Marking the Golden Jubilee of St. Peter & Paul’s Church, Portlaoise

The solemnity of St’s Peter and Paul fell last Monday, June 29’h.   It celebrates the response of St. Peter to build up the Church and the response of St. Paul to bring the Gospel message to .. -” foreign lands. Historically 4’h July 1965 was the date your much-loved church here in Portlaoise was dedicated, following –twenty-four years of fundraising. I look forward to spending time with all in Portlaoise over this weekend.  On the actual anniversary of the dedication I will celebrate the Vigil Mass, I honouring married couples and celebrating how the church I supports and sustains couples in marriage through the work of ACCORD.

Of course visits to Portlaoise Parish are a frequent occurrence in my diary, as a church is only a building, it is what the church gathers within its walls that is much more Significant. The young, the old, the married, the
single, the separated, those enthused by church and those hanging on by their finger-tips – all have a place around the Lord’s altar and all have a place here in St’s Peter and Paul’s in Portlaoise. It would be remiss of me not to commend the vision and foresight of the late Fr. Tom Browne and others who saw the need for such a building in the heart of County Laois. I think of the old Irish saying” we who drink the water, should always remember those
who dug the well’.  I hugely commend the Parish Team in Portlaoise very well led by Mgr. John Byrne.  Fr. Paddy, Fr. George, Fr. Eddie and Fr. Tom – I thank each of you for the example of priesthood you offer the people of Portlaoise and beyond. I pray a blessing on the entire parish at this jubilee time. Our focus in the past on bricks and mortar must be replaced by a focus today that reaches out to the lost and most vulnerable in our community. I heartily commend the work of the parish, I enjoy the warmth of the welcome every time I visit and look forward to spending quality time with you again this weekend. As is prayed at every jubilee: “ad multas annas”.

+ Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin

A Word from Monsignor John Byrne, Parish Priest

What a different World 1965 was. No mobile phones, no World Wide Web, no James Fintan Lalor Avenue and not a thought of a motorway! Travelling to Dublin, every lorry, car or van that left Cork, Tralee, Limerick or any other place in the South and South West of Ireland had to drive down the Main Street of Portlaoise (and indeed back up on the return journey) at the end of which from 1965 the impressive new Parish Church came into view.

“We will build you a splendid and beautiful Church” the architects’ spokesman assured Fr. Tom Browne. Over a period of twenty years collections had been made with the combined efforts of dedicated parishioners, and the time had come in the sixties to make a concrete start. The long homework had been done. The Church was to be more than a sumptuous building gracing a historic parish: it was to express itself in its totality through the siting, the design, and the materials used.  It may be a different World but that building, our Parish Church, has stood the test of time. Not  only as a building but as a house of God and as gaeilge as a ‘teach and Phobail’, litera lly, the house
of the people. Indeed it is both. From its beginning the Church of St. Peter & Paul, Portlaoise, is a story of courage, effort, endeavour and generosity from so many. We are grateful to those who made it happen. Many are gone to their eternal reward – may they rest in peace. Thankfully, there are also many still among us worshipping in the Church they helped to build in 1965 and renovate in 2008. It was a source of great pride that this Church, the biggest in the Diocese and one of the biggest in the Cou ntry, opened without the burden of debt. It is also a source of pride that as we celebrate its Golden Jubilee, after much spending in recent years on buildings and schools, the
parish is not in debt. That is a testament to our parishioners, to their support and generosity. We are truly blessed to have thousands of people come to this Church every week – those who attend Mass not only on Sundays but also our daily celebrations, the many who drop in to say a prayer, light a candle, spend some quiet time, the Adorers who keep our Perpetual Adoration, the daily recitations of the Rosary appreciated by those attending and those joining in through our radio broadcast and Webcam. It is indeed a busy Church fulfilling the purpose for which it was built. Il ike to think that the prayer of Bishop James Moriarty at its rededication on 9th November 2008 is
being fulfilled every day “May this building which we dedicate to Your service be a house of salvation and grace where Christians gathered in fellowship may worship you in spirit and truth and grow together in love”. Long may it flourish.

On this occasion of the Golden Jubilee of our Parish Church I express my deep appreciation and that of my colleagues, for the support, encouragement and help we receive in our ministry in the Parish. We have over 500 people actively involved in the various ministries and on our varied groups and committees serving a committed and supportive parish community. We are truly blessed in the staff of our Parish, our Sacristans, our Parish Centre staff and others who serve our Parish so well. Through the intercession of our Patrons, Peter and Paul, may we grow in God’s love and in love and care of one another.

Monsignor John Byrne PP, VG