Families remember loved ones in Athlone Good Friday tradition
The people of St Mary and St Peter and Paul's parishes remembered their late loved ones in the annual Good Friday outdoor Stations of the Cross procession through the town of Athlone last week.
During the traditional procession, which is organised by both parishes, a large wooden cross and images of the Stations of the Cross are carried through the centre of Athlone.
At each of the 14 stations dotted between the two churches, members of bereaved families carried the cross and held aloft the images of the stations, whilst youngsters from local national schools participated in the readings.
This year's event was blessed with gentle sunshine throughout and was notable for its quiet solemnity, with the town coming to standstill as the procession wound its way from St Mary's Church, via Sean Costello Street, Dublingate St, Sean Costello St and across the town bridge before concluding at St Peter and Paul's Church.
Traffic control was provided by members of An Garda Siochana and the event was peppered with prayer, song and reflection.
Participants spoke of the sense of community evident in the very public show of faith.
Cousins Tanya Sweeney and Aisling Sweeney O'Kane, were remembering their respective mothers, Joan Sweeney, from Sarsfield Square, and Maura Sweeney, from Assumption Road, who passed away within ten weeks of each other either side of the New Year.
Tanya said it was “an honour” to remember their mothers in the public ceremony, whilst Aisling said the deaths of the two women, who were sisters-in-law and long-time friends, was still very recent.
They both appreciated the sense of solidarity with other bereaved families during the Stations of the Cross.
Sr Denise O'Brien, former principal of Our Lady's Bower, also bore a Station of the Cross, was remembering the legendary late Sr Mary Austin Briscoe, who passed away at the age of 99 last May, and whom she described as “a big part of Athlone”.
Sr Denise said she was struck by the nature of the outdoor Stations and procession.
“I'm very conscious of the fact that it is a very explicit expression of our faith.”
She remarked on the relevance of many of the prayers during the procession in today's world, including those that referenced hunger and providing refuge.
Fr Pat Murphy, PP, St Mary's acknowledged the collaboration between the parishes in different dioceses is an important part of the event.
“It's a nice touch with the two parishes coming together on both sides of the river.”
He said whilst outdoor stations of the cross took place in other parishes, it was rare to have the event run through the centre of a town.
At the conclusion of the stations, Fr John Deignan, PP, St Peter and Paul's, thanked all who attended and expressed his appreciation of those who took remembered loved ones on Good Friday.
He noted: “Many of you have had a bereavement in the last year. Today is a day that makes the pain and loss feel even stronger.”
However, he said, the procession showed that “we stand united in our grief and “in our support for each other”. Fr Deignan said he hoped the celebration of the resurrection would provide people with some hope in their hearts.
The procession was led by Fr Murphy and Fr Deignan, assisted by Fr Padraig Kelliher, Fr John Eze, Fr Innocent Sunu and Deacon Tony Larkin amongst others.