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This is a little story written by Annraoi O Liathain (Harry Lyons) 1917 -1981 who was raised in the parish of Glendine in rural West Waterford. All his works were published in the medium of the Irish language, and the tragedy is that very few people have been able to read his literary output due to the decline of the Irish language, in this and previous generations. However, I have managed to translate it into English, and I hope you enjoy it. The story is a tribute to Fr. Patrick Lonergan who administered in the parish in the early part of the 20th century.
A Kindly Priest
Inside the Church gate in a particular parish in the Munster Deise of County Waterford there is a monument that is so unusual that it hardly has a counterpart across all of Ireland. It is only a cross made of black marble with a biretta, chalice and other priestly symbols engraved on it.  Thirty years ago (1931) the body of Father Patrick Lonergan was put into the ground under this cross in the parish of Knockanore in West Waterford.
Now, Irish people are given to have knowledge of saintly people who live in far off countries. We are forever reading about priests and nuns that spend their lives in Italy, Spain, France, every country on the world map, except our small little one. It is hard to believe but there hasn’t been a saint in Ireland for the past eight hundred years!
Well, it is not for me to have opinions in relation to the parish and the people in authority, but I am certain sure of this: there isn’t a parish in Ireland where there was a priest who approached the esteem of the saints through piety, charity and humility in this way.  A person of this calibre was Father Patrick Lonergan who was Parish Priest of Knockanore in the Western Deise from 1912 until he went to his eternal reward on the 12th of May 1931.
In this short article I would not be able to describe the life of Father Lonergan in great detail. He was a scholarly man but he lived a simple life. He was a man of the people. He didn’t like to give the impression to his parishioners that he was too well off, especially if they were struggling a bit themselves. He would never spend much money on his clothes. He was always around the place, working ceaselessly, in a pair of worn out shoes and a suit that was faded green with age.
And, as regards what he would eat, well, Bishop Bernard Hackett had a little story about the first time he had a meal in Father Lonergan’s house. The Bishop came to Knockanore to perform confirmation on the children of the parish. When the ceremony was over the Parish Priest asked the Bishop to come up to his house for a bit of dinner, which was the usual procedure for such an occasion.
They went into the house. The kitchen was bare looking and there was no sign of a housekeeper. The priest pointed his finger to a bag that was in the corner of the kitchen.
‘You’ll find potatoes in that bag’, he said. ‘Start washing the whole lot of them and I’ll head out to the garden for a head of cabbage’
And there they were the Bishop and the Parish Priest making dinner for themselves. I would think that there wasn’t a house in the parish that day where a poorer dinner was served, but the Bishop would often declare afterwards that it was the nicest meal he ever had in his life!
There were many people at the time who lived in a very miserly way, but when Father Lonergan died he left very little money after him. People were surprised at that, as the people of the parish were very generous to him every year, at Christmas, at Easter and also at the Stations. A short while after he died, however, it was discovered where the money went – a pound to a poor woman here, five pounds to a hungry house there, that was it – and all of that without a word to anybody.
Father Lonergan also believed that the Irish language was the best protection for religion in Ireland. Of course, some people thought him foolish for this, according to the clever writers of the time, but he lived according to his faith. The family rosary was recited in the church before mass and he often preached the sermon in Irish, especially on St. Patrick’s Day.  He would go into the houses to converse in Irish with the elderly people, and also to learn from them, as he would say himself. Indeed, he wasn’t to blame for the fact that the Irish language would eventually die out in Knockanore – as it did in the vast majority of other areas in the Country.
It is often said that we are a hardy people in the Western Deise, and not many people would have the ability to rain gentleness on us and soften our hearts. But when Father Lonergan died the people of Knockanore, Kilwatermoy and Glendine came together, lined the grave of the priest with moss, ferns, primroses and wild bluebells, until it was like a little sunken forest and then the body was laid into it gently.
It was the same people who erected the cross over the grave also, and it was said that the likes of it for beauty hadn’t an equal in the rest of Ireland. In reverence to Father Lonergan’s love of the Irish language, it was in the Irish language that every letter was engraved into the black marble.
Wouldn’t it gladden the heart that this wonderful priest was held in such high regard and affection by his own parishioners.
Annraoi O Liathain (1961)
Translation to English by Bill Daly   c2016

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