Bishop Michael Smith presided at Mass in the Cathedral last Friday evening (18 September) as part of celebrations marking the Golden Jubilee of the new Scoil Mhuire, Mullingar.
Among those present were a large number of current and former pupils and staff.
Symbols representing the life of the school, including the original Roll Book and a football trophy, were presented to the Bishop as part of the ceremony.
Readings from the Scriptures were delivered by Seamus O'Brien and Olivia Cotter, while current principal Fergus Oakes took part in the Prayers of the Faithful.
The music was provided, by, among others, the school choir and organist Danny Murray, directed by Fionnuala Quirke.
Following the Jubilee Mass, the School was the venue for refreshments, which also included a powerpoint presentation of photos and material from various moments over the 50 years.
The homily was preached by Fr Paul Connell, who is a past pupil of Scoil Mhuire and President of Saint Finian's College.
In his homily, Fr. Connell said that in celebrating the school's jubilee, those present were doing homage to a long tradition going back to the founder of the Christian Brothers - Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice who, "in the midst of tremendous poverty and deprivation" had the vision to bring education to children who had little prospect without it.
From its small beginnings in Waterford the work of Edmund Rice expanded across Ireland and indeed the world. Wherever the Irish were to be found, the Christian brothers followed; to England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand to name but a few and there they dedicated their lives to education. When Edmund Rice died the preacher at his funeral, Fr. Richard Fitzgerald said the following:
"We have all reason to be grateful to him and his successors who laboured here in Mullingar," said Fr. Connell, explaining that the Christian Brothers were invited by Bishop Cantwell and the Hevey Trustees to run the already existing boys school in Mullingar and they began their work on 20 October 1856 in conjunction with St. Mary's Classical College.
It was the generosity of a local merchant James Hevey that made their foundation here possible. Funds from the Hevey Charity were used to erect the school known as the Hevey Institute, and which also contained their home. By 1954 numbers had grown so large that a new school was urgently needed. Two years later a special High Mass was celebrated in the cathedral to mark the school's centenary and the site for a new school was blessed by Bishop Kyne. The new school accommodating 500 pupils was opened in October 1959. It cost just over £50,000, only two thirds of which was provided by the Department of Educationand& Science.
Fr. Connell recalled his own days in the school: "We sat in desks in classes of forty-five and more. I can still see my teachers, Seamus O Dea, Mick Lynch, Paddy Ryan, Brother Fields and Brother Forde. And then there were many others who didn't teach me including Eddie Bruton, Tony Cotter, Christy Neary Brother Mooney and the towering presence of the ever present Brother Egan.
"Lunchtime in the yard playing soccer with a ball made from sliced pan wrappers. It was where I scored the first and only goal of my soccer career! I was better at marbles and conkers. Particularly conkers, because living in Mary Street I had access to very good chestnuts in the Cathedral grounds. I spent many an autumn evening firing pieces of wood at the chestnut trees there, much to the amusement of Frs Dermody and McCormack. Not I might add Frs Conway or Regan: you ran like a hare when they appeared! And then there are particular memories. Brother Egan pruning his roses, Brother Forde minding his bees. Fr Fallon, the catechist barely able to fit in the teacher's chair. And the door opening at 2.30 on a Friday evening with the cry - Coir Bean ni Dore ar a ceathair a chlog.. And there was emotion too. I remember the day Brother Forde brought a transistor to class listening to the news bulletins all morning and crying when he heard that Robert Kennedy had died.
"But above all and most importantly the memory of being valued, cared for and given a good education. I have been attached to St, Finian's College for many years now, but I, and I am sure many of you, never cease to be grateful for the benefits that came our way due to the caring and professional staff who down through the years have laboured in and rooted the Christian ethos and tradition that animates Scoil Mhuire to this day."