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Words of Bishop Denis at Mass to honour 75th Anniversary of Newtown NS, Doonane

Mass to honour 75th Anniversary of Newtown NS:                                  21.06.23

Mass @ 11am

Principal: Kevin Gorman

Deputy Principal: Claire Walshe

Chairperson: Mary Kelly (Fr. Denis Murphy RIP)


It’s great to join with you on this the day of the summer solstice. I have come to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Scoil Naomh Abban, affectionately known as Newtown NS.

Thank you to your Principal Kevin Gorman for the invitation to visit Newtown this day and to Fr. Dan for joining me. We all still miss Fr. Denis Murphy whose 86th birthday would have been this day. Fr. Denis was a huge presence in these parts and I know he was deeply associated with this school as he was with the other parish schools in Ardough and Mayo.

As we gather in prayer, marking the 75th Anniversary and before we plant the tree and bury the time capsule, let us call to mind our sins and pray for forgiveness …


Marks gospel has Jesus placing children at the centre. They are the focus. They are the ones to whom the kingdom of God belongs.

Children are at the heart of every school. The 51 boys and girls are at the heart of Newtown NS, as are the 13 in Ardough and the 29 in Mayo. Children make a school.

1948 is a long time ago – 75 years. This school has seen a number of Principals over those 75 years –  Kevin Gorman, Niamh Campion, John Threadgold, Mrs Cooney, Mr Phelan and Mrs Looney. The very first Principal in 1948 was a Mr. O’Gorman!

On this day in 1948, exactly 75 years ago, the ‘Manchester Baby’ became the first stored programme computer to successfully execute a programme! In other words the first computer programme was written.

Mahatma Ghandi was assassinated on January 30th. It was a Leap Year. A thing called a transistor was invented! Hands up those who heard about a transistor? And a 36 foot shark was spotted off the coast of Donegal in June 1948!

Roll on 75 years. You are preparing to open your special ASD Unit in the Oak Room – in the words of your Principal “from little acorns grow great oak trees”. I am so delighted you are opening this unit in September. And I know how it will enrich your school.

Sport is so critical in the lives of young people. I know how much this school is embedded into Crettyard GAA Club here in Laois so close to the borders with Carlow and Kilkenny. Equally all sports are important.

The identity of schools is important, it’s not about size, like the child in the gospel, it’s about culture, attitude, tradition. Newtown’s identity is clearly distinguished from Mayo and Ardough, The Swan and Wolfhill, all schools with equally proud traditions.   

Pope Francis tells us “to educate is always an act of hope” in his document on the identity of a Catholic School. Today four young men graduate from Newtown – Aaron, Ryan, Joey & Tiernan. In a school of a roll of 51, 4 leaving is a big dent, but of course the cycle of Newtown continues, new little ones will join in September and of course some will join the Oak Room.

From the earliest days in Junior School the four lads and all of you begin to develop a deep respect for who you are and how you are made in God’s image and likeness. That is why the time spent in Religion and Faith formation during school is critical to our timetable. While into the future the specified time allocation will have lessened a little, the quality of what is being taught must not.

The four graduate after eight years of being part of this unique school community. A community that stretches back 75 years. They leave full of hope for a future with enormous potential. I and all of us wish them the very best. The wording of their statement they will read at the end of our Mass honours these points.

What makes our schools Catholic? Why do we invest such an amount of time, energy and money into our school system? During the pandemic we heard of Principals and teachers right across the 162 schools under my patronage in the diocese dropping off packages at homes to encourage home learning. It’s not just an inequality of wifi coverage that young people can be faced with, good teachers and good schools like Newtown, Ardough and Mayo know their pupils and meet their needs. 

On this 75th Anniversary, I recall the Chinese proverb that reminds us that those who drink the water today should always remember the ones who dug the well in 1948.

I conclude with offering all of you the ‘Five Finger Prayer’ given to us by Pope Francis. The thumb remembering those closest to you. The index recalling our teachers, or those who heal us. The tallest finger to remember those who lead, who govern, those in authority. The ring finger is our weakest finger, remembering the weakest, the sick, the addicts, the refugees. And the smallest, the “pinkie”, praying for ourselves. May you never forget the power of prayer, taught to you so well here in Newtown.

Bishop Denis visited the other two schools in Doonane Parish – Ardough NS and Mayo NS on his way to Mass in Newtown – a real blessing to have such fine schools in Doonane Parish!