Momentous weekend at Mount St Joseph
The 40th Roscrea Conference was celebrated in style at the Cistercian Abbey of Mount St Joseph over the weekend. The themes of The Cistercian World at Home and Abroad and Celebrating forty conferences were fully explored by leading scholars from these islands and enjoyed by a capacity international audience.
To celebrate the forty conferences, all organised and directed by George Cunningham, a commemorative volume of 168 pages was published, also edited by George Cunningham.
Pictured at the launch of George Cunningham’s new book which celebrates over twenty years of the Roscrea Conference are friends, supporters, family and attendee’s of the 40th Roscrea Conference which took place at Mount St Joseph last weekend and was a huge success.
The book was launched in the Abbey on Saturday evening by Abbot Emeritus Dom Colmcille O’Toole. Dom Colmcille spoke lovingly of both the conferences and of the volume. As abbot he had welcomed the participants to every conference from 1987 to 2000, where he retired after 36 as abbot, the longest serving abbot in the Cistercian Order. In a special way he thanked the Director’s wife, Carmel for all the background work and support over all the years and for her contribution to the book. The editor presented No 1 to Dom Colmcille and all the conference participants signed this copy. As the book is dedicated to the editor’s two grandchildren Abby and Rachel Cunningham, No 2 was presented to Abby. The book is also in memory of Sr Mary Quilty rscj and Bro Nivard Hennessy, ocso.
It is a limited signed hardback edition of only 500 copies. For a limited period copies will remain available at the Bead Shop at Mount St Joseph and at Roscrea Heritage, for the special price of €40.
The Conference book was also honoured at a reception in Damer House on Sunday afternoon, hosted by OPW and Roscrea Heritage. Professor Peter Harbison spoke of how important the book was, locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally; that it would put Roscrea again to the forefront of research and historical importance. During his enthusiastic short speech he re-iterated how important Roscrea was and how wonderful it was to see the fruits of so many years of endeavour on the heritage front. He complimented Roscrea People, the editor and the printers, Walsh of Roscrea on an outstanding publication which would hold its own in any company.
Dom Laurence spoke on behalf of the Community of MSJ and of how much the monastery had gained from the scholarly gatherings.
Fr Tom Corbett PP on behalf of Roscrea parish warmly welcomed the book. In a witty contribution he detailed some of the important aspects of it: one about pottery and wine in medieval Roscrea, in an article by his former colleague, Professor Raymond Gillespie, Maynooth University who attended the launch. The Librarian, Siobhan Fitzpatrick and Deputy Librarian of the Royal Irish Academy (both of whom have important articles in the book) also attended the event in a splendidly looking Damer House and castle complex. (The gardens were looking magnificent, too).
The book was published, and is available at a reasonable price through sponsorship from the OPW, Roscrea Heritage Society and Roscrea Credit Union.
The weekend conference at the Abbey was officially opened on the Friday evening by Dom Kevin Daly, Abbot of MSJ, and the opening talk, on the ‘Cistercian World today’ was given by Dom Peter Garvey, Abbot of Bolton Abbey, Moone.
Cistercian expert and author Professor Roger Stalley delivered two tantilising talks on Cistercian architecture; Professor Peter Harbison explored antiquarian drawings of Cistercian interest with his usual aplomb. John Bradley, NUIM spoke on the tribulations and goings-on of medieval monks; Willie Hayes gave an evocative and personal illustrated presentation of Holy Cross – thirty years on.
John Feehan explored the landscape of the Abbey, both in the lecture room and on the ground with all his dynamic enthusiasm. Dom Laurence Walsh (Abbot emeritus of MSJ), delivered a tour de force on the ‘Heavenly Cistercians’ – an interpretation of the figures and the story of the west window of the Abbey church. Fr Richard, the new prior of MSJ, told how the CDs, Salve and Salve 11 were produced. Frs Nivard and Ciaran gave personal reflections on Cistercian life and on the forty conferences.
The Conference organizer George Cunningham presented an illustrated reflective on aspects of the conferences and held his usual conference quiz, this time solely on Cistercian monasteries.
The conference ended on the Sunday with the usual summing up by the Director, followed by words of thanks on behalf of all from Fr Richard Purcell. The singing of the Salve Regina was a fitting formal end to the 40th gathering at Roscrea. Those who were there gained a lot and gained new insights both into the Cistercians and into the heritage town and district of Roscrea.