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The Children of the Sun

Author(s): Leonard OBrien

ISBN13: 9781847301994

ISBN10: 1847301991

Publisher: Veritas

Extent: 240 pages

Binding: Paperback

Size: 23.1 x 15.5 x 2 cm

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  • Spanning the twenty-five years of the Cork and Ross mission to South America, Children of the Sun details the new life, culture and challenges the missionaries encountered on their arrival to the infamous Land of the Incas.

    Beginning in Cork, where the mission was founded by Bishop Lucey in the 1960s, the story travels thousands of miles to the Diocese of Trujillo in Peru, the Andes, and later on to Ecuador, where the Irish missionaries dedicated themselves to addressing the needs, spiritual and material, of the indigenous people.

    Monsignor Leonard O’Brien’s book gives a wonderful account of a place of harsh landscapes, political instability and poverty, as well as a land steeped in ancient history, beauty and a warm and welcoming people. 

  • Leonard OBrien

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    The mission referred to here has been going on for thirty-nine years as clergy from the Catholic diocese of Cork and Ross have been sent to work in Peru and Ecuador. Father OBrien is one of the priests of the diocese who has worked on this mission. The idea of Irish people going abroad on religious missions hardly needs explanation since it has been a defining characteristic of Irish Catholicism since the nineteenth century. It was Bishop Lucey in the 1960s who came up with the idea of a diocesan mission to South America. Since then hundreds of men and women have gone to do educational, medical and spiritual work there on behalf of Cork and Ross. The ordinary people of the diocese too have been great supporters of the mission over the years and have contributed much in financial and material terms to its success. OBrien recounts in a simple straight forward way the story of the mission from its early days in the diocese of Trujillo in the Peruvian Andes up to the present day.

    This is an encouraging and uplifting book but not a rosy picture of life in South America or the work done there. The Irish work among the poor in shanty towns and have had to cope with natural disasters like an earthquake as well as political upheaval and violence. This book is more than just the story of the priests and nuns who went on the mission but is also a social history of the region itself.

    - Books Ireland, December 2009

    `January of 1962 marked not only the beginning of a new year, but also the beginning of a new era in the history of the Diocese of Cork and Ross. With the appointment of the three Cork priests to their new parishes in South America, a forty year presence of Corkmen working in Latin America in pastoral ministry would begin (p. 29). The origins of this missionary venture, the beginning of which coincided with the commencement of the Second Vatican Council, are recounted in the inspiration and interaction of individuals such as Archbishop Gushing (later Cardinal) of Boston and Archbishop Carboni (Papal Nuncio to Peru), Bishop Cornelius Lucey and Archdeacon Tom Duggan of Cork and Ross.

    In the Foreword Bishop John Buckley states that the only guideline he gave the author was to remember readers `who would know very little about the mission and he adds that `his style of writing strikes exactly the right chord for a popular history. As well as being popular it is also poetic, as, for example, in the evocative description of the journey into the interior undertaken by the first three priests:

    `After driving south along the Pan-American Highway with a grey mist blanketing the dreary sand dunes of the coastal desert, they turned to the left into the foothills of the Andes that rose from the desert floor. their folds filled with drifts of sand blown by the ocean winds of centuries before ... A stop at a lay-by where roadside traders had set up their stalls was a first introduction to the new and exotic world in which they would spend the next three years of their lives.

    Passing `trucks of indeterminate vintage, scenting `eucalyptus trees filling the cab with a medicinal fragrance reminiscent of a Turkish sauna, seeing `paddies of young rice [which] were emerald green the author gives a wonderful account of the long trip undertaken by the three pioneers assigned to the Society of St James (who included the later Bishop Michael Murphy) `from their former parishes in Cork - the North Cathedral, the Lough and Blackrock. However, lest readers lapse into a romantic reverie, the author follows up with an account of the effects, both short and long term, of climate and conditions in the Andes mission. The reality of life in Latin America is never far from the surface of the story. The subsequent decision to situate the Cork and Ross mission in the Archdiocese of Trujillo on the Pacific Coast is set in the context of this initial experience.

