Saintly cause: Celebration of Oliver Plunkett


Up to 500 people took part in a procession to mark the 90th anniversary of the beatification of St Oliver Plunkett in Drogheda yesterday.

The procession included Primate of all Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady and Bishop Donal McKeown, auxiliary bishop of Down and Connor. It was the culmination of a festival of prayer in the town that had begun on June 18th and was dedicated to “The Young Church”.

The relics of St Oliver Plunkett, a former primate of all Ireland who was martyred in 1681, were carried shoulder high in a glass reliquary atop a red velvet cushion by four Knights of Columbanus. Led by a cross bearer and altar servers carrying red glass lanterns, the windblown procession meandered its way from the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes to St Peter’s Church, the home of the relics.

Other Knights of Columbanus also walked in the procession, their off-white capes emblazoned with red crosses flapping in the gusts.

Women from the Order of Malta wore black capes with the order’s distinctive Maltese cross on them and, on their heads, black lace mantillas.

The Carlingford Pipe Band followed boy scouts from St Oliver’s Unit in Drogheda and from the 18th Belfast Holy Cross unit. Other participants included the Legion of Mary, the local Pioneer group, and representatives from other religious and lay organisations.

The Belgian ambassador to Ireland, Robert Devriese, also took part. He had been invited following the return of a relic of the “True Cross” from Ghent to Drogheda. The Mayor of Drogheda, Paul Bell, was also present.

Despite occasionally leaden skies, rain did not fall on the procession and the relics were carried into St Peter’s to a rendition of Faith of Our Fathersfrom the pipe band.

Mass followed and was led by Cardinal Brady with concelebrants including Bishop McKeown, Bishop Gerard Clifford, auxiliary bishop of Armagh and Canon James Carroll, the local parish priest.

Giving the homily, Bishop McKeown said Oliver Plunkett, like all of us, was a man of his time and had wrestled with the questions that his times threw at him. Referring to the Ryan and Murphy reports, on the institutional and sexual abuse of children, he said we could never underestimate the effect that trauma had on young lives.