( Reminiscences of a former Parishioner )

by Gerald P. Higgins
Each time I visit my place of birth and upbringing at Currawn, Mohill, and attend Mass in Saint Patrick's Parish Church, I cannot help reflecting on the enormous amount of strenuous work which must have gone into the building of the Church one hundred years ago. It was a huge undertaking at the time, bearing in mind the heavy manual work involved and the poor circumstances of the Catholic population of the area who had to provide the labour and finance the undertaking.The building of the Church was the brain-child of Very Rev. Canon Donohoe, PP, V.F. who played an immense role throughout the various stages of planning, construction and who will always be remembered for his foresight and commitment to the completion of the project. Canon Donohoe was born in August, 1884 near Athlone. He was educated in Saint Mel's Diocesan College, Longford, and the Irish College Paris, where he was ordained for the Irish Priesthood in 1870.
He was appointed in the same year to his first Curacy of Mohill, where he served for three years. In 1880 he returned to Mohill as Parish Priest and he saw that structural alterations were necessary to the Churches and National Schools of the Parish. Having consulted with Parishioners, a decision was taken to build a new Church in Mohill, and he immediately made preparations for building operations to commence under his personal supervision.On St. Patrick's day 1885, the foundation stone was laid of St. Patrick's Church, by Most Rev. Doctor Woodlock, in the presence of a large number of clergy and laity. Canon Donohoe was the Architect himself, and drew up plans for the building. He assumed full responsibility and employed tradesmen and labourers for the various jobs connected with the construction.
He sought and obtained a vast amount of voluntary labour from parishioners who would work for a week at a time, some with their horses and carts, helping with the construction of the building. he did not give the work out to contract. When time permitted, he himself was on the site carrying out heavy manual work. The building of the Church continued for a period of twenty-one years, until completed, and on St. Patrick's Day, 1906, it was opened and dedicated to Divine Service. The steeple was not built at the same time as the Church but was added several years later. Canon Donohoe was also responsible for building the national schools at Mohill and Finiskill, and this work took place at the same time as the Church was being built. The school at Finiskill was completed in 1886 and that at Mohill a short time later. Gorvagh Church, which was built in 1800, and Eslin Church were also in need of improvements, and were renovated by Canon Donohoe. Canon Donohoe also took a deep interest in politics, and when the Irish Party differed over Parnell's leadership in 1892, he was arrested on a Bench Warrant for disobeying a summons to give evidence against the Parnellites who attempted to storm the anti-Parnellite platform at a meeting in Carrick-on-Shannon at which he was a speaker.
He was lodged in the Prison at Carrick-on-Shannon. On the following day he was brought before the Court, the Authorities declined to prosecute and the distinguished prisoner was set free. When Canon Donohoe arrived back in Mohill he was accorded a warm welcome, and a torchlight procession paraded the streets. He was in favour of every movement which tended to improve the conditions of the people.
On the 17th July, 1905, Canon Donohoe died at the relatively early age of 61 years. He was deeply regretted not alone in Mohill but throughout the Diocese where his piety, wisdom and patriotism were well known and appreciated. The Canon Donohoe Memorial Hall, which was erected by the people of the Parish after his death, and Saint Patrick's Church, are fitting monuments to his memory. Saint Patrick's Church occupies a special place in my mind. It was here I attended and served Mass during my formative years. I have a clear recollection of my Mother making up a Soutane and Surplice for me, and my sister, Teresa Mary, learning me the Latin in preparation for Mass Serving. On Easter Sunday, 1944, ! set off with other members of my family in the ass and trap for Second Mass in Mohill. I had with me a new suitcase in which I had packed my Soutane, Surplice and canvas shoes, all set for my first time to go on the Altar. It rained heavily on the way to Mass. As I sat in the trap I kept a firm grip on the case, which I kept on my knees, so firm, in fact, that it became soft with the rain and one of my fingers practically went through it. I duly headed for the Sacristy where I met the well experienced Mass Servers, Mike Joe Winters, Pascal McKeon and Aiden McGovern (May God grant them Eternal Rest), and others. Father Pat O'Donnell (Black Pat as he was affectionately known), arrived and talked to me. He explained that as it was Easter Sunday, the Altar Boys would be wearing red coloured Surplices, and as mine was black I could not go on the Altar to assist in serving Mass that day, but to come back on the following Sunday when I would be facilitated. Initially, I was disappointed but did as he said and continued to serve Mass for several years both in the Church and at house Stations.

