Bishop Hendricken Director of Fine and Performing Arts, Richie Sylvia, and Vocal Music Director, Mary Jo Gambardella, led Hendricken’s Young Men’s Chorus on a 10-day pilgrimage to Ireland over the winter recess. The tour, aptly titled “The Footsteps of Our Founders,” provided nearly 40 students and chaperones the opportunity to learn more about the country of the school’s namesake, Bishop Thomas Francis Hendricken. Bishop Hendricken was born in Kilkenny, Ireland in 1827 and served as the first Catholic Bishop of Providence from 1872-1876.
The group’s daily itinerary featured many of Ireland’s most historic attractions. After landing in Dublin on February 16th they began their pilgrimage on the west coast with Clonmacnoise Monastery founded by St. Ciaran. There they learned about the monastery’s many artifacts including the High Crosses, the 12th century round tower, and the many churches and temples adorning the hallowed site.
A trip to Kylemore Abbey provided a history on the Gothic-style castle built in the 19th century by Mitchell Henry, a rich Liverpool merchant, today belonging to the Benedictine Nuns.
The travelers continued to Ireland’s National Marian Shrine in Knock, County Mayo where the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of the church at Knock in 1879. Beside them was an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered. Since then, this Marian Shrine has attracted millions of pilgrims each year from all over the world.
The trip featured a ride through the spectacular Burren Region, a tour of the Cliffs of Moher, and dinner at a Medieval banquet at Bunratty Folk Park Castle.
The Dingle Peninsula, one of Ireland’s most popular coastal scenery drives, provided tours of the famous Celtic, pre-Christian monuments and Christian churches. A drive around the coast to Slea Head highlighted the Blasket Islands, deserted since 1953 offering views of an early Christian Monastery, and a visit to Gallarus Oratory. The oratory is the most impressive early Christian monument on the Dingle Peninsula. Built in the shape of an upturned boat, the oratory formed part of a larger monastic site and was used as a place of prayer and reflection.
Glendalough, known as a valley of two lakes and a monastery of two Saints, provided great history. The latter of the pair is St. Laurence O’Toole, one of the few Irish saints to have been formally canonized. He was an abbot and builder of churches in the 12th century before he became Archbishop of Dublin. But it is the earlier of the two, St. Kevin, whom most associate with Glendalough. St. Kevin was responsible for the foundation of the monastery, which expanded around his tomb. The monastery has two foci—one at each of the two lakes in the valley. The upper one is simpler and more austere, evocative of the eremitical side of St. Kevin’s life; the lower one has more famous monuments and one of the best-preserved round towers in the country, the diminutive priest's house.
The tour would not have been complete without a trip to County Cork to visit Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone, view the famous “Doors of Dublin,” and visit Trinity College to view the 8th century illustrated manuscript, The Book of Kells, arguably the most famous artifact on display in all of Dublin.
The highlight for all was the many beautiful churches and basilica’s where the Young Men’s Chorus sang numerous recitals and liturgies. The first venue was the Basilica in Knock, then the chorus performed at a Solemn Mass at the Church of St. Ignatius, as well as masses at St. John’s Church on the Dingle Peninsula, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Killarney, and St. Teresa’s Church in Dublin. The Young Men’s Chorus ended their concert tour at St. Patrick’s, The National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland.