Church of the Immaculate Conception, Brooklodge
Celebrating the last two remaining artisans of Brooklodge Church, built 1840.
LR: Dinny Hession, Pat Walsh, Mary Farragher, Fr. Joe O’Brien, Tommy Heneghan.
Presentations made to Dinny & Tommy on May 24th 2015
Brooklodge church and grounds are steeped in history. Founded in pre-famine times in 1834 by the Franciscans brothers who forged a bond with the local population, servicing their spiritual and well being through the ravages of the famines of the 1840’s through to 1880’s, and considering it was only c.50 years from the repel of the penal laws where our faith did not have the same freedom of expression.The Franciscan monks came to Brooklodge in 1834 where a site and 16 acres were given by Martin J. Blake Esq. The Monastery was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception with chapel extended and additional buildings added to cater for 200 pupils. By 1844, the road gate façade was build and roadway installed.
After 100 years, major reconstruction of the monastery was undertaken in 1941 under the guidance of Br. Isidore Higgins. The Monastery was enlarged and the building of the new church began with local skilled tradesmen and a huge voluntary effort by the local people with the quarrying and haulage of sand by horses and the concrete mixed by hand with the building completed in record time noting the war years.
Fundraising was started with the usual raffles, weekly dances, concerts and plays mostly in James O'Brien shed at Annagh Cross and later in makeshift marquees. Local voluntary contributions and an initial donation of £1,000 from John Blake and free use of his quarry initially helped with further fundraising in the States. An additional generous contribution by John Blake (Blake Estate) of £4,000 with a request to be buried in the monastery grounds and a statue of the Blessed Virgin erected in his memory. This was completed in 2009 with the building of the Grotto. As the church was debt free, it was solemnly consecrated on the 8th September 1949 by Archbishop Joseph Walsh.
With passage of time, further embellishments were added such as central heating, microphones, kneepads, etc. In 1983, the Brothers left Brooklodge thus ending a long tradition of a priest Chaplin in the Monastery. Both Canon Diskin and Fr. Frank Carr took over the duty, and under Canon Diskin's jurisdiction, further renovations with dry lining to the back of the Altar and the painting of the interior were completed by the late Liam Furey. Installation of a new electronic bell, restoration of the stained glass windows and new toilets were also completed. Fr Joe O'Brien in the new millennium, continued the work where the church was re-roofed, newly wired, painted, avenue tarmac, public lighting, and the planting of shrubs and trees.
As we move towards the middle of the second decade, time and elements have taken their toll on the Church façade. Again in recent months, further refurbishments were undertaken with avenue re-tarred, outside painted, and landscaping, returning the church once again to its youthful and vigorous self.
This magnificent building with its impressive architecture, noting the original high stained glass windows, marble altar, expansive ceiling and frescoed aisles is a tribute to the Franciscan order and both the local parishioners and landed gentry who raised the funds and gave of their labour freely making it a true treasure that would not be lost in some of the famous Spanish architecture.
Further reading on the Blake estate: http://landedestates.nuigalway.ie/LandedEstates/jsp/estate-show.jsp?id=947