By Sean Byrne
Sunday May 29th the Feast of the Ascension marked the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Fr Joe Power PP of Kilrush/Askamore and a day of celebration which was worthy of the special event. The main event was a special Mass held in Saint Brigid’s church Kilrush at which Bishop Ger Nash was the main celebrant.
The curacy of Askamore had celebrated the Golden Jubilee of former curate Father Barry French who sadly passed away in 2019.
Father Joe was born into a family of nine steeped in prayer and religion and is a native of the parish of Tomhaggard. His first appointment was to Kentish Town parish in London, where it was not too trendy to be an Irish catholic priest with the backdrop of IRA bombing campaign, Birmingham six and the Guildford Four. However, although it was a major surprise to him the local police were extremely helpful and supportive.
Our celebration mass commenced with 50 parishioners of all ages bringing up lanterns symbolising his years of service. Among those that brought up gifts at the start was Heidi from Germany and Frances from UK who both found love in our parish and whom were baptised by Joe enabling them to become fully fledged members of our faith community.
In 1976 approximately Fr Joe returned to serve in New Ross where he was one of a crew of 4 clergy in the town. He was highly involved in youth work here and Tops of the Town were a great highlight. Albatross were major employers at this time.
Bishop Ger in his homily said it was very fitting that this occasion should fall on the Ascension. The Ascension is marked by the Joy of the apostles as they know that help is coming from the Holy Spirit to give a life of service. This life of service is dedicated to building Christian community and this is what Fr Joe has done for his lifetime in 3 countries and 2 continents. Bishop Ger also recalled the joy and enthusiasm he exuded the first time he met him. His wisdom would also be very helpful going forward to balance the uncertainty which faced the church at this time. He said Fr Joe like many other priests chose to be happy in places he chose not to be!
In 1980 Fr Joe was appointed as bursar in Saint Peters College. When he was here he developed a longing to do something more adventurous. The relatively newly installed Bishop Comiskey gave him the opportunity to be part of the diocesan mission to Brazil in 1986. He reckons this is one of the highlights of his career which gives him many happy memories. The structure of the church was governed at a local level by lay committees and the priest served a number of these communities. In his first spell there Joe worked with 25 communities and he was with 7 of them in his second spell. They were all in the Sao Paolo area.
A special welcome on the day was extended to his brother John and his sister Ann who were unable to attend for health reasons but were able to follow the ceremony via livestream. However, he was blessed by the attendance of his sister Rev Sr. Regina Convent of Mercy Carrick on Suir and his brothers Tom and William.
Fr Joe returned to diocesan duty in 1996 when he took up curacy work in Gorey. Even at this stage this town was growing enormously becoming the prosperous urban centre we know it today. Here he got to know Kevin Leacy who introduced him to one of his other passions which is Medugorje. He reckons he has been there at least 20 times acting as spiritual director for pilgrimages most times. He is very attracted by its authenticity, and its non-commercialisation. He notes in a very forceful way that 9 out of ten people who go there, go back again.
In April 1998 Fr Joe Power was appointed parish priest of Kilrush, which is probably the most rural parish in the diocese. He has dedicated 23 years of his pastoral life serving this community in a pastoral and non-pastoral role alike.
He has overseen the repairs on the roof on Kilrush Church, and he also played a major role in keeping the drama group together in the early years.
The ceremony concluded with a reflection on a priest by Maureen Murphy, while Marcella Byrne also read a very apt poem for the occasion.
Music was provided by a joint Kilrush-Askamore choir conducted by Mary Doran.
Afterwards it was off to Jim and Mary Grennans big barn at the foot of Gibbot hill in Graiguemore for refreshments. After a social chat with many catch ups with long lost friends and acquaintances one could feel something special had happened. A feeling of contentment came down over me as I admired the many mountains which escorted the Slaney on its journey towards Enniscorthy.
For Joe it was “no rest for the wicked”, as one of his parishioners had died suddenly at a wedding in Dublin the previous day. He also had 2 weddings that same week. Roll on another fifty.
CONGRATULATIONS FR JOE!! MAY THE LORD BLESS AND KEEP YOU.