilee of the ordination of their Parish Priest Canon Germaine. The Church demolished in 1960 will be remembered by many, while the Marian Shrine in Rathstewart, now in its 55th year, maintains a constant link with that Church which served the people of Athy for 152 years.
Happy Christmas and a happy New Year to my readers.