Michael, Mary Mulvey, Siobhan Hall and Tommy Naughton at the 75th Anniversary St. Peter's Church in the Shamrock Lodge last Friday Evening. Photo molloyphotography.
Parishioners of Ss Peter and Paul's gathered together last Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of the church with a special Mass, which was celebrated by priests past and present and clergymen who are natives of the parish.
The history of the parish church is remarkable with Dean Crowe first making plans for the new church in 1929 when he succeeded in getting the military authorities to surrender the site he sought for the church and in return a new Ordnance Stores was built in Custume Barracks by the church authorities.
The Dean travelled to the artistic capitals of Europe in search of ideas and inspiration, materials and artists to adorn the church. Dean Crowe was known for his unorthodox and ingenious methods of raising funds during what were considered financially lean times.
The first Mass and baptism at the church took place on St Patrick's Day 1937, but it was on the feast of Ss Peter and Paul - June 29 - that year that the official opening took place. The Westmeath Independent reported on the large turnout for the official opening and dedication, which was carried out by the Very Rev. Patrick Beecher, MA, DD, Professor of Sacred Eloquence, Maynooth.
Rev. Beecher likened the church to St Peter's Basilica in Rome and speaking about Archdeacon Crowe and his drive to fundraise for and complete the church, he said he showed courage and inspiration in ensuring that such a magnificent church was built beside the historic bridge of Athlone.
"Archdeacon Crowe felt the urge of inspiration in his veins, and what though the time was financially lean and the undertaking immense, he took his courage in his hands, and, by gigantic effort, has succeeded in giving to the diocese of Elphin a magnificent church, and by reason of its very magnificence - for all things great take on a national character - he has given to the country at large another stately monument to the faith," Rev. Beecher told the congregation, according the Westmeath Independent at the time. He also mentioned "the distinguished architect and the well known builder for the grandeur and beauty of their work".
Addressing the parishioners, Rev. Beecher said the church was somewhere they would come to mark all the great moments of their lives - baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage and it was also where the parish would pray for their soul when their life's journey is over.
Speaking directly to the parishioners gathered he said: "This ceremony of today will be forever graven on your memory; and when you come to tell your children and your children's children how you remember the dedication on the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul in the year of grace 1937 do not forget to tell them also how appropriately your church has been named, because it is of the same style of architecture as that which stands over the tomb of St Peter at Rome."