Ashbourne-Donaghmore Parish recently celebrated the dedication of the first chapel of its kind in Ireland to St. John Paul II.

Parishioners gathered with Bishop Michael Smith, Fr. Derek Darby PP, Fr. Ciarán Clarke CC and Fr. Janusz Lugowski, Chaplain to the Polish Community in the Diocese of the Meath for the dedication ceremony.

The newly dedicated chapel is located in the former sanctuary of the original church built in 1886.  The altar, depicting the breaking of bread by Jesus with his disciples on the road to Emmaus, originates from Castlebar, Co. Mayo. It was transported and reassembled on site and restored by Polish church restorers living in Ireland.

During the ceremony, two relics were inserted into the altar: St. John Paul II and St. Oliver Plunkett.  The relic of St. John Paul II was granted to the parish by Msgr. Slawomir Oder, Postulator, Rome.

The relic of St. Oliver Plunkett was also inserted into the altar given the Plunkett Family association with Ashbourne.  Dr. Michael Plunkett (Vicar General of the Diocese of Meath from 1691 until 1713), a cousin of St. Oliver Plunkett, now rests in Killegland Cemetery, Ashbourne.  Niall McMahon, a native of Ashbourne, his wife Maggie, a native of Poland, and their three children presented the relic during the ceremony.

The ceremony reflected the diversity of ministries involved in parish life, and the many cultures and families who have made their home in Ashbourne-Donaghmore Parish.

Bishop Smith, appointed by Pope John Paul II in 1983, spoke of his own personal encounters with Pope John Paul II, his involvement in organising the visit of Pope John Paul to Ireland in 1979, his visit to Rome weeks before St. John Paul II died and the lasting legacy of St. John Paul II as a great teacher and witness to faith.  On the evening, Bishop Smith unveiled and blessed statues of St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Fr. Derek Darby expressed his thanks to all the craftsmen and craftswomen who worked on the chapel, particularly the many local contractors employed in the project.  He said, “Our Parish can be very proud of what it has accomplished in the new John Paul II Chapel.  It is not only a place of great beauty, but a fitting place which will inspire us in our search for the Divine through the celebration of the sacraments and quiet prayer.”

Immediately after the ceremony, parishioners retired to the Parish Hall for refreshments.