Just over 40 years ago a visionary Bishop of Ossory, Bishop Peter Birch, established a new school in Kilkenny.
He was ahead of his time in many ways in establishing a school for children who needed additional support. That school was School of the Holy Spirit.
On Thursday, April 6, the school community, of today and yester-years, families and friends gathered in St Fiacre’s church, Loughboy, for a Mass of celebration. This was to acknowledge the many blessings enjoyed by the school over the years, and celebrate the journey travelled by all involved.
Mass was jointly concelebrated by Monseigneur Michael Ryan, Fr Dan Carroll (current Chaplin to the school) and Fr Martin Delaney (former Chaplin to the school). The music and readings were uplifting, performed by the students and staff. Students, parents, staff and members of the Boards of Management, both present and passed, all took part in the Liturgy.
Light refreshments were served afterwards back in the school. This was an opportunity for many to see again the new and modern school building and Sensory garden as well as to travel down memory lane through a display of photographs.
A time-line spanning the forty years aptly highlighted the many changes and transformations that have taken place along the journey.
And what a journey it has been. The first teacher and principal appointed by Bishop Peter Birch was Orla Hickey. The first day of school in April 1976 saw only two students in attendance in a single room in Seville Lodge House.
Orla Hickey was the first of only three principals in the school over the entire period. When Ms Hickey moved from the school in 1992 she was so capably replaced by June Barrett. In her 20 years as principal, June oversaw a transition from Seville Lodge to premises on Gaol Road in 1994, and many years of expansion followed. From very modest beginnings in Seville Lodge, and through the Gaol Road years, June and the Board of Management had a dream — to see new and purpose-built accommodation for the amazing students and staff in the school.
In August 2009, this major achievement was finally realised, and School of the Holy Spirit took up residence in a state-of-the-art flagship school back in the former grounds of Seville Lodge on the Callan Road. Thanks to the tenacity, dedication and vision of all those involved.
Karen Lowther was appointed principal in 2012 following June’s retirement. In her five years in the role, she has overseen the development of the new secondary level in the school.
Ably supported by a dedicated and highly professional staff the school can support an educational pathway for the students through the Aistear and Primary School Curricula, and Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Applied programmes.
From humble beginnings of two students and one teacher, there are now 84 students, 15 teachers, 31 SNAs, 10 bus escorts, two secretaries, one caretaker, and a whole range of visiting professionals and teachers.
Thursday was an exceptional day of celebration for the entire school community, characterised by the smiling faces of young students, families and friends- many from former times. The school has been blessed by the vision and guidance of the Bishops of Ossory, Boards of Management, Principals and Staff.
The common goal has always been to empower the young students to reach their fullest potential possible. Some students have only journeyed with the school a short time, others for longer.
Much has changed in forty years, but the nurturing, empathy and care has remained strong at the core. This was a very proud day in the life of School of the Holy Spirit.