    More than three quarters of the book is devoted to an account of this mission over a period of almost forty years which included the involvement of the Irish Mercy and Bon Secours Sisters. Bishop Luceys establishment of a mission far from Shandon is summed up in `that much used and much admired Cork sporting strategy: the solo run. Support from home, as in all Irish missionary ventures, was vital and sustained. The course of the mission is captured in chapters with colourful and catchy captions such as `Opposition from Evangelists, Building in an Earthquake Zone, while pastoral realities are recounted in `Baptism: Revered but Postponed and `Marriage or Living Together. The impact of Latin Americas legacy to both Church and world in the latter decades of the twentieth century is narrated in `Theology of Liberation which includes the wise words of Bishop Murphy at a missionary conference at Maynooth in the 1990s:

    `It must be said that South American theologians made an honest attempt to address the appalling poverty in which their people lived and tried to interpret such a scandalous situation in the light of the gospel. The fact that some of them might have used the same methods as the Marxists in their analysis of history did not necessarily mean that they drew the same conclusions.

    `The Mission in Crisis recounts the rise of the militant communist movement in Peru called the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), the resultant threats to the priests and sisters serving in the mission and the demise of the twenty year campaign after the capture of their leader Abimael Guzman.
    The author notes that the idea of scaling down and shifting the dioce?¼san mission had been on the agenda for some time and that `in the quiet aftermath of the terrorism, the peaceful handing over of the mission to the native priests was possible and the sisters of both religious orders, now well strengthened with native vocations, were able to continue and expand their religious and social work without the dread of imminent terror. Concluding chapters narrate extension of the mission in Ecuador, developments in Trujillo and final decisions.

    Complemented with a collection of colour photographs this is a warm and wonderful account which is worthy of its place in the burgeoning corpus of recent Irish missionary memoirs and history. I was particularly struck by the following lines:

    Half a century later it is still probably too early to evaluate the work of the Fidei Donuni priests. To some lifetime missionaries, like the members of Maryknoll or the Columbans, the experiment may seem idealistic in the way it put amateurs in the mission fields. To others it may seem a successful emergency solution to meet an emergency situation. For good or ill the system had one positive outcome: the temporary missionaries returned home with a love for the people they served and an awareness of the needs of the Third World, which they passed on to their parishioners in the developed world.

    At the same time credit needs to be paid to the immense contribution made to the local church and people by these missionaries.

    - KEVIN OGORMAN SMA, The Furrow, March 2010


    It is now over forty years since Bishop Cornelius Lucey wrote a letter to the people of Cork informing them of his decision to establish a diocesan mission to South America. Little could he have known, or indeed imagined, the impact that decision would have. One thing he did sense very accurately was the support and prayers of the people, priests and sisters of Cork and Ross.

    Primarily, the work of all who served in South America was to make Christ better known and loved. From this came a commitment to the material welfare of the people. The sacrifice of the priests and sisters was matched by the generosity of the people at home. It took faith and courage to take on responsibility for a large and distressed area in South America. The mission survived terrorism, earthquakes and political turmoil. It is indeed unusual for a missionary project to last as long as that of the Cork and Ross South American mission. It is very important that this unique outreach, the most original ever undertaken by any diocese in Ireland, should be recorded for future generations.

    I wonder if Monsignor OBrien was aware of what he was letting himself in for when I invited him to write this history of our work in Peru and Ecuador. I warmly congratulate him on a work elegantly done. Despite his demanding pastoral duties, I think that the writing of this history was a labour of love for him. He eloquently captures not only the historical facts, but also, and indeed even more importantly, the spirit of the mission. The recounting of the success of this mission story in such a splendid narrative must have taken an enormous effort, no matter how gifted the writer. All the detail regarding major events in the missions areas of South America is captivating.

    The only guideline I gave Monsignor OBrien when I invited him to undertake this task was: Keep in mind people who would know very little about the mission. His style of writing strikes exactly the right chord for a popular history, one that is acceptable to the general public and eminently readable. He does not merely give the facts, he brings them to life. His anecdotal recollections make it easy reading. Monsignor OBriens book will be a rewarding and enjoyable experience and it is not always that such a harmony can be achieved.

