Mullingar hosts national event honouring organ donors
More than 1,000 people from all over Ireland converged at the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar for the 38th Irish Kidney Association Annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, on Saturday.
For many donor families the service has become an anniversary to remember loved ones, and for transplant recipients, it is an opportunity to honour and give thanks for the ‘gift of life’ they have received.
Individuals of all faiths, non-religious including humanist, celebrated that gift of life for a service of music and song by Mullingar Choral Society and uilleann piper Aoife Nally, and symbolic processions and meaningful scripture, reflections and expressions of gratitude, selflessness, and faith in humanity.
After the service, organ donor families viewed the names of their deceased donor loved ones inscribed in the Book of Remembrance, a roll of honour for organ donors.
Taking part in symbolic processional and reading roles were families of deceased organ donors, living kidney and liver donors and grateful transplant recipients of heart, lungs, liver, kidney, and pancreas and a multi organ transplant recipient mother.
Also participating were members of the wider organ donation and transplant community, including medical, surgical, and nursing staff.
Amongst the participants were Dr Catherine Motherway, clinical lead, Organ Donation Transplant Ireland (ODTI), and organ donor coordinator Jean O’Reilly, (ODTI); transplant surgeon Gordon Smyth (Beaumont Hospital); Laura Austin and Andrea Fitzmaurice, transplant coordinators (Beaumont Hospital), and Carmela Malapit, a Filipino dialysis nurse at Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, and wife of a kidney transplant recipient.
The two sisters of Ted Tobin, a young man from Crumlin, Dublin, who made history when he became the first person to undergo a transplant in Ireland, which took place on December 19, 1963 (60 years ago), took part in an offertory procession. The deceased’s sister Sylvia O’Donovan, who lives in Abbeyleix, County Laois, carried a photo of her brother, an accomplished musician, while her sister Jean Keogh, from Enfield, brought one of his prized music books to the altar.
In the opening procession, Army Sergeant Lavinia Connell from Athlone, whose late brother John was an organ donor, carried the cross to the altar and she was followed by Leanne Walsh from Tullamore, whose sister Michelle Kavanagh became an organ donor in 2019.
The Transplant Team Ireland sports team led the Service of Light ceremony by lighting candles for the congregation to honour donors.
Nine-year-old Sam Kinahan and his kidney donor father Ivan from Baldoyle, Dublin, carried the medals they each won at the British Transplant Games this summer to the altar.
Helen Nugent from Sutton, Dublin, has attended the service every year since her brother Brendan Tyrrell’s organs were donated in 1987, while Gerard and Margaret Reidy from Loughill West, Limerick, have attended since their daughter Miriam passed away in 1997.
Other parents of deceased organ donors who had reading or processional roles included: Kate Hynes from Thomastown, Kilkenny, remembering her son Jonathan, who passed away in 2012; Kevin Fitzpatrick from Collinstown, whose beloved son Darren passed away in 2018; Éilis Carlin from Cloghan, Donegal, whose son Tony passed away in 2019; Michael Kerrigan from Muff, Donegal, whose son Cormac who died earlier this year; and Eddie Burns from Macroom, whose baby son Harvey died in a car collision 17 years ago.
Sisters Lauren and Niamh Davis from Athy, whose mother Ashling was a deceased organ donor following a fatal brain haemorrhage in 2017, carried a large donor card to the altar.
Transplant recipients carrying out roles in the service included: Declan Gorman, a liver transplant recipient from Mullingar; Frances Little, also from Mullingar, who had been undergoing dialysis for 16 years before she underwent her life changing transplant last year.
Reading a prayer of thanksgiving for living donors was kidney transplant recipient and former Westmeath footballer John Egan, from Athlone, whose father-in-law donated a kidney to him. John has since wed and become a father.
Sinead Lowndes, from Dublin 15, who underwent multiple organ transplants including a liver, pancreas, bowel and part colon, and abdominal wall transplant in the UK in 2019, also read a prayer.
Edel O’Brien Farrell, a well-known businesswoman in Mullingar, underwent two living donor kidney transplants. Edel’s mother, Moira O’Brien, donated a kidney to her 45 years ago, when she was just a child. That transplant eventually failed after four decades of successful longevity, and last year Edel’s daughter Laura Farrell stepped up to donate a kidney to her mother. The three generations carried baskets of the Irish Kidney Association’s emblem, the forget me not flower, the symbol of transplantation, to the altar.
Members of Transplant Team Ireland who took part in the Service of Light Candle ceremony included members of the transplant soccer team, John Brennan, a heart transplant recipient from Tallanstown, County Louth; Dubliners Jack Bentley, a double lung transplant recipient from Lusk, and Jayson Flynn, a liver transplant recipient from Ballyfermot.
Other transplant athletes who have participated in World or European Transplant Games who took part in the candle ceremony included: Aodhagan Cullen, a kidney/pancreas transplant recipient from Loughduff, Cavan; and eight kidney transplant recipients including Michelle Reinhardt McCabe from, Smithboro, Monaghan, Sheila Gregan from Nenagh, Tipperary, Teresa Smyth from Dunmore/Williamstown, Galway; Finian Farrell, Mullingar; and Patrick O’Sullivan, Mallow, County Cork; and Dubliners Team Captain Harry Ward (Baldoyle), Ron Grainger (Castleknock), and John Moran (Glasnevin).
The Irish Kidney Association’s national honorary chairman, Eddie Flood, a kidney transplant recipient from Killucan, was the narrator at the service. Acknowledging all who contributed to the event, Mr Flood thanked Bishop of Meath, Most Reverend Thomas Deenihan, Very Reverend Phil Gaffney and Chief Celebrant at the service Reverend Barry White, for hosting the service in the cathedral.
Mr Flood also thanked co-celebrant Fr Stan Deegan, PP from his local parish, Killucan, as well as co-celebrant Reverend Canon Alastair Graham, Church of Ireland, Evangelist Mario Martins from Youth for Christ Ireland, and Louise Burchall, who represented the Humanist Association of Ireland.
For the first time since its inception, the service, was held in the midlands, and its second time outside of Dublin.
This year’s service was an in-person gathering, following three consecutive years of televised virtual events due to Covid.
The confidential database for organ donor families is held by Organ Donation Transplant Ireland.
The Service was recorded by Kairos and will be broadcast on RTÉ One TV and RTÉ Radio One Extra on November 5t at 11am.
The Irish Kidney Association Liturgy Committee, who were involved in the organisation and planning of the event, comprised: Cathriona Charles (Leitrim), Eddie Flood, national chairman (Westmeath), Joan Gavan (Tipperary), Ashling Hand (Dublin), Gwen O’Donoghue (Offaly), and Olive Cummins (Dublin).
Refreshments were served after the Service at Coláiste Mhuire, Mullingar.
Individuals who wish to support organ donation are encouraged to Share their Wishes with their families and keep the reminders of their decisions available by carrying the organ donor card, permitting Code 115 to be included on their driver’s licences or having the ‘digital organ donor card’ app on their smartphones.
Organ Donor Cards can be requested by visiting the IKA website ika.ie/get-a-donor-card or by phoning the Irish Kidney Association on 01 6205306 or Free text the word DONOR to 50050.