THE PIONEER movement has been strong in St. Marys parish Drogheda for 75 years now, and this was celebrated at a special Mass in St. Marys Church recently, with dinner in The Westcourt Hotel to follow.
Mass was celebrated by Fr. Denis Nulty PP, with lessons read by Sinead O’Donnell and Anne Barden. Prayers of the Faithful were prepared and read by Anne McAdam. Offertory gifts were presented by Margaret Greene, Conor Freeman, Alice Reilly, Gerry and Maura Berrill, Doreen Hand and Erin Plunkett. Communion reflection was by Carmel Freeman.
Snippets from minute books over the past 75 years were read out by Marie Connor: On October 24 1925 Fr. John Nulty PP, formed the first Pioneer Council in the Parish of St. Mary’s. Members at the inaugural meeting were Mr. TG Keating, Dublin Road, Mr. Philip Pentony, James Street; Mr. F Bateson, James Street; Ed Gargan, St. Patrick’s Cottages; John Moore, Duleek Street; Mrs. Fox, Coolagh Street and Kathleen Clare, Marsh Road. The first recorded minutes were signed on June 13 1926. In 1926 instruction for the children of the parish began with a view to forming a juvenile section. In 1940 Fr. Plunkett took over as Spiritual Director of the Men’s Centre, and at this stage the ladies formed their own centre attached to the Convent of Mercy with Mother Benignus as Spiritual Director. Ladies on the register were Clare Louth, Maureen Fox, Nancy Dunne, Mairead Kyne, Frances Callen, Mary O’Brien, May Kane, Lily Tiernan and Maureen McDonnell. It is worth noting that the cash on hand at this time was £1-16-9 (now £1.82) and Pioneer Pins were ordered.
The first social gathering of pioneers and probationers took place in Januaray 1944 in The Sacred Heart School. It proved a great success and the following year the reunion was held in the Knights of Columbanus Hall. Then in 1948 Rev. Fr. Bird organised a reunion in the Palladium in Laytown, with tickets selling like hotcakes. A radio was purchased from the proceeds which was presented to the TB ward in St. Mary’s Hospital. Many members stopped buying the Pioneer magazine the following year when the price rose from 3d to 4d.
Jubilee celebrations were held in 1949 with members carrying a banner in the Dublin parade. Again in 1952 the reunion held in The Whitworth Hall was a tremendous success with pioneers being requested not to lend their pins to anyone in order to gain admission. St. Mary’s Parochial Hall was the venue from the 1950s onwards. During the 1950s as many as 25-30 people applied to join the pioneers each month.
Records show that the Holy Family Centre was affiliated to the PTAA in April 1977, with a dedicated group active there for many years. Fr. M Deegan Spiritual Director co-opted parishioners like Gus O’Gorman, Mary Reilly, Stephen Pentony, F. Donagh and the late Peter O’Brien, Sr. Anne Brady and Michael Byrne onto the council in St. Mary’s with a view to establishing Holy Family. St. Mary’s became part of the East Meath Region early in 1977.
For a number of years the pioneers ran a bus to Knock. They were always well represented at the regional vigil in Dowdstown and at the regional dinner dance in Slane. In recent years the pioneers have had some trips to the National Concert Hall for shows. Gold, silver and juvenile pins are presented at the First Friday Mass in June each years.
1999 saw a Matt Talbot Mission in St. Mary’s Church organised by Fr. Denis Nulty PP, with Fred Cogley RTE, presenting 17 gold pins, 4 silver pins and juvenile pins to the confirmation children. Centenary celebrations in Croke Park in 1999 saw a busload from St. Mary’s attend where they carried a new banner made by Sr. Eucharia and her helpers.