    We are all in his debt, not only the priests and sisters who served there, but all people who have an interest in the missionary work of the Church. I hope you enjoy reading Children of the Sun as much as I did. It deserves a wide readership.

    +John Buckley, Bishop of Cork and Ross


    Nostalgia , the homesickness of the ancient Greeks, the yearning of modern man for times past, an illness of sentimental minds, incurable because the past is past and can never be recaptured , enshrines some decades in a legend of wonder and awe. The 1960s stand out in the past century as an idealised era of youth and protest and hope for a new and better world. President Kennedy was the eloquent prophet of that golden age; Pope John XXIII lent it the warmth of his loving heart; the Beetles became its muse and the uninhibited youth of the time became at once creator and product of a new world. No matter that it was little more than a false dawn followed by the dreary 70s and 80s, when a new breed of student would swap protest for academic conformity, and the bland dominance of middle age would once again be re-established in every area of human life. In spite of the unrealised dreams, the 60s will live on in music and legend. In that magical decade the Catholic Church experienced its own new springtime with the aggiornamento of John XXIII, the Vatican Council, the vernacular liturgy and the new focus on the laity.

    All over Ireland and in every area of human life, the fresh air of the 60s blew away the stale stagnation of previous decades marred and blighted by an economic war, World War II and the emigrant boat. Not everything, of course, was right in those years: children could still leave school at fourteen and, in the less prosperous areas of the cities, many did. However, jobs were plentiful. A familiar sight in Corks north side was the groups of blue-overalled teenage girls heading towards the Sunbeam textile factory in Blackpool, linking arms, laughing and chatting, school days over, money in their pockets (three pounds a week) and the exciting dawn of adult life before them. Their fathers headed off towards the citys docklands where work awaited in the port or in the Ford and Dunlop factories.

    The spirit of the new age influenced every aspect of the young Cork persons life. The older dance bands, whose musicians dressed in white tuxedos and bow ties and performed seated on stage, had given way to the new show band rockers, gyrating on stage to new rhythms of new music. Young lives were not yet touched by drugs or alcohol; the ballrooms of romance boasted only a mineral bar.

    The Catholic Church in Cork was also full of life and vigour, led by a new bishop who had taken over a few years previous from an old man of ninety-two. Now here was this new life more evident than in the eucharistic procession, held each year along the streets of the city. As the second city of Ireland, Cork had all the ambitious instincts of a younger son to surpass his senior in some field of endeavour other than size or age. In the field of sport , hurling in particular , Cork could justly claim a pre-eminence unmatched by anything that Dublin could attempt. Certain cultural areas such as literature could also be cited by Corkonians as fields of unique achievement, where Corkmen like Seán O Faol?íin and Frank OConnor surpassed any other Irishman in the crafting of the short story. John Stanislaus Joyce, garrulous father of James Joyce, saw himself as a professional Corkman living in exile in the capital among lesser men.

    In one rather surprising area of human endeavour, Cork city held unchallenged superiority. On a summer Sunday, every year since 1926, the city staged a procession of the Blessed Sacrament that far surpassed in attendance and civic unity any similar public expression of faith organised elsewhere in southern Ireland. This religious event owed its uniqueness to the fact that while other cities and towns staged processions at parochial level, in Cork every parish in the city participated in one huge demonstration of faith, sending in feeder processions of marching men to the citys central Daunt Square, where the marchers converged for the Sermon and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Here a huge wooden platform some ten feet in height was erected to accommodate an altar, podium and seating for this central event of the days devotions. The Monstrance was carried to this point by the bishop from the Cathedral in the north side, accompanied by the greatest pageantry, where the waiting parish delegations interspersed the decades of the Rosary with eucharistic hymns led by a leading local tenor.

