A weekend of celebrations took place in Castlepollard, marking the 300th anniversary of the consecration of Fr Luke Fagan as Bishop of Meath in 1714.

Born in Castlepollard in 1656, Fr Luke Fagan studied in France and Spain, working for a number of years in Seville before returning to Ireland at the height of the Penal Laws.  It was during this difficult time of persecution that he took up his appointment as Bishop of Meath, where he served from 1714 until he became Archbishop of Dublin in 1729.

After commemorative visits to sites of faith history in Castlepollard on Saturday 14 June 2014, Dr Paul Connell, President of St Finian’s College, delivered a lecture on the life and times of Archbishop Luke Fagan.  Click here for a copy of the lecture.

Bishop Michael Smith was joined by Archbishop Charles Brown, Apostolic Nuncio, for the celebration of Mass in St Michael’s Church, Castlepollard on Sunday 15 June 2014.

In his homily, Bishop Smith described the context in which the young Luke Fagan decided to become a priest.  “He grew up in the period of the intense persecution of Catholics, being acutely aware of the perils and sacrifices which would inevitably be part of his priestly life.  He was ordained a priest at the same time that St Oliver Plunkett – who was a native of nearby Oldcastle – was executed as Archbishop of Armagh yet he was undaunted in his faith and generosity.”

Drawing on the liturgical feast of the Most Holy Trinity, Bishop Smith invited the congregation to reflect on the gift of faith and to draw on the example of Archbishop Fagan’s courage and conviction.  The difficulties facing the life of faith today, the Bishop said, cannot be compared to the persecutions of the penal times 300 years ago but the call to follow Christ remains the same in every generation.  The Bishop encouraged the congregation to pray for vocations so that the Church may continue to have faithful ministers to teach the faith and witness to Christ as Archbishop Luke Fagan and his contemporaries had done.

Following the Mass, Bishop Smith unveiled a plaque in memory of Archbishop Luke Fagan.  Fr Patrick Moore then invited Archbishop Charles Brown to unveil a plaque in honour of the recently canonised St John Paul, in whose memory the local parish centre – where refreshments were generously provided by the parish team – has been renamed.

As the commemoration concluded, Bishop Michael Smith accompanied by the Apostolic Nuncio made a personal, unannounced visit to St Peter’s Hospital to pray at the burial grounds where children from the former mothers and babies home are interred.  While there, they met a former resident who was born at the home and they shared the moment together.