THE history of Christianity in Ballyheigue is the subject of a magnificent new publication certain to serve as a major parish record for posterity.
'Ballyheigue: Our Christian Heritage' is to be launched on the eve of the village's Pattern Day. It is an appropriate occasion for a book that chronicles the religious tradition of the locality of which Pattern Day is such an important cornerstone.
The book is the work of the Ballyheigue Parish History and Heritage Group - Parish Priest Fr Tom Leane, historians Bryan MacMahon (author of the 1994 book The Story of Ballyheigue), Micheál O hAllmhuráin and Brendan Moriarty.
"This book is essentially a tribute to generations of the parishioners of Ballyheigue, from the earliest days of Christianity here to the present," Fr Leane explained.
At 240 pages, it tells as comprehensive a story of a parish as has ever been compiled in the country.
"One of our main concerns was that so much knowledge about the parish was going to be lost and the book came about in order to preserve as much of the rich and varied Christian heritage as possible," Fr Leane added.
It succeeds in this goal admirably, with articles from scores of writers on hundreds of topics central to the parish's history; from the emergence of Ballyheigue's famous Pattern Day to the massive visit of Chicago's Cardinal Samuel Stritch (the son of a Ballyheigue man) in 1958.
Former Bouleenshere Deputy Principal Mícheál O hAllmhuráin described the work as an extremely valuable historical document.
"There is great input from numerous parishioners with articles covering an extremely varied range of topics. For instance, one of the subjects covered is the extraordinary story of missionaries from Ballyheigue in the last century. Over 130 nuns, brothers and priests from the area ministered everywhere from Australia to Africa and it is great to see their story now preserved for good. There is just so much that would have been forgotten but for a compilation like this that has recorded it all," he said.
"It's far from just a history of Christianity in Ballyheigue, however, as we are very much conscious of the current generations here and the likely shape of Christianity here into the future," Mícheál said.
Ballyheigue: Our Christian Heritage will be launched by Arts and Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan at the local Community Centre at 8.30pm on Friday, September 7. It will retail in local outlets for only €10 thanks to funding from North and East Kerry Development.