    Seen in the light of the later development of Cork and Ross as a diocese with a foreign mission, the eucharistic procession of 4 June 1961 has taken on a significance that no one on that day could have suspected or appreciated. The huge lay participation in the procession itself indicated the favourable disposition of Cork people to their faith, their spontaneity in giving it public expression and their loyalty to their bishop and priests. Also significant was Bishop Luceys choice of preacher for the event, Bishop Thomas J. McDonough of Savannah, Georgia, USA, with whom he had set up plans for an informal twinning arrangement whereby Cork, with its abundant vocations to the priesthood and religious life, would come to the aid of the Diocese of Savannah, then suffering from an acute shortage of vocations. For Bishop Lucey, this experiment became in effect a practice run for a much greater missionary operation that he would undertake in South America some years later. There was another reason that particular procession day was so significant: it was the day on which Bishop Lucey would invite Fr Michael Murphy, curate at the cathedral, to join the St Jamess mission to South America, run by Archbishop Cushing of Boston.

    Sunday, 4 June 1961 was blessed with daylong hot sunshine tempered by a pleasant breeze. At 3.00 p.m. the main procession moved off from the cathedral, bound for Daunt Square, led by the men and boys of the confraternities bearing heavily embroidered banners, steadied against the breeze by long, white ribbons like yachts under spinnaker. Marching bands accompanied the hymns, interspersed with decades of the Rosary. After these came the religious orders: Christian Brothers, Presentation Brothers, Carmelites in black, Dominicans in white, Franciscans and Capuchins in brown. There were small boys strewing flowers before the large canopy, which was hung with cloth of gold brocade, beneath which the bishop carried the Blessed Sacrament in a golden monstrance. Adding more colour to the spectacle came the Lord Mayor and members of the City Council in their red robes, the university faculty in scarlet, followed by army, Garda?¡ and Slui Muire units in their different uniforms.

    The Cork Examiner newspaper estimated that 40,000 men and boys marched from the cathedral, watched by as many women and children from the sidewalks or from the windows of business premises. At Daunt Square, and filling the Grand Parade as far as the south channel of the River Lee, thousands more awaited the arrival of the main procession. A photo of the scene published the following morning suggested a vast concourse of worshippers. When all the uniformed detachments had taken up position beneath the altar and the civic dignitaries were seated at their priedieux, Bishop McDonough of Savannah addressed the vast gathering, stating that it would be difficult for him to remember when he had been as touched as he had been that day, taking part in such a great demonstration of faith. His sincerity and vibrant style of preaching so impressed the gathering that in an unusual departure from the tradition of the time his final words were greeted with applause that filled the citys Sunday afternoon quietness.

    When the procession had returned to the cathedral and the tired walkers dispersed, the banners were furled for another year. While the clergy disrobed in the sacristy, Bishop Lucey called Fr Michael Murphy and, with an inscrutable expression, asked him to come and see him that evening. The latter, wondering what had gone wrong in the days proceedings that merited a carpeting at the Bishops Palace, ran his mind over the events of the day back in his rooms in the cathedral presbytery. As junior curate at the cathedral, Michael Murphy was in charge of the altar boys for the event. It was his responsibility to allocate to them the different liturgical duties involved in the eucharistic procession. Organiser of Altar Boys , some responsibility, he reflected wryly, after ten years in the priesthood, the first six of which had been spent in Washington, DC, where all of his former colleagues were now pastors responsible for large parishes staffed by two or three assistants.

    The cathedral altar boys were never happy with the arrangements for the procession because the important jobs went to the students of Farranferris College, the minor seminary of the diocese. When Fr Murphy had given them their instructions they crowded around him, hands up as boys do in class, pushing and shouting: Me Father, me Father, its my turn for a job, Father. Altar boys tended to regard the youngest priest in the parish as their particular friend and, in his mid-thirties, Michael Murphy was by far the youngest priest on the cathedral staff, the others being in their late fifties or sixties, which was the usual age at the time for curates awaiting promotion to the office of parish priest. It was natural for young boys to relate to him because of his age, but he also appealed to them for another reason: his American background.

