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THE SOUTHERN CROSS June 2017 | www.thesoutherncross.org.au
A small hand-carved cross from
the altar of St Finian’s Church,
Karoonda, has been presented to the
parishioners of St Finian’s Church in
Clonard, County Meath, by Irish-
Australian priest Fr Sean McGearty.
The cross was saved by Martin
Cox when the Karoonda church was
closed in 2013 and recently given to
Fr McGearty to take back to his sister
Josie Donlon in Clonard, where she is
heavily involved in the parish as well
as the history of St Finian.
Finian was born in the latter part
of the fifth century and around 520
arrived at Clonard where he built a
little cell and a church of clay and
wattle, which after some time gave
way to a substantial stone structure.
He embarked on a life of study,
mortification and prayer.
The fame of his learning and
sanctity was soon spread abroad
and scholars of all ages flocked to
his monastic retreat — young laymen
and clerics, abbots and bishops,
and those illustrious saints who were
afterwards known as the ‘12 apostles
of Erin’ studied under him. At its
peak, up to 5000 students came from
all over Europe to Clonard for their
The exact date of the saint's death
is uncertain, but it was probably 552,
and his burial-place is in his own
church of Clonard. His feast day is
celebrated on December 12.
The wooden cross from Karoonda
was made from one piece of local
timber. The inscription on the cross is:
The Community of St Finian’s,
Karoonda, South Australia, on the
closure of their church, gift this
cross by Fr Seán McGearty to the
parishioners of St Finian’s, Clonard,
Co. Meath, Ireland. – Martin Cox,
The Clonard parish priest Fr Tom
Gilroy has placed the cross at the foot
of St Finian’s statue inside the church.
Nearly one million Euros was spent
in renovating the church where
stained glass windows depicting
events in St Finian’s life have been
commissioned and installed, including
one of St Finian returning to Ireland.
For Sacred Heart College old scholar
Paul Fahey, a highlight of his recent
trip to Europe was a visit to the
Hermitage – headquarters of the
Marist Brothers in France and home of
St Marcellin Champagnat, the founder
of the Marist Brothers.
The visit was arranged through
Brother John McMahon, from
Melbourne, who put Paul in direct
contact with the Brothers in France to
After a 30-minute train trip from
Lyon, Paul and his wife Michele were
met at the St Chamond station by Br
Xavier Barcelo who drove them to the
Hermitage where they were warmly
greeted by the Marist community.
Paul described the location as
“stunning” and said he and Michele
were well looked after by Br Jean
Pierre Destombes, an “absolutely
lovely man” who took them through
Marcellin Champagnat’s history in the
“We visited his first school at
La Valla, about 10 minutes up the
mountain, that is still operating today
and were welcomed by three Marist
Brothers who reside there,” said Paul.
“The Hermitage is located in a valley,
and simply breathtaking.”
During their stay, Paul and Michele
bumped into a delegation of 33
Australians on a pilgrimage to the Holy
Land and other countries, including
France. Among them was Steve Byrne,
principal of Sacred Heart College in
Adelaide, and Peter Chalkley, who
taught at SHC as a Marist Brother
in the 1980s and is now teaching at
Paul said it was a lifelong dream
to visit the Hermitage and it didn’t
disappoint. “We had a lovely time,
helped by the warmth and hospitality
of the Marist Brothers,” he said.
If you have an interesting travel
story to tell or a photo contact the
editor E: jbrinkworth@adelaide.
catholic.org.au or phone 8210 8147.
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central medal: “A little
pencil in the hand of God”
and “It is not how much
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RETURNING HOME: Fr Sean McGearty presents his sister Josie with the cross from St Finian’s,
Karoonda. Above right: Martin Cox hands the cross to Fr Sean earlier this year.
St Finian crosses from
Karoonda to Clonard
On the Marist trail
FRENCH CONNECTION: Paul and Michele Fahey visited the Hermitage in
France where St Marcellin Champagnat lived.
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