Celebrating “a voice for our age”

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On Thursday 1st February 2024, churches came together to participate in a special ecumenical service in St Brigid’s Church of Ireland cathedral in Kildare entitled, ‘Celebrating St Brigid. Brigid 1500: A Service of Thanksgiving’. Senior government ministers, national and local politicians, and community leaders were also in attendance.

This service was dedicated to commemorating the 1500th anniversary of St Brigid’s death and took place on her Feast Day. Ireland has recently created a new Bank Holiday to mark St Brigid’s Day.

St Brigid’s cathedral marks the ancient hilltop site where St Brigid founded her double monastery, for men and for women, in 480 AD.

The guest preacher was Canon Dr Alison Joyce, rector of St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, in the heart of London. Known worldwide for its unique ministry to journalists, in her sermon Canon Joyce said, “St Bride’s was founded in the sixth century by Irish religious – and given that our dedication is to Brigid of Kildare, it is extremely likely that our origins lie here, and that this cathedral is in fact our true mother church.”

Describing Brigid as “truly … a voice for our age” Canon Joyce talked of her as “an elusive figure, whose story weaves together fact and embellishment in ways we can no longer disentangle.  But the core features of all that she represents remain timeless and changeless.”

The co-leaders of the thanksgiving service were Bishop Pat Storey, Church of Ireland Bishop of Meath, and Kildare and Bishop Denis Nulty, Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin . 

The service also featured the leaders of the three local churches in Kildare town, Dean Isobel Jackson (St Brigid’s Cathedral), Fr Andy Leahy (St Brigid’s Parish Church) and Fr TC Antony (Carmelite Church). 

Later in the afternoon young people gathered in The Curragh, near the cathedral, for a ‘Pause for Peace’ ceremony, introduced by Sr Rita Minehan from the Brigidine Sisters. This aligned with a broader initiative whereby the people of Kildare extended a global invitation, urging individuals worldwide to pause for a minute’s silence on St Brigid’s Day, the 1st of February 2024.

Commenting on the service, Bishop Pat Storey said: “We are delighted to be a part of the Brigid 1500 celebrations which highlight the Christian heritage and living faith of many in this land. We are partners in the gospel alongside every believer as we remember the wonderful legacy of Brigid.”

Bishop Denis Nulty added: “Celebrating anniversaries help to ground us and root us in the reality of the present day. The 1500th anniversary of the death of St Brigid is one such anniversary. I am so looking forward to gathering with Bishop Pat and the people of Kildare in the Cathedral on February 1st as we celebrate and give thanks for the witness of Brigid and the faith she brought.”

Kildare County Council has organised a ‘Brigid 1500 Programme’ to celebrate the extraordinary life and legacy of St Brigid throughout 2024. (https://brigid1500.ie).