    Unlike most Irish men who had lived in the United States, Michael Murphy never affected an American accent, or twang as it would have been popularly known. However, quite unconsciously, whether from living with American priests during his Washington days or attending movies which he loved, his vocabulary, turn of phrase and mode of expression had become totally Americanised, taken not merely from the speech of Americans but straight from the Hollywood scriptwriters of the black and white movies of the 1940s. Phrases like I shoot from the hip, see and Lets get this show on the road were part of his speech. A hostile dog would be described as a mean-looking hound dog and a priest on duty on a quiet Sunday afternoon would be referred to as the guy minding the store. To Cork boys of the pre-television era, when cinema, dominated by Hollywood movies, was their window into a world of excitement, adventure and romance, his unconscious mastery of the movie idiom elevated him to the rank of Hollywood hero.

    In appearance Fr Murphy had the physique to match his movie image. Nicknamed Tarzan in secondary school, he had matured with the years into a Garry Cooper type. Tall by the standards of the time and well built with a slight droop of the right shoulder, he had the air of a western cowboy hero. Dressed in his black suit of designer cut, which he always wore, he could with the addition of a Panama hat have doubled as a Chicago boss in the days of Al Capone, or, toting a ten-gallon Stetson, he could stand in for John Wayne. In later years, South American women would speak of him as the Irish padre un tipo de JohnWayne.

    At times Michael Murphy wondered why he had returned to Ireland at all. Usually young priests on temporary mission overseas counted the months to their return home where they could pay weekly visits to their parents and attend weddings of childhood friends. Fr Murphys situation was different because his parents were dead and the family no longer occupied the farm where he had grown up , ties to his native place were few and fragile.

    On the Sunday in question, Fr Michael Murphy left the cathedral presbytery on foot for the Bishops Palace. He walked along St Marys Road with the high, prison-like walls of the Peacock Lane Magdalen Laundry to his left. On his right there were blocks of ancient lanes built on a lower level so precipitous that one could touch the roofs of the house with an outstretched hand: eighteenth century lanes collectively known as Strawhill. Strawhill housed families Fr Murphy knew by name from his twice yearly visits to collect the dues (offerings of a shilling or two, which each family contributed to support the bishop and the priests of the cathedral).

    The bishop lived in the Palace: a redbrick, 1930s building, large as a country mansion, set in wooded grounds at the top of a steep, shrub-lined avenue. The former bishop, who for much of his time had occupied rooms in the minor seminary nearby, had built this imposing residence for himself and his successors. Bishop Lucey, his immediate successor, now occupied the house, which was attended by two Bon Secours Sisters from the convent on College Road. One of these nuns answered the door and ushered Fr Murphy into a small room furnished with a mahogany table, some chairs and a glazed china cabinet housing a collection of silver trowels inscribed with the details of the foundation stones the bishop had laid. Bishop Lucey entered the room, sat at the other end of the table, joined his hands as though in prayer and spoke to his reflection in the polished mahogany. Getting to the point immediately, without any reference to the impressive procession of the afternoon, he explained that Cardinal Cushing of Boston had asked for some volunteers to work in South America with the Boston mission. Three priests had been selected, but now one could no longer go, so Fr Murphy was asked if he would be prepared to go instead, as he had volunteered previously.

    Listening to the bishop, Michael Murphy recalled the picture of the three volunteers that had appeared in the newspaper and wondered which one had dropped out and why. Tactfully, he refrained from asking the question. Without hesitation Michael Murphy accepted the invitation and was told to get a United States visa and be ready to leave within a month for Cochabamba, Bolivia, to begin Spanish studies in the language school there run by the Maryknoll missionaries. The bishop rose, indicating the interview was over, offered his episcopal ring to be kissed and ushered the priest out into the warm evening sunshine.

    It is not given to us to know the future and little did the bishop know that the young priest he had met with would one day succeed him as Bishop of Cork and Ross, when he himself would leave the Palace forever to work as a missionary in Africas Turkana Desert.


