THIS week marks 125 years since the foundation stone was laid at St James' Church in Killorglin and the local pastoral council is marking the occasion with a special evening in honour of the man who made it all possible.
Fr Tom Lawlor may have originally been from Lixnaw but he made his mark in the mid Kerry Parish, envisioning a flourishing Parish with a majestic church and modern national schools and having the courage of his convictions to follow through on the plans.
"When he arrived in Killorglin in 1884 the Parish was in a sorry state, amongst the poorest in the Diocese, but in just a few decades Fr Lawlor had transformed the town and neighbouring communities with a new church and new schools," Declan Crowley of Killorglin Parish Council remarks.
"The church was the culmination of four years of planning and fundraising, including a trip to the US to meet with many who had emigrated and he opened six new schools in the 1880s - Killorglin, Glounaguillagh, Cromane, Douglas, Dungeel and Glencuttane - where previously there were appalling conditions for schoolchildren. That's why we are remembering the great man on the anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone," Declan adds.
It all takes place on Saturday, September 14, and opens with a tree planting ceremony on church grounds at 7pm, followed by Mass at 7.30pm and the unveiling of a plaque in St James' Church porch after Mass led by the monuments committee attached to the parish council.
Afterwards it's onto the Chapel on the Hill for a DVD showing of the 100th anniversary of the church in 1988 followed by two talks by respected local historians: 'Priest and Pragmatist' by Tom Doyle and 'Church and Priests in 19th Century Killorglin' by Kieran Foley.
"Fr Lawlor was certainly a pragmatist and knew the value of education, particularly as the 1871 census noted a 70 per cent illiteracy rate in Killorglin Parish, but to travel to the US to fundraise in those times shows the measure of the man," Declan adds.