More than 300 spectators were in attendance last Friday evening to witness the official unveiling of Abbeylara’s state-of-the-art Parish Centre.
Named after Granard born missionary priest Fr John Christopher Drumgoole the centre, which cost over €1m to build, was formally opened by parish priest Fr Michael Campbell.
He was joined by Vincent Ignizio, CEO of Mount Loretto, Staten Island, New York, a sprawling campus Fr Drumgoole helped found to house orphaned children over 100 years ago.
Mr Ignizio said the occasion was testimony to the unsung efforts of a man who helped provide shelter to thousands of poverty-stricken children.
“I wanted to say thank you for sending us Fr Drumgoole,” he told a hushed crowd.
“He had no children but in fact he had over 150,000 children.”
Mr Ignizio said Fr Drumgoole managed to secure a site totalling more than 600 acres, dividing it into two 200 acre plots for impoverished girls and boys.
“They (children) were no longer pushed away, they were no longer shunned.”
Mr Ignizio also revealed the efforts of Fr Drumgoole lived on today with Mount Loretto attracting over 1,000 visitors each day for a whole host of services.
There were moving speeches too from Bishop Emeritus, Colm O’Reilly and chairperson of Abbeylara Pastoral Council PJ Reilly.
The Longford County Councillor said the need for a parish centre had been discussed for 40 years.
He said it was fitting the centre was dedicated to a man like Fr Drumgoole.
“We can sit here and talk all we like but this would not have been possible but for the hard work of one man,” he said, referring to Fr Michael Campbell.
It was a tribute which prompted a standing ovation from those watching on from the floor.
Looking close to tears, Fr Campbell insisted the centre's opening was very much a community effort.
He thanked Longford County Council, LCRL and the anonymous donor which between them brought in around €200,000 .
And despite the project running out of money in 2009, he said persisient fundraising managed to secure the additional €900,000 which was needed to make the centre a €1.1m reality.
“Isn't it great to say we are now debt free and that no more direct fundraising will be needed to finish the centre,” he added.