    The special relationship between Cork and Savannah, though brief - it lasted a mere five years - was of greater significance than its brevity would suggest, because in it we see the first manifestation of a missionary awareness in the mind of Bishop Lucey. In the first ten years of his episcopate, he had concentrated on an ambitious church-building programme and the fundraising drives needed to finance it, especially in the construction of the Rosary of Churches (the construction of five new churches surrounding the city, each dedicated to a Mystery of the Rosary). The response of the laity to his appeals for Funds and the goodwill shown assured him of his acceptance as bishop by the priests and people of his diocese. Now, with the home front secured, so to speak, the time had come to look for new challenges beyond his ecclesiastical boundaries. Already Bishop Lucey had shown concern for the spiritual well-being of Irish emigrants in his Confirmation addresses and in his Minority Report for a Government Committee on Emigration, on which he sat. The choice of the Diocese of Savannah in Georgia as the setting for an outreach to the Irish diaspora was as unlikely as it was fortuitous.

    In the summer of 1960, Bishop Lucey and his close friend and lifetime travelling companion, Fr John Barrett, Adm, from Skibbereen, flew to the United States where they were met in New York by a young Clonakilty priest on temporary mission, Fr Paddy Leader. They planned to rent a car and drive to San Antonio, Texas, where a distant cousin of the bishop, also Lucey by name, was archbishop. Fr Leader drove them to the outskirts of New York City and set them off on Interstate Highway 1, on the long 2,000-mile drive to Texas - a fairly daunting undertaking by two men in their fifties who had never before driven on American roads. Highway 1 would take them south into the state of Georgia where they would connect with Highway 80, turn west and travel on to San Antonio, Texas.

    They made an overnight stop in Augusta, the city in Georgia made famous by the Masters Golf Tournament, some sixty miles from their planned turn-off onto Highway 80. Next morning they called to the nearby parish of St Mary on the Hill to say Mass. Here they were greeted by two Irish priests: Dan Bourke, a native of Tipperary, and Kevin Boland from Cork, who had been ordained the previous year at All Hallows College for service in the Diocese of Savannah. These two genial Irishmen insisted that the visitors break their journey and travel to Savannah to meet Thomas J. McDonough, who had recently been appointed bishop there.

    And so the following morning after Mass they set out southwards for Savannah on Georgia State Highway 25: Kevin Boland driving his pastors air-conditioned Chevrolet; the highway stretching straight ahead through the wide clearing between the motionless trees of the virgin forest. Traffic was light and along the margins of the forest there was no sign of life, except the occasional plume of smoke rising from the stone chimney of some clapboard shack where poor share-croppers lived. At the small town of Statesboro they joined Highway 80, which links San Diego, a city on the California-Mexican border 3,000 miles to the west, with the city of Savannah on the Atlantic seaboard to the east. For the visitors from Ireland this road trip was an unexpected introduction to the scenery of the Deep South, so different from the standard pictures of America, which show either city skyscrapers or open prairie. Nearing the coast the scenery changed: dense forest gave way to reed swamps bordered by live oak trees, trailing wisps of Spanish moss - the grey, cobweb-like parasitic growth that drapes every tree along the sea coast of the Deep South, providing a backto a story of mystery and stillness.

    Kevin Boland found that his Irish visitors knew little of Georgia and the South, apart from what they remembered from Gone with the Wind. He explained that the bloody events of the Civil War of 1864 were very much alive in the folk memory of a community who only referred to the disaster as `the war between the States and still hated the memory of the `Yankee General Sherman, who burned, murdered and looted on his march from Atlanta to Savannah - the song `Marching Through Georgia was never played south of the Mason - Dixon Line. Sherman, having laid the State to waste, was at least civilised enough to spare the beautiful, undefended Savannah from the fire and sword that had reduced Atlanta to a smouldering ruin.

    Thanks to Shermans mercy in this instance, Savannah, when they drove into its downtown historic quarter around the cathedral, appeared to them as no other American city. It was nothing like the canyon-like streets of New York, dwarfed by impossibly high skyscrapers that shut out the sun. Here, instead, were leafy trees, gorgeous camellias and perfumed magnolias in landscaped squares. Streets and squares were lined with town houses from another century. Their pink, white and ochre weather boards reflected the light of the Georgia sunshine; verandas with shingle roofs were supported by classical columns and topped with fretwork fascia boards, shading rocking chairs where old men and women snoozed in the midday heat behind railings of intricate ironwork.

