IT WAS a special milestone for the McCluskey family from Inniskeen as six of them gathered for Mass at St. Louis convent on the Castleblayney Road in Dundalk to celebrate a total of over 350 years' service between them to the Catholic church in Ireland.
Sr. Ethna, the eldest of a family of eight, was marking her platinum jubilee, 70 years as a St Louis nun.
Mass was said by her brother Fr. Peter, an Oblate priest ordained 60 years ago, who marked his diamond jubilee. Their youngest brother, Canon Brian, a priest for 52 years, concelebrated. They were joined by Sr. Nuala, also a St. Louis nun, who lives at the Convent in Dundalk with Sr. Ethna. She worked on the missions in Nigeria and has been a nun for 57 years.
Two members of the family, both with 59 years in religious life, were unable to be present. Fr. Gerry McCluskey is a Kiltegan priest based in Brazil and Sr. Aileen is a Mercy nun in Dublin.
So the contribution of the McCluskey family to religious life reads as follows: Sr. Ethna SSL 70 years, Fr. Peter OMI 60, Sr. Nuala SSL 57, Fr. Gerard SPS 59, Sr. Aileen RSM 59 and Canon Brian 52 years, giving a remarkable total of 357 years in religious life.
Sr. Ethna McCluskey entered the Louis convent in Monaghan in 1942, 100 years after the order was founded in France. Her brother Peter who studied at St Macartan's seminary in Monaghan entered the Oblate fathers (O.M.I.) three years later and was ordained on June 22 1952.
Sr. Ethna trained as a national teacher at Our Lady of Mercy College, Carysfort in Dublin and went on to teach at the St. Louis Convent in Rathmines. For many years she was Principal of the Girls' National School in Clones before taking up a similar position in Dundalk. Her final appointment was as superior of the St Louis Convent in Kilkeel, Co. Down.
Since her retirement in 2004 she has lived at the Dundalk convent, a few kilometres from the family home at Blackstaff in Inniskeen, where her parents taught at the national school.
Fr. Peter's posting as a missionary priest was to the Archdiocese of Johannesburg in South Africa. He remained there until his return to the Oblate house at Inchicore in 2007. During his ministry he witnessed the end of the apartheid regime in 1994 and the election of Nelson Mandela as President.
Canon Brian McCluskey who studied at the Irish College in Rome is a retired priest of the diocese of Clogher. He served as a curate in his home parish of Inniskeen, in Newbliss and Threemilehouse, Co. Monaghan, and was parish priest in the border village of Roslea, Co. Fermanagh, for several years. He now lives in Belfast with his sister Maire, who worked for the Northern Ireland orthopaedic service.
They were joined at the Mass in Dundalk by another sister, Una McMahon, a retired nurse also living in Belfast. After the Mass the family gathered for a meal at a local restaurant.