Bishop Birch legacy to be remembered

The life and work of a pioneering Ossory bishop is to be remembered in his native area on the occasion next month of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

The life and work of a pioneering Ossory bishop is to be remembered in his native area on the occasion next month of the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Bishop Peter Birch was born in Tullowglass, Jenkinstown, in the parish of Conahy on September 4, 1911, the oldest of five children of Martin and Alice Birch (nee Downey). He was educated, and later became a staff member, at both St. Kieran’s College and Maynooth, from where he was appointed Co-adjutor Bishop of Ossory in 1962.

By the time he succeeded to the see – on the death of Bishop Collier in 1964 at the age of eighty-four – he had already shown that his ministry would be different in style and achievement to that of his predecessor, and indeed to that of any Irish bishop before or since.

As his birthday falls this year on an important day in the sporting calendar, the remembrance programme will take place on September 11, organised by a small ad-hoc committee made up of friends and supporters of the late bishop, and diocesan representatives.

On the day, the Sunday morning Mass at St. Colman’s Church in Jenkinstown has been re-scheduled for 12.15 p.m., when the principal celebrant will be the present Bishop of Ossory, Dr. Seamus Freeman SAC.

At 2.30 p.m. Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy will lead a short contemplative walk from the entrance to Jenkinstown Wood (which bounds the Birch farmlands) to St. Colman’s Well. This will be followed by refreshments at Conahy Shamrocks GAA Clubhouse and a short presentation by Denis Bergin on the bishop’s life in a local context.

Author and historian Tim Pat Coogan, who knew Bishop Birch well and admired his work, will speak on the man and his times at a Kilkenny City venue at 8 p.m. and this will be followed by an informal gathering for refreshments.

The Bishop Birch Centenary Commemoration lecture will be delivered by Professor Joseph Bergin, a native of Conahy on the staff of the Department of History at the University of Manchester, on Thursday September 29th. The provisional title is “The Powerful, the Pious and the Poor.”

Admission to all events is free of charge and further information can be found at the website www.bishopbirch100.org