    Kevin pulled in beside the Chancery Office, a low building built of grey brick, shaded by huge oak trees. Inside, they were greeted by Bishop McDonough and his staff: the Chancellor and several secretaries, who left their desks and offices in high excitement to meet the visitors from Ireland, assuring them in their rich southern accents that they, too, were Irish. When Bishop Lucey inquired from which part of Ireland they had come, he was informed that it was over one hundred years since their ancestors had arrived.

    At lunch in a nearby restaurant, Bishop McDonough talked excitedly about his huge diocese, greater in extent than the island of Ireland, yet staffed by only thirty priests. He talked enthusiastically about his plans for vocations: the setting up of a minor seminary; recruitment of secondary school boys in Ireland to study for the priesthood; and appeals to Irish convents to make foundations in Georgia. He gave his guests a short history lesson about the Catholics who had come to America after minor famines in Ireland 1820 and 1830; how the Irish had sailed across the Irish Sea to Liverpool, where they had taken a ship for the Port of Savannah and on to the main shipping port for the cotton grown on the plantations the southern states, bound for the Lancashire mills.

    Most of the newly arrived Irish remained in the city of Savannah, where over one hundred years later they formed the bedrock of the citys Catholic community, estimated at 10 per cent of the total population. However, those who ventured into the interior of the State of Georgia found themselves without priests, nuns or the support of the Catholic Church, so that today many of the great Irish names like Murphy and McNamara are held by third generation Baptists. All of this made a huge impression on Bishop Lucey, especially the thought that faith had been lost through the lack of priests. He compared in his mind the size of his own diocese to that of Bishop McDonoughs. To him it was a scandal that this part of the world, linked so closely with Ireland in the past, was now both forgotten and neglected by the Irish Church.

    Here the Bishop of Cork and Ross found his first missionary challenge and he rose to it with enthusiasm and determination. During the months following his return to Ireland from that trip, which had become a turning point in his life, he took immediate steps to `twin Cork and Ross with Savannah. He appointed Fr Christy Walsh, curate at Ss. Peter and Paul, as the liaison man with Savannah. He invited Bishop McDonough to visit the senior Cork and Ross students in Maynooth to encourage them to spend their temporary mission in Georgia, which he did with success. Two newly ordained priests accepted the invitation to work in Savannah in 1961, four in 1963 and two more in 1964. The Ursuline Sisters and Presentation Sisters in Cork founded two convents in Georgia, which are still flourishing over forty years later. Many secondary school pupils entered Irish seminaries to study for the Diocese of Savannah, numbering over forty at one stage. Bishop Luceys own thoughts on the project were aired in an article he wrote for The Fold, his diocesan magazine, in which he stated that with so many Irish now working in Savannah, Cork priests and nuns would `not even lose their Cork accent by living there.

    This close linking between Cork and Savannah might have lasted many more years if events had not taken an unexpected turn when Bishop Lucey visited South America to attend the funeral of Archdeacon Duggan, a priest of his diocese who had volunteered to work there with Cardinal Cushings mission and whose story will be told in a later chapter. Just as his unplanned visit to Savannah produced one Cork outreach, his unexpected visit to Peru resulted in a much grander undertaking. In the event, the Diocese of Savannah went on to become self-sufficient in vocations, but always remained grateful for the help given by Cork in a time of crisis. When the Cork mission to Peru opened up there were no more young priests free to go to Savannah for their temporary mission, and the loss was on the side of Cork. Few environments could have been more suitable for a young priest, fresh out of Maynooth College, which at that time was strictly cut off from the outside world. A year or two working in America provided an admirable finishing off of the excellent academic formation received at college. To live in Savannah, of all American communities, meant a daily exposure to old world politeness, to a world where men still stood up when a woman entered a room and where male dinner guests stood behind the chairs of lady diners to help them be seated before taking their seats themselves. Antebellum courtesy still survives in the Old South, even a century later, and a little of it rubbed off on men newly arrived from Ireland, where Victorian customs were rapidly dying out.

    Over the years, the links with Savannah have continued at a social level and were further strengthened by the appointment of Kevin Boland - the same man who had first welcomed Bishop Lucey - as Bishop of Savannah in 1995.
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The Children of the Sun