In a packed Oranmore Church last week, Dr. Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh, consecrated a new 500kg bell which will ring loud accross the parish for the first time on Christmas Eve.
Admitting that it was his first time ever to consecrate a bell, Archbishop Martin told the congregation, which included more than six hundred schoolchildren from the five schools of the parish, that when he was a very young server he managed to break the bell in his home church while ringing the Angelus.
He expressed a hope that when this new bell peels the Angelus daily that the people of Oranmore would stop for a moments reflection and ask for the intersession of Mary, our Mother. During a song-filled ceremony rich in symbolism, the most moving moment came when a young Calasanctius student, Jane Luft, was called forward to strike the newly blessed bell.
It was explained that Jane was the very first person in the parish to make a donation towards the cost of the bell earlier this summer when she wrote the the Parish Priest, Fr. Diarmuid Hogan asking that her enclosed €10 from her Confirmation money would be used in this way.
It had been arranged with Jane’s parents and her school that she would be present at the Mass and her surprise and joy was evident when she was called forward from the congregation to be the very first person to ring the newly blessed bell.
At the end of the ceremony, a delighted Archbishop Martin was presented by the children of the parish with a huge hamper of locally-sourced food, including Malone Apple Tart and Christmas Cake and a full selection of sauces from the Karen’s Cuisine range and he assured all present that it would be very much appreciated and enjoyed back in Armagh.
A further presentation was made to Dr. Martin at Scoil Iósaif Naofa, the local Boys School, which hosted a large parish reception after the Mass. Speaking at the school, the Archbishop offered his blessing to the pupils and staff and commended the tremendous building work recently completed there.
Having enjoyed a rousing welcome from the school band, he was given a hurley and sliothar by the young Keady Brothers who also gave him some instruction on how to use them. Mrs. Hyland, the Principal thanked the Archbishop for his visit and invited the Archbishop to cut a wonderful bell-shaped cake — made by local woman Cathy Keane — and presented him with a Galway Crystal Cross.
To round off the day, a final announcement was made by Fr. Diarmuid. Traditionally all great church bells have names. After a vote among all the Primary School children of the parish it was also revealed on Thursday that the unanimous choice of name for the new Oranmore bell is Nicholas which is apt since St. Nicholas is patron of the Diocese of Galway, he is patron of sailors and, of course, he is patron of children.
This Christmas Eve, for the very first time, the children of Oranmore really will hear Santa Claus.