Monday 22 July 2019

Fr Gabriel celebrates an incredible 60 years in the priesthood

John Manning

There is a new tree growing in the grounds of St Margaret's Church that marks 60 years of committed ministry from the parish priest.

The tree planting was the culmination of Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Fr Gabriel O'Dowd, the local parish priest who was celebrating 60 years as a priest, surrounded by friends, family and parishioners.

For almost 21 of those years, Fr Gabriel has been in St Margaret's and the community turned out in numbers to pay tribute to him.

Father Gabriel came to St Margarets in January 1998 , and has been living with the community for almost 21 years, covering the Saturday and Sunday and weekday masses, visiting the sick and the local care homes.

The event was attended by his family members, coming from Wicklow, Mayo , Belfast, Sligo and Fermanagh. Also Joe Keeling and his family from Keelings Food Central, and Siobhan O Donnell from daa and former parishioners from Ballyroan parish , South County Dublin.

Father Richard Hyland , parish priest of St Cancices concelebrated mass with Father Gabriel, followed by a tree planting ceremony in the church grounds .

This was followed by a presentation lunch in the White House function room.

Father Gabriel cut the specially commissioned cake for the occasion, provided by Eithne Higgins. He took the mike to say how wonderful it was to have the parishioners here and family to celebrate this wonderful day.

A slide show on the life of Father Gabriel was presented with photos dating back to his ordination , up to the present day, from 1959 to 2019.

Father Gabriel, born in Co Sligo, was the son of a Sergeant in the newly formed Garda force, the eldest of four children.

He lived most of his childhood in Co Sligo, and Roscommon, before moving to Dublin.

After completing his education in Terenure College, he took a year out to study business.

He made the decision to enter the priesthood and attended the seminary in Thurles.

Following his ordination in 1959, with twenty other priests, he was sent to New Zealand in 1959 to begin his ministry and spent most of the next 20 years there, travelling from the north island to the south island.

He travelled by sea, and it took six weeks to arrive in Wellington, his first parish.

He came back to Ireland after his father passed away to be with his mother and was attached to Ballyroan Parish in South Dublin, then moving to Westland Row as Administrator, and onto Cabra, before coming to St Margarets.

Gabriel, now 86, is officially retiring, but he says he likes to think he is 68 not 86.

He would like to remain, in his retired position in St Margarets, where he has many friends formed over the last 21 years.

Parishoner, Sheelagh Morris said: 'During his time as parish here in St Margaret's, Father Gabriel welcomed President McAleese to the centenary of the church in 2000, installing a milleneum window to mark the occasion, following a fund raising walk by the parishioners.

'He attended many functions and events over the years and administered the sacraments of baptism, First Communion, Confirmation , weddings and funerals.

The parishioners have fond memories of his time in St Margaret's, and hope he will be able to retire amongst us, to be close to his friends and wish him every happiness.'

Fingal Independent