The year 1858 was a milestone year for this faith community. It was the first year that the area now known as Enniskeane and Desertserges was joined as one parish with one parish priest.
In that year, Fr Domhnal Ó Súileabháin, a great Irish scholar who was born at the edge of the Warrenscourt Estate near Kilmurry, died as Parish Priest of Kinneigh. He would be the last priest to have that title. He was buried beside the chapel where he had said Mass and administered the sacraments – where Shamrock Cottage was built as a presbytery in Enniskeane.
An tAthair Ó Súileabháin had arrived here from Bandon in 1845 and was to serve in the difficult Famine years. His dedication to the people in his care in those years is reflected in the fact that 14 years after his death, his remains were exhumed and reinterred under the altar of the new church in Enniskeane when it was dedicated in 1872. A plaque near Our Lady’s Shrine records his burial place. He died 160 years ago this year.
The dedication of his contemporary in Desertserges during the Famine, Fr Timothy O’Donovan PP, is similarly recorded on a plaque in Ahiohill church. At the time of Fr. Ó Súileabháin’s death, instead of appointing a new PP to Kinneigh /Enniskeane, Bishop Delany changed the appointment of the then Parish Priest of Desertserges Fr Denis O’Donoghue and appointed him to be the first Parish Priest of Enniskeane and Desertserges. He had been in Desertserges as PP since 1856 and was a native of Bandon. He ministered here until his death in 1867.
The year of Fr. Ó Súileabháin’s death (1858) is important also because it was the year that Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette in Lourdes. Fr Denis O’Donoghue was succeeded in the parish by Fr Daniel Coveney who during his studies for the priesthood in Rome had developed a special devotion to Our Lady so it’s no surprise that he dedicated the new parish church to the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady — words used by Our Lady at Lourdes to tell Bernadette who she was!
Meanwhile, in the same year, in a poor post-Famine Dublin, a relatively young (58) but brilliant sculptor died. John Hogan grew up in Cork and received his first commercial commission from Bishop John Murphy to carve statues for the North Cathedral.
In the 1840s, while still in Rome, he carved several works which treat of the death of Christ and these were installed in churches and convents across Ireland and Canada. One of them is now the centre- piece of the sanctuary in Castletown Kinneigh Church. Hogan died 160 years ago this year.