Large turnout for 40th anniversary Mass celebrations
Over the 40-years since the annual Mass was first held at St Gobnait's Cemetery in Baile Mhúirne, several thousand pilgrims have travelled from far and wide to participate in the ceremony at the historic shrine.
However, according to local Parish Priest and the celebrant of that first Mass in July 1979, An tAthair Dónal Ó Briain, it almost never happened.
Without divulging too many details he said that back then, as opposed to now, things were much stricter and a Mass in the middle of the afternoon in open air was out of the ordinary.
"I am very proud though that I persisted and the Mass went ahead and has gone ahead every year since," said An tAthair Ó Briain
Over the years since there were many highlights. In 1984, after being held for more than a year on trumped up murder charges by the Marcos regime in the Philippines, Fr Niall O'Brien and a number of other priests were released by the Manila government. They had refused to accept a pardon because that would imply guilt.
Fr O'Brien's first stop on his return to Ireland was to St Gobnait's where he con-celebrated Mass alongside the then curate, an tAthair Ó Briain. On that day he told the assembled congregation that while imprisoned he had received a letter from the pupils of Reidh na nDoirí National School who had told him they had been offering prayers to St Gobnait for his safety and release. In 1986 the then Cardinal and Primate of All Ireland, Tomás Ó Fiaich, celebrated Mass at the shrine.
"I brought him first to Cúil Aodha where he celebrated Mass and then he blessed the Marian shrine built by Lily and the late Dónal Lehane in Ballymakeera. Then we came to St Gobnait's to celebrate Mass here," said An tAthair Ó Briain
Other bishops to celebrate Mass at the shrine have included the late Bishop Ahern and one of his successors, the current Bishop of Cloyne, Dr William Crean.
"In all of the years I've been celebrating Mass here, it's never rained on us - even though one year it was raining elsewhere in the immediate area."
Eight priests celebrated Mass last Sunday week at the shrine alongside An tAthair Ó Briain and he was delighted with the turnout. It proves in his view the loyalty people have to tradition and their faith - despite all modern trends to the contrary.
"I'm thankful to God and Gobnait for giving me the strength to follow through on the request of the Shrine Committee back in 1979 to go ahead with the Mass and to continue with it until now," he said.
"A great many people helped along the way to make it the success it has become - I remember one man who was instrumental in organising the first mass in 1979, Diarmuid Ó hAilíosa, who died the night after that very first mass. His family have been very involved all along."