Take off your shoes – you walk on Holy Ground

photoThe past few days I have been in Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath.  It is the home of the Columban Missionaries.  A fine facility, set on spectacular grounds it is home to many events, including Diocesan Priests’ Retreats.  It is to that end, I am here, with the priests and bishop of the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.  The days have passed quickly and, thank God, gone well.  It’s always good to meet with priests like this and to hear some of their stories – humorous and otherwise.  I’m lucky to be able to do this.

The weather has been fantastic and the heat almost unbearable but a welcome change to winds and rain.  I walked a bit – though not as much as I could have or should have but that’s another story.


The cemetery here is amazing.  It is so well maintained and a sacred piece of God’s earth.  God rest all buried here – included among them Fr Frank Gallagher, an old family friend, who died in 2010 after more than seventy years of priesthood.

frfrankI heard in my youth that Fr Frank had been subjected to some tragic torture and treatment during his Missionary Days in Korea.  I never heard that from Frank, since he did not speak about this time but it seems certain that there’s truth in it.

Earlier today I spent a bit of time in the main chapel here in Dalgan Park and there’s a collection of pictures on the back wall, twenty-four in all, of members of the Columban Society who lost their lives tragically in the course of their “journeying for the Lord”.  Twenty-three of them are priests and one a sister.  May God rest their souls. They are not buried in Dalgan, most of them are buried where they were killed and for some, to this day, the whereabouts of their bodies is unknown. It was humbling to look at these faces – most of them very young – and to realise how much they were prepared to give.

Fr Frank Gallagher lays hands on me the day of my ordination
    Fr Frank Gallagher lays hands on me the day of my  ordination in St Patrick’s Church, Gurteen, June 1987

I took photos of the photos.  They’re not great quality but it’s my way of taking them home with me and, more than that, sharing them and their Ministry with you. (If you click on an image you will have the option of viewing in larger format and the captions will be more easily read.)

Further information available on the  Columban Website



3 thoughts on “Take off your shoes – you walk on Holy Ground”

  1. Fond memories of Sister Joan Sawyer. Sister was a convert to Catholicism before joining the Columban Sisters.

  2. Thank you, Father Vincent, for this post. A friend of mine sent me the link. I’m a Columban here in the Philippines.

    When I went to study in the USA as a young priest in 1968 Fr Frank Gallagher was based in our house in Bayside, NYC. At first I was half afraid of him because of his tall, commanding and swarthy appearance! But I got to know him quite we and to admire him as a gentle and helpful soul. A few years ago I met him at our Jubilee celebrations on 15 August in Dalgan Park and remarked to him that he and his classmates, who were by then in their 90s I think but weren’t jubilarians that particular year, he said ‘Ah, we’re in injury time now!’ He retired in 2007 when he was 94 and our obituary book says of him that he was ‘an undemanding presence and accepted the burdens of old age with patience and dignity’. There used to be a photo in Dalgan of the Columbans interned by the Japanese during WWII. I would guess that some of the Japanese soldiers were far more afraid of him, with his dark beard, than I was with his when I first met him and he was sans beard.

    The story of Fr Frank Douglas is an extraordinary one. Fr John Keenan, a Mayo man like Fr Frank Gallagher, has written about him: http://www.misyononline.com/new/sep-oct2013/here-was-strong-and-brave-man

    Thanks for the lovely photo of the Dalgan cemetery. At the funeral of Fr Aedan McGrath, who died suddenly at a family gathering on Christmas Day 2000, Fr Peter V. O’Neill told in his homily how Fr Aedan had, just months before, described the cemetery where he is now buried as ‘a sacred field’.

    1. Seán, many thanks. I truly was moved by Dalgan. The Cemetery, reminded me of Arlington but I thought what a different army those buried there belonged to and yet, as I discovered, so many of your community died as the direct result of conflict and violence. I enjoyed the few days there very much and will, in time, journey back to walk around again. I know I didn’t take it all in. I have a few more photos of Cemetery and I’ll send them to your email address. Oddly enough, I’ve checked into your blog in the past but am happy to have made this connection with you. Frank was a good man, genuine as he was tall. May he rest in peace. Thanks again.

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