The oldest priest of the diocese, retired of course, died this week: Father John O'Shea, who was 93 years old when he died and had been a priest of our diocese for 67 years. He visited Ireland often while he could but was devoted to the Catholics of southeast Kansas. He came to Kansas in 1950 and retired as a pastor in 1999.
Scanning his obituary I noticed that he was born in Mourneabbey Parish, County Cork.
Mourneabbey? Mourne Abbey!
Mourne Abbey was a monastery of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John founded in the late 13th century. This website, describing some archaeological work done at the site, offers these details:
The medieval Hospitallers’ preceptory of Mourneabbey is located c. 6KM south of the town of Mallow in North Cork, in the sheltered valley of the Clyda River, a tributary of the Blackwater. Substantial remains of a large church survive, along with overgrown ruins of claustral buildings, all within a walled enclosure, portions of which survive, incorporating two towers. The preceptory appears to be an early thirteenth century foundation; with documentary sources suggesting it existed by at least 1212.
The surviving remains of the church comprise the nave (28m x 8m) and chancel (20m x 6m). Evidence noted during conservation work on the walls indicates that the chancel roof was at a higher level than that of the nave, and there may well have been a crossing tower at the junction of the two. Transept arches survive in the north and south walls of the nave but the transepts themselves have collapsed. Recent limited excavations have suggested that the south transept had an apsidal end. Other small-scale excavations carried out by the present author recovered numerous fragments of medieval decorated floor tiles within the church. A decorated grave-slab located immediately east of the chancel has been identified as a Hospitaller tombstone dating to the early 16th century.
So why is Mourne Abbey in ruins? Because of Henry VIII!
While he was not king of all of Ireland, he did have control over some territory, and where he did, he ordered the monasteries and friaries suppressed. Cambridge University Press has published a book by Father Brendan Bradshaw, a Marist priest, telling the story of this suppression:
Cambridge University Press shares several pages from the book online, including two maps showing Henry VIII's jurisdiction in Ireland and the incredible number of monasteries, convents, and friaries throughout Ireland.
Father John O'Shea, rest in peace!