A Special Visit from the Emerald Isle
By Veronica Buchanan, Archivist
From the Charism and Creativity conference I attended this past spring in Rome, Italy, these words from Pope Francis’ introductory address served as a source of inspiration: “Institutes of consecrated life are … custodians of a very relevant part of the cultural heritage of the Church and of humanity.” In the Archives, we preserve books, papers, and objects that tell so many stories in the Church’s religious, spiritual, and cultural history. One of these items is the subject of our story.
Back in 2017, we received an email from Monsignor Liam Kelly, a diocesan priest and historian for the Diocese of Kilmore and County of Cavan in the northwest of Ireland. In the process of researching and writing a chapter on the history of Franciscan Communities in Leitrim County, he stumbled upon an article from the 1916 edition of the Catholic Historical Review sharing:
Among the many valuable possessions of the [Sisters] of Charity…in that fascinating center of Catholic historic associations, Mount St. Joseph-on-the-Ohio, there is a gold chalice, 9 inches high, with a cup 3 inches in diameter, a base 4 ½ across, and a paten about five inches broad. On the base of this chalice are inscribed the words: pro residentia fratrum minorum de Munter oluis, 1644.
This chalice helped him to confirm the approximate year when Franciscan Friars established a residence in Muintir Eolais near the city of Jamestown. His findings were later published in a chapter of the book Leitrim: History & Society.
Up until this request, the Archives had little knowledge of this chalice or its significance. Although the story of how the chalice made its way from Ireland to Mount St. Joseph is untold, we assume that it came to the Motherhouse from our western missions where many of the schools and parishes worked with Franciscan Friars who had a shared history with the Friars in Leitrim.
As decisions were being made about the contents of the Art Room, I learned that the chalices that were on display there were intended to go to a charity that specializes in refurbishing sacramental objects. With a little help from our Sacristans Sisters Marie Irene Schneider and Mary Dolores Schneider, we were able to separate this historic chalice from the others. As a keen preservationist, I had copies of all of my email correspondence with Monsignor Liam and was happy to find his email address was unchanged! He immediately responded and helped us to find a new home for the chalice in Muinitir Eolais at St Mary’s Church in Carrick on Shannon.
Because of its rarity and value, Monsignor Liam was concerned about having the chalice shipped to Ireland so he decided to make a visit to the United States and our Motherhouse on Oct. 17, 2022. We are so thankful to have been able to return the 1644 chalice back to its home after nearly 400 years where its important role in Church history will be preserved and cherished for future generations.