Although the concept of ‘heritage’ is more associated with that which is considered to be ancient, unused and unusable, many of Kildare’s local churches, still used daily and weekly, are of an age that they can be considered ‘heritage’.
More to the point, they are a part of our heritage that is in need of maintenance and preservation.
That is the case in Kilcullen where, for instance, the stained glass windows in the Church of the Sacred Heart were created by Joshua Clarke, the father of the world-famous stained glass master Harry Clarke.
It was built in 1872 and was designed by JJ McCarthy, who designed many of Ireland’s churches in that era, after Catholic Emancipation.
The church was built when John Harvey Lewis of nearby Castlemartin Estate donated the land for it and donated a sum of £300 to the project.
The then Cardinal Cullen donated £100 on behalf of the diocese. The building cost a total of £8,300 which was an enormous amount at that time, considering it was only 25 to 40 years after the famine and there was very little money around.
The organ in the church is a John White, again a well known designer and the altar was made by the renowned church sculptor William Pearse, father of the 1916 Rising leader Padraig Pearse.
And all of the above are starting to show their age, which is heading for 145 years.
In recent times, a member of Kilcullen’s Parish Council, Peter Moloney wrote and presented a document called ‘Kilcullen Parish Going Forward 2017 and Beyond’, a blueprint for the preservation of the critical elements of heritage in the church, and of course the church itself.
Naturally, the question of funding preservation had to be addressed and Mr Moloney does so in the opening paragraph: “The first thing we need to do is to extend the finance committee. At the moment we (the Pastoral Committee) do not have a proper finance committee in place.”
From there, he proposes the establishment of Heritage Fund Committee in order to raise funds for the roof and other areas of the church that require attention.
Mr Moloney believes the roof needs to be the number one priority.
After that he believes that the parochial house should be restored, noting that it is “a very important listed building which should be restored”.
He recommends that choirs of the parish should be developed in addition to the restoration of the John White organ.
The nearby Gormanstown Church also requires work, including painting the inside, replacing the Stations of the Cross, some attention to the big window at the rear of the Church and replacement of pews.
Mr Moloney’s detailed proposal concludes with the need to “communicate and agree a plan that is beneficial to the people of Kilcullen and not to some building developer and his associates”.
He believed that the laity will need to “take charge and pride in these wonderful listed buildings that are in our care for present and future generations”.
He warns: “We do not have the right to sell, or do away with the efforts of our previous generations, especially the people who put these wonderful buildings and interior furnishings in place back in 1872 to 1900”.