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Sudden passing of popular parish priest Fr Joseph Doran felt strongly in Wicklow community


The late Fr Joseph Doran.

The late Fr Joseph Doran.

The late Fr Joseph Doran.


The parish of Kilbride Barndarrig and Brittas Bay has been mourning the sudden passing of Fr Joseph Doran from Newtownmountkennedy.

He was appointed to the parish in August 2019, celebrating his first mass at Saint Mary’s on August 10 and, going on to prove invaluable as he stepped up to help the community when Covid lockdowns hit only six months after he arrived.

His mantra "nothing is impossible to God" gave hope to the hopeless during lockdown, and he helped many through very difficult times in what he described as ‘our lovely parish from the mountains to the sea’. It was with great sorrow then that on May 7 this year, after a short illness, Fr Joseph passed away. His work was not nearly complete.

Among his first jobs was small but mighty. He noticed some of the senior parishioners and undertakers were having difficulty getting into Saint Mary’s Church with the rough ground at the back door, and he set about planning improvements, with a little help this was achieved.

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When lockdowns first hit, he threw himself fully into the protection of the parishioners. The first casualty was St Patrick’s Day, but the church was still decorated, bells rung and flags flew. Then went the celebration of Easter, but Fr Joseph celebrated the Easter Tridium in full on behalf of the whole parish. For the second Easter in lockdown, he provided packages of blessed ashes with prayer booklets. He added the Blessed Palm and the Tridium Leaflet Packs and the Holy (Easter) Water with the Easter Mass Leaflet and was overjoyed to see parishioners calling to the churches to collect them.

Fr Joseph was looking forward to finally being part of the Celebration of Easter with his new parishioners and no restrictions in 2022, and he put his heart and soul into what his community described as a beautiful, prayerful celebration.

He was honoured to use the 1613 Chalice on Holy Thursday and he spoke on that occasion of his own ordination to Priesthood, and the wonderful support his family were to him.

He celebrated many funerals during Covid too, working the best he could with the restrictions and government guidelines, trying to provide all that was possible for each family within the framework of regulations. He made the offer to each and every family that when restrictions were lifted, should they wish, that he would celebrate a memorial mass for the deceased and go with the family and community to the graveyard and bless the grave.

He had a wonderful vision for story telling and presenting the seasons of the church year in a visual way, although we were in lockdown he used this to advantage, using the ribbons for closing off seats, green for ordinary time, purple for lent and advent, gold for Easter, white for First Holy Communion, red for confirmation.

Christmas was celebrated during Covid as fully as possible with the crib before the altar and all the other decorations in place. Taking into account the need to restrict numbers, he put on an additional Christmas Eve Mass in Kilbride and he enjoyed the celebration of Christmas in each of the churches, each different from the other. He was looking forward to full capacity this year.

Fr Joseph was fully immersed in his parish even beyond the church,  especially in the schools and his pride in the children’s achievements. He had made graduation packs for each of the children, and had Archbishop Dermot Farrell coming to confirm the children of the parish this year. Fr Joseph’s prayer was that no matter where each child travelled that they would always know they were welcome and had a place in the parish family.

When he found out about the 1901 Spanish Flu Grave in Castletimon Graveyard, he began pursuing the possibility of finding the exact location and erecting a permanent memorial. He felt that the legacy which went back to Saint Paladian, Saint Patrick and Saint Kevin was something to be proud of. He had been told of the existence of a Saint James Well in the parish too and he was trying to find out more about this as Saint James wells are the starting points for pilgrimages.

Through other research he was finding out about hedge schools in the parish and he had a deep interest finding out about Fr Michael Moloney, who gifted the beautiful Altar to Barndarrig - whose 140th Anniversary he celebrated shortly after his arrival in the parish with mass, a commemorative leaflet and taking the Fr Moloney Chalice to the other churches of the parish.

Fr Moloney’s final resting pace remains unrecorded, and after hearing the story of a priest buried in Saint Mary’s Church, Fr Joseph remained convinced that this was Fr Moloney and had intended to try to find out if any evidence could support this.

Fr Joseph enjoyed his First Friday visits to the elderly and sick of the parish. he was sociable and loved the chats with the housebound parishioners.

What very few saw was the vast amount of work he did behind the scenes, the administration and the vision he had for the future of his parish. His vision was of Synodal Parish, which he believed Kilbride, Barndarrig and Brittas Bay was; one where parishioners were fully informed of all decisions in the parish and contributed to making those decisions.

He was inspiring, energising and preparing for change. The recent parish Synodal Meeting and subsequent parish report indicated that parishioners said that the parish had come alive under his watch. He brought many people joy and even more back to the church.

He made sure that everyone was "heard, recognised, and appreciated." He made all parishioners feel welcome and a part of the parish. People came to Mass, not out of obligation, but because the Holy Spirit was alive and strong in Fr. Joseph.