The Grotto, Church Grounds, Mohill
I learned about the Holy Family Boys' Sodality from my new friends the Altar Boys, and they encouraged me to enroll as a member. I attended their next meeting in the Convent of the Sisters of Mercy, approached Sister Mercy, who was in charge of the Sodality, and was accepted as a member. I was delighted when she issued me with a Scroll, Medal and Ribbon and told me that my Special Saint would be Saint Augustine. I asked Sister Mercy about Saint Augustine. She said that he is one of the best Saints in Heaven, but that before he died he did not lead a very good life. He was drunk a great deal of the time and was not very holy, but that before he died he changed his ways and then led a very good life preaching the word of God and writing about the life of Christ.
She also told me that according to Saint Augustine, sin could be committed by Wilful Thought, Word, Deed or Omission, and that I was always to remember this. I have never forgotten. May God reward her and rest her Soul.
I have one extraordinary memory of Saint Patrick's Church, Mohill, and that goes back to Christmas Day, 1944. At that time our alarm clock had stopped working, and as it was during the years of the Second World War it was impossible to have it repaired or to get a new one.
After the usual excitement in our home on Christmas Eve, we retired to bed with the intention of getting up early to attend the First Mass at 7.30 am on Christmas morning. As we had no time-piece we decided that we would watch out for a light in Willie Harmon's house, as we were fairly sure that he would be going to the same Mass. Willie was our neighbour and he lived a couple of fields away from us. During the night Mam looked out the back window of her bedroom and saw a light shining in Willie's house. She called me and my sister, Annie Joe, and having got ready we set off for Mohill in our ass and trap. There were lights in some of the houses on the way, and even though we did not see anybody on the roads, we felt that we were on time for mass. Having reached Mohill, I tied the ass at Michael Cox's Forge and walked up to Saint Patrick's Church with my Mam and sister. There was nobody to be seen and the Church doors were closed. We stood around and after a while I leaned back against the main entrance door to get some shelter from the cold night wind. To my amazement the Church door opened when I pressed against it. The three of us then went into the Church, closed the door behind us and sat in a seat. The Sanctuary Lamp hanging from the roof in front of the Altar was flickering and this was the only light in the Church. We remained seated for some time. I knew from serving Mass that there was a big clock hanging on the wall in the Sacristy, and I decided that I would go and see what time it was.

Invitation to Golden Jubilee of St. Patrick's Church 1936 :
I walked up the aisle, through the gates leading to the Sanctuary,. opened the Sacristy door and went in. I ran my hand over the wall until I felt the light switch, switched on the light, looked at the clock and to my astonishment saw that the time was 4.15 am.
When I told my Mam and sister they could hardly believe it. We talked about going back home, but Mam said that it was Christmas Day, that we had come to attend 7.30 am Mass and that we would wait and go to the Mass. There was no heating in the Church, and to ease the cold we were j feeling we went up on the Pulpit. Mam was reluctant to do so. I had' been on the Pulpit a few times leaving up books and holy water v ? serving Mass, and I knew that it would be warmer there than sitting on a seat in the body of the Church. Eventually she agreed. Mam sat on the soft kneeler while Annie Joe and I sat on the carpet covered floor. We rested against the padded surround of the Pulpit, watching the dancing flame in the Sanctuary Lamp as it dimly lit the Altar area, and dozing on for short periods. I paid a couple of further visits to the Sacristy, checking on the time, and when 7.00 am was approaching we went outside, closing the door behind us. The Sacristan duly arrived and entered the Sacristy. He walked down the centre aisle and opened the Church doors. We went in, attended 7.30 am Mass, went home and had breakfast and were non- the-worse of our experience. In fact we enjoyed it and it made that Christmas a very special one for us. In later years when Mam mentioned that memorable night, I told her that when the time comes for her to be carried in and left overnight in the Church, she will not be a stranger because she will already have spent a night there in the presence of God. She smiled and said "That's the right way to look at it". That time came all too soon.
Since then I have, wondered many times how the main door of the Church came to be ajar, so as to afford us shelter from the cold of that Holy Night fifty-five years ago.

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